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10 Weirdest Failed Constitutional Amendments


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Outlaw Drunkenness, 1938
Most un-fun-senator award goes to Texan Morris Sheppard, who tried at least five times to repeal the 21st Amendment ending Prohibition. Library of Congress/Corbis Historical/Getty Images
Most un-fun-senator award goes to Texan Morris Sheppard, who tried at least five times to repeal the 21st Amendment ending Prohibition. Library of Congress/Corbis Historical/Getty Images

On Dec. 5, 1933, Americans raised a collective glass to the end of Prohibition, a period in which the production, transportation and sale of alcohol were banned. It all started in 1919 with the passage of the 18th Amendment, a law written by Texas Sen. Morris Sheppard on behalf of those who opposed alcohol for reasons of health and morality. While the amendment succeeded in reducing alcohol consumption, the black market it created led to a dramatic increase in organized crime and violence. After 14 dry years, thirsty state legislatures repealed Prohibition with the 21st Amendment in 1933. It was ratified in just 10 months, a record for the time.

Not everyone was feeling the warm glow, though. Between 1935 and 1938, Prohibition author Morris Sheppard, a Democratic senator from Texas, introduced at least five resolutions to repeal the 21st Amendment. Sheppard wasn't having any luck, so his colleague, Oklahoma Rep. Gomer Smith, tried a different tactic: outlawing drunkenness [source: Vile].

The ridiculousness of this proposal, particularly given the recent failure of Prohibition, led an unidentified author to add some additional sections to a draft located in the House Judiciary Committee's papers at the National Archives. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, the anonymous jokester suggested Congress could be empowered to change human nature or perhaps abolish Saturday night as well [source: House Judiciary Committee].


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