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 6, Section 1

Text of Article 6, Section 1:
All Debts contracted and Engagements entered into, before the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.

This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.

The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.

The 'Travis Translation' of Article 6, Section 1:
All debts and promises made by the United States before the approval of this Constitution will still be enforced under this Constitution.

This Constitution, the laws of the United States, and the treaties of the United States are the absolute law of the land — and all judges must honor them, despite anything different in State Constitutions or State laws.

All Senators, Representatives, Members of State Legislatures, executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and in the states them¬selves, are bound by their word to sup¬port this Constitution. No religious test can ever be used in order to serve in public office.

With Article VII being nothing but the requirement that nine states ratify the Constitution before it could go into affect, it is Article VI that contains the last of the substantive provisions of the Constitution.

The first clause simply states that any debts that the country may have accrued before the ratification of the Constitution are still valid. Thus, if the country borrowed money during the Revolutionary War, for example, even though the structure of the government was undergoing enormous change with the Constitution, those debts would be unchanged.

The second clause, the so-called “Supremacy Clause,” is perhaps the most significant of this article. It’s meaning is simple: where the Constitution or valid federal laws conflict with state constitutions or state laws, the Constitution and the federal laws win. They preempt. They are ‘supreme.’ From early on, this clause has been used to supersede state laws. For example, in Ware v. Hylton (1796), the Court examined a conflict between the Treaty of Paris, made by the federal government, and a Virginia law. The Court held that Virginia could not nullify debts that the Treaty of Paris guaranteed. The Supremacy Clause meant that the federal enactment overrode the Virginia law to the contrary. Famously, in McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), the Court held that the Supremacy Clause meant that it was unconstitutional for the state of Maryland to tax a federally created bank. The bank was within the power of the federal government to create. A state could not exercise authority over the bank. That would thwart the meaning and intention of the Supremacy Clause. Though the Court has further defined the clause and when a federal law preempts a state law, the central holding of Ware and McCulloch remains in effect. Indeed, in the recent case of American Insurance Association v. Garamendi (2003), the Court held that a California law was unconstitutional under the Supremacy Clause. California had passed a law in efforts to help Holocaust survivors collect reparations payments from German companies. The law required any insurance company in business during and before World War II to make much of its client information public. The Court, however, held that federal laws governing reparations, and the United States’ relationship to modern Germany in general, preempted the state law. When the federal government legislates in one area, and a state government does the same, the Supremacy Clause works to make the federal law preempt the state law.

The third clause requires that members of the federal government, in any branch, take an oath of office to uphold the Constitution. But that oath – or any requirement to be a member of the government – cannot be contingent on some religious test, oath or otherwise.

Ware v. Hylton (1796)
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
American Insurance Association v. Garamendi (2003)