The Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution

The Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution

The Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution

The Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution

Excerpt

One of the more striking innovations introduced by the Philadelphia Convention in the 1787 Constitution was a clause in section 4 of Article IV that states: "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government." This guarantee clause appears in an article of the Constitution that is a catchall of provisions dealing with intergovernmental relations. The remainder of section 4 requires the United States to protect each of the states against "Invasion" and "on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened) against domestic Violence."

The guarantee clause is unique in that it is the only restriction in the federal Constitution on the form or structure of the state governments. It empowers the federal government to oversee the organization and functioning of the states. It authorizes Congress and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the President and the Supreme Court to superintend the acts and the structure of the state governments and to inhibit any tendencies in a state that might deprive its people of republican government. Such a broad potential is rooted in the vague and unqualified wording of the clause. If fully realized, it would alter the delicate balance of power be-

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