Prohibition never prohibited the consumption of alcohol. It never even prohibited the purchase of alcohol… though it did prohibit the selling, so that must be the heart of the problem. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States banned the manufacture, sale, transport, import and export of alcoholic beverages. It was ratified on 16th January 1919 and went into effect on 16th January 1920. It was repealed by the 21st Amendment on 5th December 1933, the only amendment ever repealed in the history of the US Constitution.
Wayne Wheeler, the legislative lawyer of the Anti-Saloon League, was the mastermind behind the drafting of this law well as of the consequent Volstead Act which enacted it. If we wanted to say national Prohibition through an amendment to the Constitution was Wheeler’s single-handed achievement, we wouldn’t be too far removed from reality. He devoted his entire life to this goal, and there’s no doubt he truly believed this was the right thing to do.
What’s not true is that Prohibition sprung up from nowhere through the vision of this single man. In fact, the idea of temperance had been an undercurrent throughout the entire history of the United States. One of the first enactments of this idea was in 1642 when the colony of Maryland passed a law that “punished drunkards by a fine of 100 pounds of tobacco.” In 1838 Massachusetts enacted the first temperance law by prohibiting the sale of spirits in quantities smaller than 15-gallon. The State hopped this would dissuade buyers by forcing them to buy only large quantities, with a consequent big payment. Didn’t work all that well. In 1846, Main passed the first state prohibition law. It was more or less at this time that the ladies of the women’s crusades started being vocal and proactive about the consumption of alcohol, which helped stirring that idea that eventually brought about Prohibition.