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Article Four of the United States Constitution


Article Four of the United States Constitution

Article Four of the United States Constitution outlines the relationship between each state and the others, as well as between the several States and the federal government.


  • Section 1: Full faith and credit 1
  • Section 2: Obligations of states 2
    • Clause 1: Privileges and Immunities 2.1
    • Clause 2: Extradition of fugitives 2.2
    • Clause 3: Fugitive Slave Clause 2.3
  • Section 3: New states and federal property 3
    • Clause 1: New states 3.1
    • Clause 2: Federal Property and Territory Clause 3.2
  • Section 4: Obligations of the United States 4
    • Clause 1: Republican government 4.1
    • Clause 2: Protection from invasion and domestic violence 4.2
  • Notes and references 5
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

Section 1: Full faith and credit

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

The first section requires states to extend "full faith and credit" to the public acts, records and court proceedings of other states. Congress may regulate the manner in which proof of such acts, records or proceedings may be admitted.

In procedural law of the states where they are enforced, notwithstanding any priority accorded in the states in which they are issued.

Section 2: Obligations of states

Clause 1: Privileges and Immunities

The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.

Clause One of Section 2 requires interstate protection of "privileges and immunities". The seeming ambiguity of the clause has given rise to a number of different interpretations. Some contend that the clause requires Congress to treat all citizens equally. Others suggest that citizens of states carry the rights accorded by their home states while traveling in other states.

Neither of these theories has been endorsed by the Supreme Court, which has held that the clause means that a state may not discriminate against citizens of other states in favor of its own citizens. In Corfield v. Coryell, 6 F. Cas. 546 (C.C.E.D. Pa. 1823), the federal circuit court held that privileges and immunities in respect of which discrimination is barred include
protection by the Government; the enjoyment of life and liberty ... the right of a citizen of one State to pass through, or to reside in any other State, for purposes of trade, agriculture, professional pursuits, or otherwise; to claim the benefits of the writ of habeas corpus; to institute and maintain actions of any kind in the courts of the State; to take, hold and dispose of property, either real or personal; and an exemption from higher taxes or impositions than are paid by the other citizens of the State.

Most other benefits were held not to be protected privileges and immunities. In Corfield the circuit court sustained a New Jersey law giving state residents the exclusive right to gather clams and oysters.

Clause 2: Extradition of fugitives

A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.

Clause Two requires that fugitives from justice may be extradited on the demand of executive authority of the state from which they flee. The Supreme Court has held that it is not compulsory for the fugitive to have fled after an indictment was issued, but only that the fugitive fled after having committed the crime. The Constitution provides for the extradition of fugitives who have committed "treason, felony or other crime." That phrase incorporates all acts prohibited by the laws of a state, including misdemeanors and small, or petty, offenses.

In Kentucky v. Dennison, 65 U.S. 66 (1860), the Supreme Court held that the federal courts may not compel state governors to surrender fugitives through the issue of writs of mandamus. The Dennison decision was overruled by Puerto Rico v. Branstad, 483 U.S. 219 (1987); now, the federal courts may require the extradition of fugitives.[1] Alleged fugitives generally may not challenge extradition proceedings.

The motives of the governor demanding the extradition may not be questioned. The accused cannot defend himself against the charges in the extraditing state; the fugitive must do so in the state receiving him. However, the accused may prevent extradition by offering clear evidence that he was not in the state he allegedly fled from at the time of the crime.[2] There is no constitutional requirement that extradited fugitives be tried only for the crimes named in the extradition proceedings.

Fugitives brought to states by means other than extradition may be tried, even though the means of the conveyance was unlawful; the Supreme Court so ruled in Mahon v. Justice, 127 U.S. 700 (1888). In Mahon a body of armed men from Kentucky forcibly took, without a warrant, a man in West Virginia to bring him back to Kentucky for formal arrest and trial.

Clause 3: Fugitive Slave Clause

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

Pierce Butler and Charles Pinckney, both from South Carolina, submitted this clause to the Constitutional Convention. James Wilson of Pennsylvania objected, stating it would require that state governments to enforce slavery at taxpayers' expense. Butler withdrew the clause. However, on the next day the clause was quietly reinstated and adopted by the Convention without objection. This clause was added to the clause that provided extradition for fugitives from justice.[3]

When first adopted, this clause applied to fugitive slaves and required that they be extradited upon the claims of their masters, but it provided no means for doing so. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 created the mechanism for recovering a fugitive slave, overruled any state laws giving sanctuary, made it a federal crime to assist an escaped slave, and allowed slave-catchers into every U.S. state and territory. As free states sought to undermine the federal law, the even more severe Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 was enacted.

In 1864, during the Civil War, an effort to repeal this clause of the Constitution failed.[4] This clause was rendered mostly moot when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery.

Section 3: New states and federal property

Clause 1: New states

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.

By Section Three, Congress may admit new states to the Union. Admission was planned for Vermont after settlement issues with New York concerning borders and money. No new state, however, may be formed by joining multiple states, without the consent of all state legislatures concerned.

The Constitution does not require that states be admitted on an "equal footing" with the original states. In fact, the Constitutional Convention rejected a proposal requiring the equality of new states. Congress nevertheless included an equality clause in the statehood acts of admission of states. Congressional restrictions on the equality of states, even when those limitations have been found in the acts of admission, have been held void by the Supreme Court.

For instance the Supreme Court struck down a provision which limited the jurisdiction of the state of Alabama over navigable waters within the state. The Court held,
Alabama is, therefore, entitled to the sovereignty and jurisdiction over all the territory within her limits ... to maintain any other doctrine, is to deny that Alabama has been admitted into the union on an equal footing with the original states ... to Alabama belong the navigable waters and soils under them.
The doctrine, however, can also be applied to the detriment of states, as occurred with Texas. Before admission to the Union, Texas, as an independent nation, controlled water within three miles of the coast, the normal limit for nations. Under the equal footing doctrine, however, Texas was found not to have control over the three-mile belt after admission into the Union, because the original states did not at the time of joining the union control such waters. Instead, by entering the Union, Texas was found to have surrendered control over the water and the soil under it to Congress. Under the Submerged Lands Act of 1953, Congress returned maritime territory to some states, but not to others; the Act was sustained by the Supreme Court.

During the Civil War, the people of western Virginia rejected the state convention's decision to secede from the Union. This region formed a new government for the state of Virginia, which President Abraham Lincoln immediately recognized. In 1863 this state legislature permitted its western counties to split off and become the state of West Virginia. Congress recognized West Virginia, as did the Supreme Court in Virginia v. West Virginia, 78 U.S. 39 (1871).[5]

The question of leaving the Union is not addressed by the Constitution. In Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1869), the Supreme Court suggested that the Constitution ordained the "perpetuity and indissolubility of the Union". The court did allow some possibility of the divisibility "through revolution, or through consent of the States."[6][7]

Clause 2: Federal Property and Territory Clause

The Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States; and nothing in this Constitution shall be so construed as to Prejudice any Claims of the United States, or of any particular State.[8]

The Federal Property and Territory Clause or Property Clause gives the United States Congress power to dispose of, and make all needful rules and regulations regarding territories or other property owned by United States. Additionally, the clause also proclaims that nothing contained within the constitution - may be interpreted to harm (prejudice)- any claim of: the United States, or, of any particular State.

Pursuant to a parallel clause in Article One, Section Eight, the Supreme Court has held that states may not tax such federal property. In another case, Kleppe v. New Mexico, the Court ruled that the Federal Wild Horse and Burro Act was a constitutional exercise of congressional power under the Property Clause at least insofar as it was applied to a finding of trespass against the New Mexico Livestock Board prohibiting them from entering upon the public lands of the United States and removing wild burros under the New Mexico Estray Law.[9]

A major issue early in the 20th century was whether the whole Constitution applied to the territories called insular areas by Congress. In a series of opinions by the Supreme Court of the United States, referred to as the Insular Cases, the Court ruled that territories belonged to, but were not part of the United States. Therefore, under the Territorial clause Congress had the power to determine which parts of the Constitution applied to the territories. These rulings have helped shape public opinion among Puerto Ricans during the ongoing debate over the commonwealth's political status.

Section 4: Obligations of the United States

Clause 1: Republican government

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, [...]

This clause, sometimes referred to as the Guarantee Clause, has long been at the fore-front of the debate about the rights of citizens vis-à-vis the government. The Guarantee Clause mandates that all U.S. states must be grounded in republican principles, such as consent of the governed. [10] By ensuring that all states must have the same type of government (a republic), the Guarantee Clause is one of several portions of the Constitution which mandates symmetric federalism between the states.

The Constitution does not explain what exactly constitutes a republican government. There are however, several places within it where the principles behind the concept are articulated. Article Seven, the last and shortest of the Constitution's original articles, stipulated that the Constitution, before it could become established as the "Law of the Land", must obtain the consent of the people by being ratified by popular conventions within the several states. Additionally, as it required the ratification of only nine states in order to become established, rather than the unanimous consent required by the Articles of Confederation, the Constitution was more republican, as it protected the majority from effectively being ruled or held captive by the minority.[11]

The Federalist Papers also give us some insight as to the intent of the Founders. A republican form of government is distinguished from a democracy which the Founding Fathers had no intentions of entering. As James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 10, "Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."

A political crisis in 1840s Rhode Island, the Dorr Rebellion, forced the Supreme Court to rule on the meaning of this clause. At the time, the Rhode Island constitution was the old royal charter established in the 17th century. By the 1840s, only 40% of the state's free white males were enfranchised. An attempt to hold a popular convention to write a new constitution was declared insurrection by the charter government, and the convention leaders were arrested. One of them brought suit in federal court, arguing that Rhode Island's government was not "republican" in character, and that his arrest (along with all of the government's other acts) were invalid. In Luther v. Borden, 48 U.S. 1 (1849), the Court held that the determination of whether a state government is a legitimate republican form as guaranteed by the Constitution is a political question to be resolved by the Congress. In effect, the court held the clause to be non-justiciable.

The Luther v. Borden ruling left the responsibility to establish guidelines for the republican nature of state governments in the hands of the Congress. This power became an important part of Reconstruction after the American Civil War. The Radical Republican majority used this clause as the basis for many of their initiatives: the uncompensated abolition of slavery, civil rights for freedmen, plus the limiting of political and voting rights for ex-Confederates, abolishing the ex-Confederate state governments, setting guidelines for the readmission of the rebellious states into the Union.

While the Supreme Court's holding in Luther v. Borden still holds today, the Court, by looking to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (adopted 19 years after Luther v. Borden was decided), has developed new criteria for determining which questions are political in nature and which are justiciable.

Clause 2: Protection from invasion and domestic violence

[...] and [the United States] shall protect each of them [the States] against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

Section Four requires the United States to protect each state from invasion, and, upon the application of the state legislature (or executive, if the legislature cannot be convened), from domestic violence. This provision was discussed during the 1967 Detroit riot, but was not invoked.

Notes and references

  1. ^ 483 U.S. 219 (1987) (“Kentucky v. Dennison is the product of another time. The conception of the relation between the States and the Federal Government there announced is fundamentally incompatible with more than a century of constitutional development.”)
  2. ^ Hyatt v. People ex rel. Corkran, 188 U.S. 691 (1903) (“We are of opinion that, as the relator showed…he was not within the state of Tennessee at the times stated in the indictments found in the Tennessee court, nor at any time when the acts were, if ever, committed, he was not a fugitive from justice within the meaning of the Federal statute upon that subject…”)
  3. ^ Paul Finkelman, Slavery and the founders: race and liberty in the age of Jefferson, pg 82, 2nd Edition, 2001.
  4. ^ The vote in the House was 69 for repeal and 38 against, which was short of the two-to-one vote required to amend the Constitution. See the Congressional Globe, 38th Cong., 1st Sess., 1325 (1864)
  5. ^ Michael P. Riccards, "Lincoln and the Political Question: The Creation of the State of West Virginia" Presidential Studies Quarterly, Vol. 27, 1997 online edition
  6. ^ Aleksandar Pavković, Peter Radan, Creating New States: Theory and Practice of Secession, p. 222, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2007.
  7. ^ Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700 (1868) at Cornell University Law School Supreme Court collection.
  8. ^
  9. ^ 426 U.S. 529 (1976); 96 S.Ct. 2285; 49 L.Ed.2d 34
  10. ^ Ernest B. Abbott; Otto J. Hetzel (2010). Homeland Security and Emergency Management: A Legal Guide for State and Local Governments. American Bar Association. p. 52. 
  11. ^ Charles R. Kesler. "Ratification Clause". The Heritage Guide to the Constitution:Essays on Article VII. The Heritage Foundation. Retrieved May 9, 2014. 

Further reading

  • Adam H. Kurland, The Guarantee Clause as a Basis for Federal Prosecutions of State and Local Officials, 62 S. Cal. L. Rev. 369 (1989).

External links

  • The Constitution of the United States of America: Analyis and Interpretation.Kilman, Johnny and George Costello (Eds). (2000).
  • CRS Annotated Constitution: Article 4
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