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Friday Constitutional 9 – Article 4; Relationships Between The States

Happy Friday and welcome to Friday Constitutional! This is the repost of my series taking a look at the Constitution of the United States, from stem to stern. I wrote this series two years ago but am reposting it now because I think it is a good idea for us to review the foundational document of our nation from time to time.

This is meant to be a learning experience, even for me, so if you think I am wrong in my interpretation, well step up and teach us all something! If you are coming in to this series in the middle you can find the previous installments at the links below:

Friday Constitutional 1 – Preamble, Article One, Sections 1 And 2
Friday Constitutional 2 – Article One, Sections 3 And 4
Friday Constitutional 3 – Article One, Sections 5 And 6
Friday Constitutional 4 – Article One, Sections 7 And 8
Friday Constitutional 5 – Article One, Sections 9 And 10
Friday Constitutional 6 – Article Two, Section 1 (Part One)
Friday Constitutional 7 – Article Two, Sections 1 (Part Two), 2, 3, And 4
Friday Constitutional 8 – Article Three, The Judicial Branch

This week we will cover Article Four Relationships Between The States.

Article Four

Section One:

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.

This section basically says that what is considered legal in one State must be considered legal in others States. However the second sentence gives the Congress the power to say exactly how that will work. As a practical matter this is how the pernicious (and Orwellian named) Defense of Marriage Act was able pass Constitutional muster. Since the Congress can tell States how their laws will or won’t be honored by other States the provision that allows States not to recognize the legal rights of gay citizens in States that do not recognize those rights.

Section Two:

Clause One:

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

This clause is really important (not that there are a lot of clauses that are not important) in that it binds the country together by saying that the rights of a citizen in one state shall be the rights of a citizen in all states.

This clause was expanded on by the 14th Amendment. We will cover that Amendment completely in another diary, but the Section One is the pertinent for this clause. It reads:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

This Section details the way that you are considered a citizen. It is what makes being born here the critical factor. It also is, to my mind, where we will finally achieve full equality for gay citizens. It states that no State can deny a citizen equal protection under the law. That is critical as there are many States that do this for many citizens.

Clause Two:

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.

This is the extradition clause and like all clauses in this Article it is designed to make the country one by preventing people from playing the States against each other. I bet this is the piece of law that was used to justify the Dred Scott decision. Note that it says persons and not citizens. If it had been limited to citizens, then there might have been a different outcome of that case. Or maybe not, it seems that the Chief Justice at the time was a big supporter of the right to own slaves.

In any case it allows for the extradition of any person that commits a crime from a State to which they have fled back to the State in which the crime was allegedly committed.

Clause Three:

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.

Well, I was wrong, this is where the legal reasoning for Dred Scott comes from. It is clearly a clause designed to protect the “rights” (sorry for the scare quotes, but I can not accept that the ownership of humans is ever a valid right) of slave owners and those that held people in indentured servitude. It is designed to specifically require the return of those that escaped from their slavery if the “owner” claimed them.

The good news is that this complete clause was abolished by the 13th Amendment in 1865.

Section Three:

Clause One:

New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new State 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


This clause sets out that no new States may be formed in ways that might unfavorably impact existing States. This clause was designed to prevent the forcible fracturing of States by small groups of malcontents.

For instance, I grew up in Michigan and for a long time there was a movement in the Upper Peninsula for that region to become its own State. It would have not only required the consent of the Michigan Legislature (never, ever going to happen) and the Congress for this to happen.

Clause Two:

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.

This is a pretty sweeping clause. It grants the Congress the power to make any rules or regulations it likes regarding the property and territory that is owned by the Federal Government. So, in the case of the District of Columbia, it seems that Congress could make any law it liked, and it would be completely constitutional. If they banned plaid shirts, because they felt it was needed, then you would not be able to ware them in DC.

The clause also states that nothing in the Constitution itself can be used to dispute the claims of the States or the United States on any property! Is this an example of the Framers horse trading? It seems very counter to most of the rest of the Constitution to have a single clause that might negate all other Articles and Clauses for any purpose.

Section Four:

The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence.

This section is the one that makes sure we are Republic and not a direct democracy. It pledges to the States that they will be represented in Government (subject to other provisions like proportionality). It also pledges that if there is an invasion of a State or insurrection inside that State the Federal Government would step in, if asked.

We’ll stop here for this week. Next week we will cover the last three Articles (they are kind of short) of the Constitution. So, this is what the founding document says about how the States must interact, what do you think citizens?

The floor is yours.

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Bill Egnor

Bill Egnor

I am a life long Democrat from a political family. Work wise I am a Six Sigma Black Belt (process improvement project manager) and Freelance reporter for