Fun Fact #8: Rhode Island is the only U.S. state to not ratify the 18th Amendment (Prohibition)

Thomas Tew Rum, named after the Newport, Rhode Island pirate

The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages within the U.S. and its territories, including the import/export thereof (though contrary to popular belief, it did not prohibit the purchase or consumption of alcohol).

It was proposed by Congress on December 18, 1917 and ratified on January 16, 1919. Both Rhode Island and Connecticut would reject this amendment (though Connecticut did eventually ratify it on May 6, 1919 after it had already been added to the Constitution).

Rhode Island however never ratified the 18th Amendment. With its 400 miles of open coastline, rum running was a thriving industry for its residents. Furthermore, Rhode Island’s large Catholic population composed mostly of Irish and Italian immigrants viewed the 18th Amendment as a WASP (white Anglo-Saxon Protestant) initiative to impose their values on them.

Source: U.S.


8 thoughts on “Fun Fact #8: Rhode Island is the only U.S. state to not ratify the 18th Amendment (Prohibition)

  1. According to my information, New Jersey didn’t ratify it either. New Jersey did pass a local option law, which allowed municipalities to go dry if they so chose.

      1. Thank you for your message, Lindsay. I think Connecticut, too, ratified it after it became law, which was in January 1919. I don’t know how much respect New Jersey and Connecticut ultimately showed for Prohibition, but Rhode Island, if I’m not mistaken, showed very little. It defined “alcoholic beverage” as a potable substance that contained a hefty 4% of alcohol.

      2. Lindsay, maybe my eyes are playing tricks on me, but, in the source you cite, I don’t see any mention of Connecticut.

      3. No, they don’t deceive you. CT is not mentioned. It looks like there’s some confusion about CT; some sources say it also did not ratify (along with RI). Other sources say it ratified the amendment on on May 6, 1919.

      4. You’re right about the disagreement. One source says that Connecticut ratified later on, but Ernest Cherrington, in his chronological history, “The Evolution of Prohibition in the United States of America”, says nothing about it. Cherrington’s book was published in 1920 and stops at the end of 1919, which means, of course, that if Connecticut ratified later than that it wouldn’t be in his book.

      5. I’ve just checked another source, a scholarly one, “Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America 1800-1933”, by Thomas Pegram. Pegram says Connecticut and Rhode Island never ratified the 18th amendment, before or after.

      6. On or about the date you mention, the Connecticut Brewers Association announced that it would produce beer with a 2.75 alcohol content.

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