Corona Constitution Class, Instructor: Douglas V. Gibbs
Topic: Article I, Section 10 - State Prohibitions
- Prohibitions to the States
The articles in the U.S. Constitution all apply to the federal government unless otherwise noted. Article I, Section 10, notes otherwise. Each clause begins with the words “No State shall,” making Article I, Section 10 prohibitive to the States.
Article I, Section 10, Clause 1 begins by disallowing the States to enter into any treaty, alliance, or Confederation. The goal was to keep the union intact, have all dealings with foreign governments go through the federal government, and to ensure there was no divided loyalties among the States. Treaties and alliances are external issues.
The disallowance of the States entering into a confederation was the argument used against the Confederacy during the American Civil War. President Lincoln considered the southern states seceding and joining into a confederation to be unlawful, partly due to this clause in the Constitution. However, by seceding, the States no longer fell under the jurisdiction of the Constitution, making the Confederacy a legal arrangement.
No State could grant letters of Marque and Reprisal, or coin money. These authorities were granted to the federal government in Article I, Section 8. States were not allowed to coin money so that they would not use currency as a means to gain an unfair advantage over each other in relation to interstate commerce.
Article I, Section 10 prohibits the States from emitting bills of credit. Bills of credit take two forms. Bills of credit are receipts for currency, such as a treasury note, and bills of credit can be items of credit such as bonds. What this means is that the States could not issue paper money, nor could States issue instruments of debt. In other words, the States were not allowed to borrow money. Today, all but two States of the union are in debt. The State deficits are in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The States were also disallowed from passing bills of attainder, ex post facto law, or passing any law that would impair the obligation of contracts. The States, as the federal government, could not issue any title of Nobility. Ex post facto law has become a large concern in recent politics. Ex post facto law is retroactive law. By disallowing the passage of ex post facto law, the States (just like the federal government) cannot constitutionally pass laws retroactively. A gun legal at the time of purchase cannot be made retroactively illegal. Immigrants who entered the State illegally cannot be made retroactively legal. A tax cannot be retroactively imposed, creating a sudden large balance of tax due.
States are allowed to tax imports or exports, but only with the consent of Congress. Because States are tasked with having their own inspection laws, any costs necessary for executing those inspection laws may be recouped through imposts or Duties without the consent of Congress.
“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.” In other words, the States cannot over tax imports and exports. They are only to charge taxes necessary to cover their costs, such as “executing inspection laws.” Any net produce, or what would be considered “profit” in the private sector, goes to the U.S. Treasury. All of the States inspection laws, or other laws regarding imports and exports, are also subject to revision and control by the Congress.
Having a military is also forbidden to the States in time of peace, except with the consent of Congress. However, if a State is invaded, or the State feels they are in imminent danger, they are allowed to form a military. Currently, 23 States have State Defense Forces, or “State Militias.” In recent years, State Defense Forces have proven vital to homeland security and emergency response efforts.
Questions for Discussion:
1. What does the various prohibitions to the States have in common?
2. How do the prohibitions to the States relate to concepts like the Tenth Amendment?
21st-Century Militia: State Defense Forces and Homeland Security, Heritage Foundation: http://www.heritage.org/Research/Reports/2010/10/The-21st-Century-Militia-State-Defense-Forces-and-Homeland-Security
Madison’s Notes on the Constitutional Convention, Avalon Project, Yale University: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/subject_menus/debcont.asp
UNITED STATES v. COMSTOCK (No. 08-1224), Clarence Thomas Dissenting Opinion (State Sovereignty): http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/08-1224.ZD.html (2010)