United States Constitution

PREAMBLE : We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution



Article 1, Section 10

Text of Article 1, Section 10:
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.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 [sic] 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.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.
The 'Travis Translation' of Article 1, Section 10:
Clause 1: No state can ally with another country; make war; make their own money; allow private boats and vessels to catch and arrest enemy ships; or issue their own bills for credit. States must make only silver and gold to pay for things. States cannot pass any law to disgrace people accused of dishonor. States cannot pass a law that goes back in time. Laws can be applied only after they are passed. States cannot pass a law that messes up contracts already made. States may not give people a title of nobility.

Clause 2: States must have the permission of Congress to charge money for the buying and selling of things that come into the country and things sold outside of the country. If states pass laws to charge money for things that come into and go out of the country, all the money collected will go to the United States Treasury. Congress can make laws to change or control these state laws.

Clause 3: States must have Congress’ permission to keep armies, or warships during peacetime. States will need Congress’ permission to join forces with another state or with a foreign power, or to make war, unless they are invaded and the United States troops cannot get there in time to help.
Like Article I, Section 9, this section deals with limitations. Here, the Constitution places limits on the laws a state may pass. In these three clauses, the Constitution prohibits a number of seemingly unrelated things. However, they are all theoretically linked by the notion that, with the ratification of the Constitution, states gave up a portion of their sovereignty. States are not countries. Therefore, they may not legislate like they are countries.

In the first clause, among other prohibitions, states are forbidden from making treaties, creating money, and holding people accountable for crimes committed before those acts were made crimes. However, the provision in this clause that has been the source of the most study is the segment that prohibits a state from making a “Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts.” In fact, this entire clause has been known as the “Contract Clause” because of the importance of that provision. Simply, it prohibits states from making laws that interfere with contracts that have already been created. In the early years of the country, this provision was considered sacrosanct. For example, in Fletcher v. Peck (1810), the Georgia legislature sought to void land contracts that it had made in a previous session after learning that the original contracts were issued in exchange for bribes. However, the Supreme Court held this action unconstitutional. Once a contract is made, the Contract Clause prohibits interference by the government. However, the clause has since been watered down in the modern era. In Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934), the Court examined a Minnesota law that prohibited banks from foreclosing on homeowners in default. Conceptually, this was an interference with a contract – the exact type of law that the unqualified Contract Clause appears to prohibit. However, the Court considered this an insubstantial enough interference for a significant enough purpose (this was during the Great Depression, after all) and did not hold the law unconstitutional. Thus, today, the Court generally holds that a state may interfere with a contract given sufficient justification. It is no longer and black and white issue.

The second clause further prohibits another marker of independent nations, placing tariffs on imports and exports. In the third clause, states are prohibited from creating an army and making alliances or wars.

Indeed, as Congress was imbued with authority, the power of state legislatures diminished. They were no longer quasi-countries loosely bound by the Articles of Confederation. They were the new United States of America.

Fletcher v. Peck (1810)
Home Building & Loan Association v. Blaisdell (1934)