The U.S. Constitution Article IV: Congress created a set of rules for the states
This is ninth in a series of essays about the U.S. Constitution.
The first three Articles of our Constitution detailed the organization and powers of the three branches of our federal government: Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. This essay explains Article IV.
The newly created branches and their defined powers went far to correct the deficiencies of the Articles of Confederation. Those deficiencies fell into four categories. First, the Congress had no power to tax. States were asked to pay money to support the cost of our limited federal government. And the nation had debts. We had borrowed from other nations to win the war and needed to rectify backpay issues of our Continental Army. The states had only paid in $1.5 million to pay for the war debts.
Even George Washington, one of the new nation's wealthiest citizens, was due compensation for helping to arm, feed, and clothe the army.
A second problem with the Articles of Confederation was that the new Congress had no way of enforcing agreements with foreign nations among the states. Some people from certain states had imported goods and refused to pay for them. Nations became reluctant to deal with them.
Some nations even started to ignore American businesses and went elsewhere for goods and services.
A third issue was that Congress had no way of regulating trade among the states, and a fourth was that Congress had no power to make laws that regulated the behavior of citizens.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention needed to clear up the issues of national debt, problems between states, problems between states and foreign countries, and bring to the attention of all citizens that everyone must fully recognize the federal government's power was genuine and absolute.
Article IV begins with the Full Faith and Credit clause. States were directed to honor each other's public records and decisions of state courts. All rights and privileges given to persons in one state had to be given to those from another.
Anyone fleeing to another state to escape capture and prosecution for breaking a law was to be delivered back to the state where the crime was committed. Originally, before the law was changed by the Thirteenth Amendment, slaves escaping to a state that did not recognize slavery had to be returned.
Remember, slaves were considered property in 1788. This was a key issue among slave holding states. Several Southern states were so concerned about the fugitive slave issue that they announced they would form their own nation if they could not legally retrieve their property.
Citizens were beginning to move to territories claimed by the United States through negotiations with Spain, Great Britain, and France. As the territories were populated, a question of statehood had to be considered. Our Constitution stated that Congress was to make all the rules and regulations concerning any of those territories. To this day, Washington, D.C., falls into that category. But what happens when many citizens move into a territory and demand statehood?
Congress allowed new states to be admitted under certain circumstances. First, any new state could not be within the borders of a current state. Two or more current states could not join to form a new state without the consent of the state legislatures concerned and the approval of Congress.
Although not mentioned in the document, the population of new states had to be significant enough to justify a representative in Congress. We currently have seven states with only one House member -- Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming. Of course, they all have two Senators like any other state. Currently, Puerto Rico could qualify as a state, but its citizens cannot agree to ask for statehood.
In Section 4 of Article IV, Congress asserted its power to guarantee to each citizen that each state must maintain a republican form of government. The federal government also stated it would protect each state from foreign invasion and would protect each state from domestic invasions.
States now had the guidance they needed. The confederation was eliminated and replaced by a united group of states -- a new country -- E Pluribus Unum.
The next essay will outline Articles V, VI, and VII.
• Bruce Simmons of Aurora is a former teacher with more than 25 years' experience teaching social studies and humanities. This is one in a series of essays describing the history and meaning of the U.S. Constitution. The next installment will deal with the remaining three Articles of the Constitution.