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The war power of the United States, like its other powers and like the police power of the states, is subject to applicable constitutional limitations, but the Fifth Amendment imposes in this respect no greater limitation upon the national power than does the Fourteenth Amendment upon state power.
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 shall be determined and proclaimed by the President of the United States, for the purpose of conserving the man power 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." An owner of a distillery warehouse (appellee) initiated an action that sought to enjoin the government from interfering with his sale and distribution of whiskey on the ground that the War-Time Prohibition Act (Act), 40 Stat. 1045, was void and had become inoperative. The district court permanently enjoined the government from interfering with appellee’s activities.
Did the statute prohibiting the liquor traffic as a means of increasing war efficiency violate the Fifth Amendment?
The Court reversed the decree granting the injunction because the Act was valid and still in force. The statute did not violate the Fifth Amendment because it did not take property. The effective date of the Act was postponed to enable distillers, such as appellee, to dispose of stocks on hand. The statute remained valid even though the war emergency ceased because the peace treaty had not yet been signed, other war activities, such as national control over railways, had not ceased, and the nation's manpower was still lacking.