Louis J. Terminello, Esq.
The history of perhaps our most favored national pastime, the enjoyment of the drink, is worth telling from a legislative perspective. The next few blog posts will serve as a very basic primer, a distilled version, (if the reader will forgive the pun) of acts and legislation that paved the way to the current state of alcohol beverage law in this country. Interestingly, many of the central issues of time past, resemble the issues of time present.
Delirium, demon rum, Carry Nation and the alcohol stained lips she and other women like her refuse to kiss, gives rise to the temperance movement in the United States in the mid 1800’s. The dry vs. wet state battle begins, alcohol beverage friend or foe depending on predilection.
Dry state legislation arguably interferes with federal authority to regulate and prevent discriminatory and protectionist state laws effecting commercial activity.
Enter the Wilson Act of 1890.
“All fermented, distilled, or other intoxicating liquors or liquids transported into any State or Territory or remaining therein for use, consumption, sale, or storage therein,
in such State or Territory be subject to the operation and effect of the laws of such State or Territory enacted in the exercise of its police powers, to the same extent and in the same manner as though such liquids or liquors had been produced in such State or Territory, and shall not be exempt therefrom by reason of being introduced therein in original packages or otherwise.” shall upon arrival
The intent of the act was to provide support to the dry state movement and provide legal cover (by the federal government) to the states by limiting the over-arching powers of the federal government to regulate commerce. By the Act, Congress was attempting to explicitly restrict the transportation of a commodity specific which otherwise would have been permissible. The mood at the time was that all goods shall flow freely through the states unless otherwise prohibited (explicitly) by Congress.
The proverbial alcohol road block was erected and by appearances made way for the states to prevent transportation of the demon drink across its borders.
The Act was challenged and ultimately and arguably because of its construction, was made ineffective. As highlighted above, “upon arrival”, at the time, was interpreted to mean not at the state border, but rather to the consignee within the state.
The party roared on. Alcohol flowed freely. The temperance movement got stronger. Politicians huddled to come with a legislative solution to the problem of drink.
Close Curtain. Act Two to follow.
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