In 1787, most blacks in America were slaves. Today, there are only a few countries
in the world that practice slavery. But, it was common in 1787. As time went by,
more people thought that slavery was wrong. Most of the people who wanted to end
slavery were from northern states. They were called abolitionists. Most of the
people who wanted to keep slavery were from the southern states. Slavery played a
key role in the South. Slaves were needed in order for people in the South to make
money. Slaves were worth a large amount of money because they picked crops, like
cotton and tobacco.
The people in the North wanted to ban slavery in the United States. They said it was
an important step for America. The people of the South were determined to hold
onto slavery. They were afraid of losing money and trade. They thought that having
slavery was an issue each state could decide on its own. When President Lincoln
was elected, the South was infuriated. Lincoln had said he wanted to end slavery.
Most of the Southern states decided to secede from the United States. They created
their own country, the Confederate States of America. The United States did not
believe that the states of the CSA could legally secede. The Civil War erupted and
the North won. It was a brutal and horrific war that left deep scars all across the
country. Over one million soldiers and civilians died. Many towns were completely
Some good did come from the Civil War, though. The practice of slavery was
ended in the United States. With the 13th Amendment, slavery was abolished.
The prohibition in the 1920s in America was approved by 36 states and the 18th
Amendment was signed on January 16, 1919. The law came into effect after a year, on
January 16, 1920.
You may be wondering what the ill effects of alcohol that lead to enactment of
prohibition in the 1920s were. The roaring twenties was a time of total disregard for law,
with gangsters running the show in the American streets. During the 1920s, not only did
the gangsters and mobsters break the law, even common American citizens had a total
disregard for the law.
Alcoholism had been on a rise since the American Revolution. Since the beginning of the
nineteenth century, people wanted to have a law for Prohibition. After many decades, the
societies and organizations changed their tone from moderation to complete prohibition
of alcohol looking at the rate of crime and murder.
The saloons became an oasis of alcohol for men of the 'Wild, Wild West'. It became a
place for social evils. People, especially women, took part in the movement aimed at
banning liquor, as they thought it would help stop men from drinking away the family
income. It would also bring down the number of accidents at the workplace, as the men
even drank during lunch hours.
The final nail that led to clarification of the law was the "Volstead Act'. This Act was
passed through Congress over President Woodrow Wilson's veto. This helped define
intoxicating liquor. This meant that 'beer, wine or other intoxicating malts or liquors' or
any beverage with over 0.5 % alcohol by volume was under prohibition. However, the
law only prohibited the sale of alcohol and did not do much to enforce the law strictly.
There were several loopholes in the law that led to bootlegging, the illegal production and
distribution of liquor. The 18th Amendment did not cover the actual drinking of liquor.
People bought liquor cases for personal use. Also, people could consume liquor under the
prescription of a doctor. So you can imagine the number of prescriptions for alcohol!
Women’s Rights (19th)
For the first one-hundred and fifty years of its existence, most of the people who
shaped the United States were men. This was not because women could not or did
not want to help. Instead, it was because men held all the positions of power in the
government. Men were the Presidents. Men were the members of Congress. Men
were the governors. Men were the owners of large corporations. Women had very
little chance to advance in society. Today, many women enjoy taking care of the
home. Today, though, this is a choice. Before, it was the only option for women.
Women had no role in government. They had no role in politics. They were the
caretakers of their homes. They cared for their husbands or fathers and raised
children. Most men didn't feel that women should be allowed to vote. There were
laws that prevented women from being able to vote in all states. As society changed
during the early 1900s, many people decided it was unjust to deny women the right
to vote and play a role in the nation's government. Finally, in 1920, the 19th
Amendment was passed. It granted women the right vote in all elections.
Today, many women are active in government and politics. Being able to vote was
the first step for women that wanted to influence their nation, and its government.
Without the ability to vote, women would not have a voice. Without a voice, there
was no reason for politicians to care what women thought. They ignored issues that
were important to women. But, once women had the right to vote, many became
interested in politics. Women ran for office, and while there has not yet been a
female President or Vice President, it is only a matter of time until we see the first.
Repealing Prohibition (21st)
Conflicting with the movement that backed Prohibition, there were movements to
get the law repealed. The dream of bringing down alcoholism, crime and murder
failed to materialize. People became weary of the unsuccessful Prohibition Act and
began to join the Anti-Prohibition movement. Americans were fond of their alcohol.
There were many people who argued drinking was said to be 'respectable' in some
The officers who imposed the Act were few and most of them were corrupt. Thus,
instead of helping curb the excessive drinking, it brought new problems. People
began to argue that alcohol consumption was a local issue and the Constitution had
nothing to do with it. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 lead to The Great
Depression. Soon, people were in need of jobs and the government needed money.
The only solution that could prove beneficial for both the government and people
was the legalization of alcohol. Alcohol production led to more job openings and
more sales tax for the cash-strapped government.
The 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution repealed the 18th Amendment. Thus,
alcohol production, sale, and transportation were once again legalized. The law was
officially ended. The most important fact is the 18th Amendment remains that it
was the first and only amendment of the US Constitution that has been repealed.
Term Limits (22nd)
Since the presidency of George Washington, only one thing could be said to be
totally consistent — that no President had the job for more than two full terms.
Washington had been asked to run for a third term in 1796, but he made it quite
clear that he had no intention of doing so; that a transfer of power was needed to
prevent a President from becoming a King. And so it was for almost 150 years.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first elected President in 1932, and re-elected in
1936. When it came time for the Democrats to nominate a candidate for the
Presidency in 1940, two things had happened. First, the Republicans had made great
gains in Congress in the 1938 elections. And then Hitler came to power in
Germany. Europe was in the throes of a great war, with trouble in the Pacific, too.
A change away from Roosevelt, who had led the nation through the Great
Depression, did not seem wise. He was nominated for an unprecedented third term,
and won. It was not a landslide victory, however, and it is debatable that FDR
would not have won a third term had it not been for the war. When 1944 rolled
around, changing leaders in the middle of World War II, which the United States
was now fully engaged in, also seemed unwise, and FDR ran for and was elected to,
a fourth term.
His life was nearly over, however, and his Vice President, Harry Truman, became
President upon FDR's death less than 100 days after his inauguration. Though
FDR's leadership was seen by many as a key reason that the U.S. came out of
WWII victorious, the Congress was determined, once the war ended, to ensure that
Washington's self-imposed two-term limit become the law of the land. Specifically
excepting Truman from its provisions, the 22nd Amendment passed Congress on
March 21, 1947. After Truman won a second term in 1948, it was ratified on
February 27, 1951. Truman could have run for a third term, but bowed out early
before campaigning began.
Can be Killed in War, But Can't Vote (26th)
The United States was in the midst of the Vietnam War and protests were underway
throughout the nation. Draftees into the armed services were any male over the age
of 18. There was a disagreement among Americans about how these young men
were allowed, even forced, to fight and die for their country, but they were unable
to vote. The 14th Amendment only guaranteed the vote to those over twenty-one.
The Congress attempted to right this wrong in 1970 by passing an extension to the
1965 Voting Rights Act that gave the vote to all persons 18 or older, in all elections,
on all levels. Oregon objected to the 18-year-old limit, as well as other provisions of
the 1970 Act (it also objected to a prohibition on literacy tests for the right to vote).
In Oregon v Mitchell, a sharply divided Supreme Court ruled that the Congress had
the power to lower the voting age to 18 for national elections, but not for state and
local elections. The case was decided on December 1, 1970. Within months, on
March 23, 1971, the Congress passed the text of the 26th Amendment, specifically
setting a national voting age, in both state and national elections, to 18. In just 100
days, on July 1, 1971, the amendment was ratified.