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Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Co., 251 U.S. 146 (1919)

Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Company

No. 589, 602

Argued November 20, 1919

Decided December 16, 1919

251 U.S. 146


The power to prohibit the liquor traffic as a means of increasing war efficiency is part of the war power of Congress, and its exercise without providing for compensation is no more limited by the Fifth Amendment than a like exercise of a state's police power would be limited by the Fourteenth Amendment. P. 251 U. S. 164.

The War-Time Prohibition Act, approved ten days after the armistice with Germany was signed, Act of November 21, 1918, c. 212, 40 Stat. 1046, provided:

"That after June thirtieth, nineteen hundred and nineteen, until the conclusion of the present war and thereafter until the termination of demobilization, the date of which hall be determined and proclaimed by the President of the United States, for the purpose of conserving the manpower of the Nation, and to increase efficiency in the production of arms, munitions, ships, food, and clothing for the Army and Navy, it shall be unlawful to sell for beverage purposes any distilled spirits, and during said time no distilled spirits held in bond shall be removed therefrom for beverage purposes except for export."

Held, in respect of liquors in bond, even if belonging to one who made and owned them before the

Page 251 U. S. 147

act was passed and paid revenue taxes upon them since June 30, 1919: .

(1) That the act was not an appropriation of such liquors for public purposes. P. 251 U. S. 157.

(2) That the time allowed for disposing of all liquors in bond on November 21, 1918, could not be declared unreasonable as a matter of law, even if they were not sufficiently ripened or aged to be disposed of advantageously during the period limited. P. 251 U. S. 158.

(3) That the prohibition was not in violation of the Fifth Amendment as a taking of property without compensation. P. 251 U. S. 157.

(4) That it was within the war power when passed (notwithstanding the cessation of hostilities under the armistice) as a means of war efficiency and for the support and care of the Army and Navy during demobilization. P. 251 U. S. 158.

A wide latitude of discretion must be accorded to Congress in the exercise of the war powers. P. 251 U. S. 163.

The court cannot inquire into the motives of Congress, in determining the validity of its acts, or into the wisdom of the legislation, nor pass upon the necessity for the exercise of a power possessed. P. 251 U. S. 161.

It is settled that the war power carries with it the power to guard against immediate renewal of the conflict and to remedy the evils which have arisen from its rise and progress. Id.

Assuming that the continuing validity of an act passed under the war power may depend not upon the existence of a technical state of war, terminable only with the ratification of a treaty of peace or by a proclamation of peace, but upon some actual war emergency or necessity, the Court cannot say that the necessity for the prohibition had ceased when these suits were begun in view of the facts that the treaty of peace has not been concluded, that various war activities -- among them, national control of railroads -- continue, and that the manpower of the nation has not been completely restored to a peace footing. P. 251 U. S. 161.

The Eighteenth Amendment did not operate to repeal the War-Time Prohibition Act. P. 251 U. S. 163.

In defining the period of the prohibition, Congress, in the War-Time Prohibition Act, doubtless expecting that the war would be definitely ended by a peace under a ratified treaty or a proclamation before demobilization was complete, intended that the prohibition should continue until the date of the termination of demobilization had been definitely ascertained by the President and made known by him through a proclamation to that end. P. 251 U. S. 164.

The reference to the "demobilization of the army and navy" in the

Page 251 U. S. 148

President's message communicating his veto of the National Prohibition Act, is not the proclamation required by the War-Time Prohibition Act. P. 251 U. S. 167.

In an exact sense, demobilization had not terminated then or when these suits were begun, as shown by the report on the subject of the Secretary of War, made to the President and transmitted to Congress; nor does it appear that it has yet so terminated. P. 251 U. S. 168.

No. 589, reversed.

No. 602, affirmed.

The cases are stated in the opinion.

Page 251 U. S. 153

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