The evidence, of course, was accumulated during the thirteen-year period 1920-1933. The arguments in favor of prohibition before 1920 were overwhelming. The Eighteenth (Prohibition) Amendment passed both houses of Congress by the required two-thirds majority in December 1917, and was ratified by the required three-fourths of the forty-eight state legislatures a bare thirteen months later. After experiencing alcohol prohibition for thirteen years, however, the nation rebelled. The Twenty first (Prohibition Repeal) Amendment passed both houses of Congress by the required two-thirds majority in February 1933-and this time it took less than ten months to secure ratification by three-fourths of the forty eight state legislatures.
Alcohol prohibition was not repealed because people decided that alcohol was a harmless drug. On the contrary, the United States learned during Prohibition, even more than in prior decades, the true horrors of the drug. What brought about Repeal was the slowly dawning awareness that alcohol prohibition wasn't working.
Alcohol remained available during Prohibition. People still got drunk, still became alcoholics, still suffered delirium tremens. Drunken drivers remained a frequent menace on the highways. Drunks continued to commit suicide, to kill others, and to be killed by others. They continued to beat their own children, sometimes fatally. The courts, jails, hospitals, and mental hospitals were still filled with drunks, In some respects and in some parts of the country, perhaps, the situation was a little better during Prohibition-but in other respects it was unquestionably worse.
Instead of consuming alcoholic beverages manufactured under the safeguards of state and federal standards, for example, people now drank "rotgut,"...