The Volstead Act
The Volstead Act is the informal name of the National Prohibition Act, the Congressional legislation designed to carry out the specifics of the 18th Amendment, which outlawed the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol in the United States. The legislation was named for Andrew Volstead, Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. In your Volstead Act research paper, be sure to note that the three main purposes of the act were as follows:
- Prohibit the production or sale of intoxicating beverages
- Regulate "intoxicating liquor", included the sale, manufacturing or transporting of the beverage
- Keep alcohol in production for scientific research use only or religious rituals
The Volstead Act and The 18th Amendment
The 18th Amendment was pushed through Congress in 1919, but failed to either define “intoxicating liquors” or provide penalties for violation. These loopholes were supposed to be covered by the Volstead Act, which was originally vetoed by President Woodrow Wilson. The House and Senate overrode this veto, and Prohibition went into effect on January 17, 1920. The unfortunate side effect of the 18th Amendment was the rise of organized criminal groups importing and selling alcohol to the American public.
From the start, Prohibition proved unpopular among the American people and difficult to enforce. The Volstead Act originally defined an intoxicating beverage as anything over 0.5% but that limit was soon struck down by the IRS, allowing for individuals to make wine at home. Further, many civil juries failed to convict individuals brought up on charges under the Volstead Act. By early 1933, opposition led Congress to pass the Blaine Act, which would become the 21st Amendment, repealing Prohibition.