Click here or scroll down for a summary of Article 4 of the Constitution.
Article 4 of the United States Constitution contains 4 paragraphs, 37 sentences, 1,211 words, and 7,349 characters (including spaces).
Article IV (Article 4 – States’ Relations)
Article 4, Section 1
Article 4, Section 2
- The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.
- A 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.
- 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. note 11
Article 4, Section 3
- 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.
- 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.
Article 4, Section 4
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.
The United States Constitution is the oldest constitution in the world still in active use. It was written in 1787 and officially ratified in 1788.
Article 4 of the Constitution Summary
Article 4 of the United States Constitution addresses the roles and responsibilities of the states. This was a topic of great importance when it was written, given the increased power states enjoyed in the pre-Civil War era. Also due to the fact that the Articles of Confederation didn’t give enough power to the states.
Article 4 is composed of four distinct sections, each of which describes various aspects of the states and their duties. Some of these sections are further divided into separate clauses.
Article 4, Section 1
Article 4, Section 1 requires all states to respect and accept each others’ public acts, records, and judicial proceedings.
It also grants Congress the authority to create general legislation that defines how public acts, records, and judicial proceedings are recognized and respected across state lines.
What problem did Article 4, Section 1 solve?
Section 1 provided a vital solution to the discord and disunity among states under the original Articles of Confederation. This disunity was particularly noticeable during the early stages of the Revolutionary War.
Under the previous system, each state would print its own currency, operate under different forms of government, and have vastly different cultures and economies.
The success of the union of states depended on the cooperation of the states under the guiding hand of a centralized government, particularly the legislative branch.
Article 4, Section 2
Article 4, Section 2, Clause 1 guaranteed that citizens would have the same privileges and immunities in every state. This promised individual citizens the same basic rights and freedoms as they traveled to other states.
In addition, it prevented states from discriminating against people from other states.
Article 4, Section 2, Clause 2 is an extradition provision for states, requiring a criminal to be returned from the state to which they fled, to the jurisdiction of the state where they committed their crimes.
The state where the person fled could not refuse to give up the criminal. This was a necessary provision to maintain a level of law and order in an otherwise free society.
Article 4, Section 2, Clause 3 is the Fugitive Slave Clause. The Fugitive Slave Clause prohibits slaves from escaping their servitude by fleeing to another state, even if the state they fled to prohibits slavery.
The state government where the slave ran were obligated to return them to their original owner.
Article 4, Section 3, Clause 1 permits the admission of new states into the United States, which became necessary due to the westward expansion of many American colonies.
If a new state formed from within the boundary of another state or states, both Congress and state legislatures would have to approve the measure.
This process has largely been followed in the formation of all states in the United States. However, it was tenuously applied when West Virginia was formed from the existing state of Virginia in 1863.
Formation of West Virginia
Amid the Civil War, residents of the western mountainous region of Virginia petitioned Abraham Lincoln to form a separate state from Virginia. Part of the reason is that they were staunchly against slavery.
Unfortunately, while the measure gained approval from what was left of Congress after the Confederate states seceded, it had no chance of getting approval from the Virginia legislature, currently in rebellion.
A hastily formed provisional “Virginia” state legislature was assembled in Wheeling, Virginia.
It approved the formation of that particular state, technically fulfilling the requirements of the constitution that both the state and Congress had to approve a measure to form a new state within its boundary.
Whether or not this fulfilled the requirements outlined in the clause is still a topic of debate.
Article 4, Section 3, Clause 2 gives Congress the legislative power over any territory or other property owned by the United States, with the right to pass laws and regulations for their governance.
Congress is also given the right to dispose of any territory or property owned by the United States.
For example, if the United States desired to sell the territory they purchased from Napoleon Bonaparte of France in the Louisiana Purchase to another foreign state, they would have every right to do so.
Article 4, Section 4 requires Congress to guarantee every state in the country a republican form of government.
Both existing and newly formed states were protected from the takeover of a potentially tyrannical government that would oppress their rights at the state level.
It is important to note that Section 4 is a broad provision and that no specific guidelines are given about how Congress would accomplish this, implying that it is the responsibility of the individual states to formulate their government.
On the other hand, Congress would play a more indirect role of simply verifying that the state government is indeed a republican form of government and then approving and admitting that particular state into the union.
Federal Government guarantees the safety of states from a foreign state
Section 4 also ensures the protection of every state from invasion, a necessary provision given the disjointed war effort that characterized the early days of the Revolutionary War.
Many New England colonies (Massachusetts in particular) found themselves in a state of war in 1775 with the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill.
However, many of the other colonies insisted that they were not at war with England, refusing to recognize the conflict of Massachusetts as a legitimate war shared by all the colonies.
If the union of 13 colonies, now states, were to survive in times of war, the federal government would have to unify and guarantee the safety of all of them.
Federal jurisdiction and necessary rules to ensure security
Finally, Section 4 guarantees the safety of individual states from domestic violence under the authority of the legislative branch or, if the legislative branch cannot meet in time to diffuse the situation, the executive branch.
This portion of Section 4 is the basis of the federal government interfering in the civil unrest characteristic of the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.
Key points of each section of Article 4 of the US Constitution:
|Section 1||Requires all states to respect and accept each others’ public acts, records, and judicial proceedings. Grants Congress the authority to create general legislation that defines how public acts, records, and judicial proceedings are recognized and respected across state lines.|
|Section 2||Clause 1: Guarantees citizens the same privileges and immunities in every state and prevents states from discriminating against people from other states. Clause 2: Extradition provision requiring a criminal to be returned to the jurisdiction of the state where they committed their crimes. Clause 3: Fugitive Slave Clause, which prohibits slaves from escaping their servitude by fleeing to another state.|
|Section 3||Clause 1: Permits the admission of new states into the United States. Clause 2: Gives Congress legislative power over any territory or other property owned by the United States.|
|Section 4||Requires Congress to guarantee every state in the country a republican form of government and ensures the protection of every state from invasion and domestic violence under the authority of the legislative or executive branch.|
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