253 U.S. 350 (1920), 29, National Prohibition Cases

Docket Nº:No. 29, 30, Original, and No. 696, 762, 788, 794, 837
Citation:253 U.S. 350, 40 S.Ct. 486, 64 L.Ed. 946, 64 L.Ed. 947
Party Name:National Prohibition Cases
Case Date:June 07, 1920
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 350

253 U.S. 350 (1920)

40 S.Ct. 486, 64 L.Ed. 946, 64 L.Ed. 947

National Prohibition Cases

No. 29, 30, Original, and No. 696, 762, 788, 794, 837

United States Supreme Court

June 7, 1920

Argued March 8, 9, 10, 29, 30, 1920

ORIGINAL, AND APPEALS FROM THE DISTRICT COURTS OF THE UNITED

STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS, THE WESTERN DISTRICT

OF KENTUCKY, THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY, THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF

WISCONSIN, AND THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF MISSOURI

Syllabus

The adoption by both houses of Congress, each by a two-thirds vote, of a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution sufficiently shows that the proposal was deemed necessary by all who voted for it. An express declaration that they regarded it as necessary is not essential. P. 386.

The two-thirds vote in each house which is required in proposing an amendment is a vote of two-thirds of the members present -- assuming the presence of a quorum -- and not a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership, present and absent. Id. Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Kansas, 248 U.S. 276.

The referendum provisions of state constitutions and statutes cannot be applied, consistently with the Constitution of the United States, in the ratification or rejection of amendments to it. Id. Hawke v. Smith, ante, 221.

The prohibition of the manufacture, sale, transportation, importation and exportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes, as embodied in the Eighteenth Amendment, is within the power to amend reserved by Article V of the Constitution. Id.

That Amendment, by lawful proposal and ratification, has become a part of the Constitution, and must be respected and given effect the same as other provisions of that instrument. Id.

The first section of the Amendment -- the one embodying the prohibition -- is operative throughout the entire territorial limits of the United States, binds all legislative bodies, courts, public officers, and individuals within those limits, and, of its own force, invalidates every legislative act -- whether by Congress, by a state legislature, or by a territorial assembly -- which authorizes or sanctions what the section prohibits. Id.

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The second section of the Amendment -- the one declaring "[t]he Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation" -- does not enable Congress or the several states to defeat or thwart the prohibition, but only to enforce it by appropriate means. P. 387.

The words "concurrent power" in that section do not mean joint power, or require that legislation thereunder by Congress, to be effective, shall be approved or sanctioned by the several states or any of them; nor do they mean that the power to enforce is divided between Congress and the several states along the lines which separate or distinguish foreign and interstate commerce from intrastate affairs. Id.

The power confided to Congress by that section, while not exclusive, is territorially coextensive with the prohibition of the first section, embraces manufacture and other intrastate transactions as well as importation, exportation, and interstate traffic, and is in no wise dependent on or affected by action or inaction on the part of the several states or any of them. Id.

That power may be exerted against the disposal for beverage purposes of liquors manufactured before the Amendment became effective, just as it may be against subsequent manufacture for those purposes. In either case, it is a constitutional mandate or prohibition that is being enforced. Id.

While there are limits beyond which Congress cannot go in treating beverages as within its power of enforcement, those limits are not transcended by the provision of the National Prohibition Act (Title II, § 1) wherein liquors containing as much as one-half of one percent of alcohol by volume and fit for use for beverage purposes are treated as within that power. Id. Jacob Ruppert v. Caffey, 251 U.S. 264.

Nos. 29 and 30, Original, bills dismissed; No. 794, reversed; Nos. 696, 752, 788 (264 F. 186), and 837 affirmed.

The seven cases here given one name for convenient reference involved the validity of the Eighteenth Amendment and of certain general features of the National Prohibition Act designed for its enforcement. They were as follows:

No. 29, Original. State of Rhode Island v. A. Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General, and Daniel C. Roper, Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Bill dismissed.

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No. 30, Original. State of New Jersey v. A. Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General, and Daniel C. Roper, Commissioner of Internal Revenue. Bill dismissed.

No. 696. George C. Dempsey v. Thomas J. Boynton, United States Attorney for Massachusetts, and Andrew J. Casey, Acting Collector of Internal Revenue for Massachusetts. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of Massachusetts. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.

No. 752. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Company v. W. V. Gregory, District Attorney for the United States for the Western District of Kentucky, and Elwood Hamilton, Collector of Internal Revenue for the Collection District of Kentucky. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Western District of Kentucky. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.

No. 788. Christian Feigenspan, a corporation v. Joseph L. Bodine, United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, and Charles V. Dufey, Collector of Internal Revenue of the Fifth District of New Jersey. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the District of New Jersey. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.

No. 794. Hiram A. Sawyer, as United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Wisconsin, Burt Williams, as Collector of Internal Revenue of the Second District of Wisconsin, and Thomas A. Delaney, as Federal Prohibition Enforcement Director for Wisconsin v. Manitowoc Products Company. Appeal from the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Decree granting injunction reversed.

No. 837. St. Louis Brewing Association, a corporation v. George H. Moore, Collector of Internal Revenue of the First District of Missouri, Walter L. Hensley, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri, and Frank L. Diggs, Prohibition Agent for the First Internal Revenue District of Missouri. Appeal from the District Court of

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the United States for the Eastern District of Missouri. Decree refusing injunction affirmed.

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VANDEVANTER, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE VAN DEVANTER announced the conclusions of the Court.

Power to amend the Constitution was reserved by Article V, which reads:

The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the legislatures

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of two-thirds of the several states, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states, or by Conventions in three-fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article, and that no state, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

The text of the Eighteenth Amendment, proposed by Congress in 1917 and proclaimed as ratified in 1919, 40 Stat. 1050, 1941, is as follows:

Section 1. After one year from the ratification of this article, the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.

Sec. 2. The Congress and the several states shall have concurrent power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

We here are concerned with seven cases involving the validity of that amendment and of certain general features of the National Prohibition Law, known as the Volstead Act, c. 85, which was adopted to enforce the amendment. The relief sought in each case is an injunction against the execution of that act. Two of the cases -- Nos. 29 and 30, original -- were brought in this Court, and the others in district courts. Nos. 696, 752, 788, and 837 are here on appeals from decrees refusing injunctions, and No. 794 from a decree granting an injunction. The cases have been elaborately argued at the bar and in

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printed briefs, and the arguments have been attentively considered, with the result that we reach and announce the following conclusions on the questions involved:

1. The adoption by both houses of Congress, each by a two-thirds vote, of a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution sufficiently shows that the proposal was deemed necessary by all who voted for it. An express declaration that they regarded it as necessary is not essential. None of the resolutions whereby prior amendments were proposed contained such a declaration.

2. The two-thirds vote in each house which is required in proposing an amendment is a vote of two-thirds of the members present -- assuming the presence of a quorum -- and not a vote of two-thirds of the entire membership, present and absent. Missouri Pacific Ry. Co. v. Kansas, 248 U.S. 276.

3. The referendum provisions of state constitutions and statutes cannot be applied, consistently with the Constitution of...

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