What Agreement Does the Constitution Prohibit the States from Making

The United States Constitution is the supreme law of the land. It outlines the roles and responsibilities of the federal government, while also restricting the powers of state governments. One of the most important provisions in the Constitution is the Supremacy Clause, which establishes that federal law takes precedence over state law.

There are several agreements that the Constitution explicitly prohibits states from making. These agreements are outlined in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution, which states that “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.”

Let’s take a closer look at each of these prohibitions:

Treaties, alliances, and confederations: States are not allowed to enter into any agreements with foreign countries or other states that would undermine the authority of the federal government. This provision ensures that the federal government maintains its role as the sole negotiator of foreign policy on behalf of the United States.

Letters of marque and reprisal: These are official documents issued by a government that authorize private individuals or ships to conduct acts of war against an enemy of the state. The Constitution prohibits the states from issuing these documents in order to prevent them from engaging in warfare without the authorization of the federal government.

Coining money and emitting bills of credit: The Constitution grants the federal government the power to regulate currency and commerce. States are not allowed to coin their own money or issue paper money, as this would interfere with the federal government’s authority over the economy.

Making anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payment of debts: This provision ensures that the federal government maintains control over the monetary system in the United States. States may not require payment of debts in any form other than gold or silver coins, which are recognized as legal tender by the federal government.

Passing bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, or laws impairing the obligation of contracts: These provisions protect citizens from unfair treatment by state governments. Bills of attainder are legislative acts that punish individuals without a trial, while ex post facto laws are retroactive laws that criminalize conduct that was legal at the time it occurred. Laws impairing the obligation of contracts would undermine the expectations of parties who entered into agreements in good faith.

Granting titles of nobility: This provision prohibits states from conferring titles of nobility, such as “duke,” “earl,” or “baron,” which are associated with feudal societies. This ensures that the United States remains a republic based on democratic principles.

In conclusion, the Constitution establishes a delicate balance between federal and state powers. By prohibiting states from making certain agreements, the Constitution ensures that the federal government retains its authority over foreign policy, the economy, and the administration of justice. These provisions protect the rights of citizens and uphold the principles of democracy that are fundamental to the American system of government.