As we continue with our exploration of the United States Constitution, an exercised carried over from yesterday which you may refresh yourself with here, we move on to Articles IV through VII.
Article IV addresses itself to the unpleasant arena of States' Rights and begins as follows.
Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.
This begs the question: What is meant by the expression "full faith and credit"? While the reactionaries in our midst are happy to misinterpret the meaning of this clause as having to do with the responsibility of the Federal Government to the States, the reality is the opposite. The clause actually provides that the various states must recognize legislative acts, public records, and judicial decisions of the other states within the United States. Further, Section 1 ensures that judicial decisions rendered by the courts in one state are recognized and honored in every other state. It also prevents parties from moving to another state to escape enforcement of a judgment or to relitigate a controversy already decided elsewhere, a practice known as forum shopping. It has nothing whatsoever to do, as Michele Bachmann should take note, to the fiscal responsibility of the Federal Government to state budgets. The power mad Supreme Court reiterated the Framers' intent when it held that the Full Faith and Credit Clause precluded any further litigation of a question previously decided by an Illinois court in Milwaukee County v. M. E. White Co. The Court held that by including the clause in the Constitution, the Framers intended to make the states "integral parts of a single nation throughout which a remedy upon a just obligation might be demanded as of right, irrespective of the state of its origin."
Section 2 regards extradition. 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.
As with much of the Constitution, there is a connection to slavery contained in this clause, as the following section makes frighteningly clear. 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.
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roger Taney was a pro-slavery son of a bitch who ruled from 1836 until 1864. In Moore v. Illinois, the Taney Court upheld state laws that punished those who harbored escaped slaves, even though the same conduct was punishable by the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Then in the case of Kentucky v. Dennison, a man named Willis Lago who was wanted in Kentucky for helping a slave girl escape, had fled to Ohio, where the governor, William Dennison, refused to extradite him back to Kentucky. In this case, the court ruled that, while it was the duty of a governor to return a fugitive to the state where the crime was committed, a governor could not be compelled through a writ of mandamus to do so.
Section 3 also bears the stench of a country entrenched in slavery. 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.
What the founders said is that new states are fine as long as they are not the product of secession or of the people of one section of a state splitting off and becoming their own entity. Contrast this with what happened during the Civil War, when the people of western Virginia rejected the state convention's decision to secede from the Union. This region formed a new government for the state of Virginia, which President Lincoln immediately recognized. In 1863 this state legislature permitted its western counties to split off and become the state of West Virginia. Congress recognized West Virginia, as did the Supreme Court in Virginia v. West Virginia.
While the decision on the part of the people who would become West Virginians was unquestionably the moral choice, in the sense that they did not wish to become traitors to the United States and in the further sense that they opposed slavery, the court's decision to honor this choice was in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution, a point which raises an issue never once addressed by the sacred document: What do we do when morality and justice dictate violating the Constitution?
As promised, here comes Article V. The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate. In other words, it's okay and even desirable, to make amendments to the Constitution, as long as three-fourths (that's thirty-eight states these days) ratify the changes. It's also only okay as long as Article I, Section 9, clauses 1 and 4 are not violated, which, funny enough, they were violated by the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution, one of those beautifully contradicting self-referential meta moments that no one could have predicted but which crack up dusty old historians on a regular basis.
The pertinent portion of Article VI read thus: 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.
Translation? The various states are not able to decide what parts of the Constitution they wish to follow and which parts they wish to ignore. It's a sum-sum game. Also, there's no religious requirement for elected office, which ought to make everyone happy, yet seems to frustrate, even now, the bloody demonic spirit of Jerry Falwell, cooking dicks in hell as he no doubt is.
Next time out, we play with the Bill of Rights.