Blaine Act Began Process to Repeal National Prohibition

The Blaine Act began the process that led to the repeal of National Prohibition (1920-1933). It was officially titled the ‘Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States.’ It was also known as Senate Joint Resolution 211. Specifically, it proposed the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

John J. Blaine

Sen. John J. Blaine

Sen. John J. Blaine, Republican from Wisconsin, introduced the resolution on February 14, 1933. The next day, Sen. Morris Sheppard, Democrat from Texas, began a filibuster to prevent consideration of the bill. No other senator assisted in this vain effort. The following day the Senate passed the Blaine Act by a vote of 69 to 27. That was five votes more than needed to pass.

On February 20, the House of Representatives passed it by a vote of 294-126.

The Blaine Act permitted states to form conventions that could ratify the proposed repeal amendment. Ratification by two-thirds of the existing 48 states was required to make that amendment part of the U.S. Constitution.

When Prohibition went into effect, Sen. Morris Sheppard had made a bold assertion. It was ‘There is as much chance of repealing the Eighteenth Amendment as there is for a hummingbird to fly to the planet Mars with the Washington Monument tied to its tail.’ The bird completed that on December 5, 1933.

John J. Blaine

John J. Blaine was Wisconsin State Attorney General. He was next governor of the state. He served in the Senate from 1927 to 1933. The author of the 21st Amendment died of pneumonia on April 16, 1934 at age 58.

Resources on the John J. Blaine and the Blaine Act

O’Brien, P. Senator John J. Blaine.  Wis Mag Hist, 1976, 60, 25-41.

Sobel, R., and Raimo, J. (eds.) Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler, 1978.

Senate Votes Dry Repeal by Conventions in States; House Will Act Monday. New York Times, Feb 17, 1933, p.1.

Resolution Passes 63-23. Five Votes to Spare Over a Two-Thirds Majority Is Cast for Blaine Plan. New York Times, Feb 17, 1933, p.1.