Its been a while since I wrote a lesson on the U.S. Constitution. Sorry for being an absentee teacher. I hope they were missed. Most of all I hope all of you have been learning more about the Constitution both from me and in your own studies, in my absence. Anyway, today’s lesson focuses on the last section of the first article of the Constitution. It focuses on the powers specifically denied to the states in the union. So lets get started.
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.
This clause is a very big catch all clause that lays out a large number of actions to which the state government cannot do. If you look at the previous section of Article I you find this is a repeat of some of those clauses. It strictly forbids any special treaties between states. Since we are a Union of sovereign states this may seem odd, but if we were able to enter into special treaties with other countries then what is the point of the Union. States are forbidden from both printing money (reserved for the Congress under Section 8 of Article I) and emitting Bills of Credit. This is the main reason why states are facing budget crunches right now, they cannot carry debt. They have to have balanced budgets by the Constitution. The Silver and Gold clause has little value now since our money is not backed by silver or gold. The last clause, the obligation of contracts, basically means that a state cannot stop a contract from being fulfilled. Contract Law is an area specifically granted to the states because that is where all contracts are made valid, in state court. The Congress has invalidated lost of contracts in the last few years though: AIG bonus contracts, debt contracts between bond holders of GM and Chyrsler, etc. If the right to contract is not safe then what’s the point of having contracts.
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it’s inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress.
So this is an enforcement clause on some of the reserved powers of Congress from Section 8 of this article . Congress has the sole power to regulate interstate commerce and to have control over import and export taxes. The only reason a state may charge taxes on imports or exports is for the inspection of the product by its own state standards and laws. Even when they collect that tax, it must be given to the federal government, not the state treasury. Lastly Congress has to consent with all those taxes.
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.
Last clause of this article is another catch all clause. Again Congress has the final approval of all of these denied powers. The troops and ships clause was to prevent any state from possibly going to war with the other states over some perceived threat or slight. The militia were the only real troops they states had. The militia was considered the whole body of men in a community. They were only called upon in an emergency for the state. The states now a days do keep troops but they are not on active duty. They only are called up in times of emergency.
I think most of this article is pretty self-explanatory, but if you have any questions do not hesitate to ask. Class dismissed.