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United States Constitution | Study Guide

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United States Constitution | Article 4, Sections 1–4 | Summary

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Summary

Article 4, Section 1

Each state must honor the laws and court decisions of another state. It is up to Congress to decide how those laws are generally enforced.

Article 4, Section 2

A state cannot take away privileges and rights granted to citizens by the federal government or federal laws. If someone charged with a crime flees to another state, they must be extradited back to the original state to face trial. If an indentured servant or slave flees to another state, that state must return them to "the Party whom such Service or Labor may be due."

Article 4, Section 3

Congress has the power to admit states but cannot form a state by joining two existing states, or from part of an already established state, without the agreement of those states' governments. Congress has the power to sell or pass laws regulating any territories owned by the United States.

Article 4, Section 4

All states are guaranteed "a Republican Form of Government," meaning all states must be governed by the votes of the people.

Analysis

Article 4 begins to outline the rights of state governments and how they relate to federal law and government. The federal government gives the states some room to create their own laws as long as they don't directly conflict with federal laws. However, each state must also respect certain laws and rulings of other states. For example, if a couple is recognized as legally married in one state, other states must respect their status as well. States also can't restrict or discriminate against people moving between or working in different states.

In Section 2 the Constitution makes it possible for one state to send someone accused of a crime back to the state where the crime was committed. People could not flee a state after committing a crime and find sanctuary in another state. The clause of Section 2 that relates to slavery and servitude was revoked by later amendments and the abolition of slavery. Since no person may be considered property of another, this clause is now wholly irrelevant.

Section 3 might have originally pertained more to territories claimed by the United States that would later become states. However, in modern times this clause is relevant to U.S. territories such as Guam and Puerto Rico, as well as federal lands such as national parks.

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