Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Co., 251 U.S. 146; 40 S. Ct. 106; 64 L. Ed. 194 (1919)

Hamilton v. Kentucky Distilleries & Warehouse Co., 251 U.S. 146; 40 S. Ct. 106; 64 L. Ed. 194 (1919)

Facts—On November 11, 1918, the armistice with Germany was signed. Ten days later, Congress passed and the president approved the War-Time Prohibition Act, which provided that alcoholic beverages held in bond should not be moved therefrom except for export. The purpose was to conserve the manpower of the nation and to increase the efficiency of war production. The Kentucky Distilleries contended that the act was invalid since hostilities had ceased. Furthermore, they held that the government could not enforce such an act since the Constitution reserved the police power to the states.

Question—Was the War-Time Prohibition Act valid?


ReasonsJ. Brandeis (9–0). The United States lacks general police power, and the Tenth Amendment reserved such power to the states. However, when the United States exerts any of the powers conferred upon it by the Constitution, no valid objection can be based upon the fact that such exercise may be attended by the same incidents that attend the exercise by a state of its police power, or that it may tend to accomplish a similar purpose. The power of wartime emergencies is not limited to victories in the field and the dispersion of the insurgent forces. It inherently carries with it the power to guard against the immediate renewal of the conflict and to remedy the evils that have arisen from its rise and progress. Since the security of the nation was involved, the government had to be given a wide latitude of discretion as to the limitations of war powers.

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