Posted in American History, essay, history, Politics

The Constitution: Article Four

Now that we have developed the Federal government’s three branches (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) its now time to figure out the states relation to each other.  Section Four deals with States rights and how they fit in the hierarchy of government.

Section One:

This section establishes that each state has to respect the other states around it.  All states are held equal beneath the Federal government and have the right to hold jurisdiction over its own state.  Each state has to respect the jurisdiction of the other states.  However, the Federal government may render laws that supercede and cover all states.  This was a correction over the previous constitution, the Articles of Confederation, which ultimately gave more power to the states then to the government that connected them.  It made the federal government little power and ended up failing as states would individually make their own money, their own laws, and interact with each other almost as if separate countries.

This version of the constitution still gives the states the bulk of the power, but the Federal Government has the right to restrain State power enough to create a union and smooth interstate interactions.

Section Two:

Section two has two clauses still in effect.  The first is that all citizens of the United States, regardless of state, have the same rights, privileges and immunities.  The second is the right for a State to call for the extradition of a criminal that has committed a crime in their state but ran to another state.  For example, if someone committed a crime in Texas, but then ran to Utah and was found there, Utah had to respect Texas’ request for them to ship the criminal back down to Texas for trial on the crimes they were accused of committing.

Basically, it continues the theme of States respecting each other and their laws.

The third clause, which is no longer applicable due to the 13th Amendment, stated that a person held to service/labor in one state but escapes into another has to be returned to the party that claimed their service/labor.  Essentially this part of the constitution was about Slavery, which was a large part of the economics of the South, and indentured labor.  This clause was debated heavily over the years, especially closer to the civil war and the 13th amendment as slaves and indentured servants, who were primarily immigrants and Native Americans, tried to escape to states with either abolition or at least a less priority on forced labor.

The 13th Amendment made this illegal, thus the clause no longer constitutional. This did not however stop indentured servitude, or discrimination.

Section Three

Section Three protects the state borders.  It allows that new states are welcome to join the union, but can not be created within the borders of another state, or out of pieces of states, at least not without the legislature of those states agreeing to it.  Which, as history would prove, doesn’t really happen often..

An example of this would be the state of Jefferson.  It is not of course a state, although various groups have tried to create it over the years.  It would be made up of Northern California and southern Washington.  It was first officially proposed in 1941, and has had different levels of activity over the years.  In fact, Redding California had a vote on whether to be part of the moment or not in 2013 (they voted no).

But there are states that did come from inside other states boundries.  There are four states that can make that claim.  Virginia had land claims to the west that eventually became the states of West Virginia (1863) and Kentucky (1792).  Massachusetts eventually split, part of it becoming the new state of Maine (1820).  Vermont was its own country for awhile before becoming part of the union and there was some disputed land claims on Vermont by New York.

There have been options for more states out what is already here more recently as well.  Arizona had a periodic secessionist group want to make Southern Arizona a separate state.  Most recently in 2011 where they wanted to create Baja Arizona after Arizona passed a controversial immigration bill.  Many other states have had counties suggest succeeding due to taxes or other reasoning, but none have successfully gone through with the procedure.

Its ends what what pretty much sounds like a disclaimer in that they have the power to make rules and regulations for territory and property of the US but won’t be prejudiced against the claims of individual states or states.

Section Four

In the final clause of Article Four, the US Federal government makes a list of guarantees to its states.  It first guarantees a republican form of government ie representation in its most common interpretation.  It also guarantees protection from foreign invaders (like Canada if they decided to move in and take over Michigan) or from domestic violence which many take to mean riots and the like.

For example, think of the Whiskey Rebellion, wherein a revolt happened after Alexander Hamilton proposed a tax on distilled spirits produced in the US.  This was considered a burden on farmers who often distilled their grain for transportation purposes.  In 1794, a group near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania decided to burn down the house of the local tax collector.  At this point, Congress (and therefore Washington) had enough and called the Militia into things.  Basically enforcing this clause.

Further Reading:

National Constitution Center – Article VI

Jefferson Proposed State (wikipedia)

Bigthink.Com – Jefferson State  

US State Partitions (Wikipedia)

NPR: A 51st State?  Some in Arizona Want A Split  (May 9,2011

The American View – What Does Article Four Section Four mean? (A Blog with political bias)

Annenberg Classroom:  Artive IV Section 4

Mount Vernon.Org – The Whiskey Rebellion


A thirty-something Graphic Designer and writer who likes to blog about books, movies and History.

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