CRS Annotated Constitution

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Keeping Troops

This provision contemplates the use of the State’s military power to put down an armed insurrection too strong to be controlled by civil authority,2036 and the organization and maintenance of an active state militia is not a keeping of troops in time of peace within the prohibition of this clause.2037

Interstate Compacts

Background of Clause.—Except for the single limitation that the consent of Congress must be obtained, the original inherent sovereign rights of the States to make compacts with each other was not surrendered under the Constitution.2038 “The Compact,” as the Supreme Court has put it, “adapts to our Union of sovereign States the age–old treaty–making power of independent sovereign nations.”2039 In American history, the compact technique can be traced back to the numerous controversies that arose over the ill–defined boundaries of the original colonies. These disputes were usually resolved by negotiation, with the resulting agreement subject to approval by the Crown.2040 When the political ties with Britain were broken, the Articles of Confederation provided for appeal to Congress in all disputes between two or more States over boundaries or “any cause whatever”2041 and required the approval of Congress for any “treaty confederation or alliance” to which a State should be a party.2042

The Framers of the Constitution went further. By the first clause of this section they laid down an unqualified prohibition against “any treaty, alliance or confederation,” and by the third clause they required the consent of Congress for “any agreement or compact.” The significance of this distinction was pointed out by[p.404]Chief Justice Taney in Holmes v. Jennison.2043 “As these words (‘agreement or compact’) could not have been idly or superfluously used by the framers of the Constitution, they cannot be construed to mean the same thing with the word treaty. They evidently mean something more, and were designed to make the prohibition more comprehensive. . . . The word ‘agreement,’ does not necessarily import and direct any express stipulation; nor is it necessary that it should be in writing.

“If there is a verbal understanding, to which both parties have assented, and upon which both are acting, it is an ‘agreement.’ And the use of all of these terms, ‘treaty,’ ‘agreement,’ ‘compact,’ show that it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution to use the broadest and most comprehensive terms; and that they anxiously desired to cut off all connection or communication between a State and a foreign power; and we shall fail to execute that evident intention, unless we give to the word ‘agreement’ its most extended signification; and so apply it as to prohibit every agreement, written or verbal, formal or informal, positive or implied, by the mutual understanding of the parties.”2044 But in Virginia v. Tennessee,2045 decided more than a half century later, the Court shifted position, holding that the unqualified prohibition of compacts and agreements between States without the consent of Congress did not apply to agreements concerning such minor matters as adjustments of boundaries, which have no tendency to increase the political powers of the contracting States or to encroach upon the just supremacy of the United States. Adhering to this later understanding of the clause, the Court found no enhancement of state power quoad the Federal Government through entry into the Multistate Tax Compact and thus sustained the agreement among participating States without congressional consent.2046

Subject Matter of Interstate Compacts.—For many years after the Constitution was adopted, boundary disputes continued to predominate as the subject matter of agreements among the States. Since the turn of the twentieth century, however, the interstate compact has been used to an increasing extent as an instrument for state cooperation in carrying out affirmative programs for solving common problems.2047 The execution of vast public undertak[p.405]ings, such as the development of the Port of New York by the Port Authority created by compact between New York and New Jersey, flood control, the prevention of pollution, and the conservation and allocation of water supplied by interstate streams, are among the objectives accomplished by this means. Another important use of this device was recognized by Congress in the act of June 6, 1934,2048 whereby it consented in advance to agreements for the control of crime. The first response to this stimulus was the Crime Compact of 1934, providing for the supervision of parolees and probationers, to which most of the States have given adherence.2049 Subsequently, Congress has authorized, on varying conditions, compacts touching the production of tobacco, the conservation of natural gas, the regulation of fishing in inland waters, the furtherance of flood and pollution control, and other matters. Moreover, many States have set up permanent commissions for interstate cooperation, which have led to the formation of a Council of State Governments, the creation of special commissions for the study of the crime problem, the problem of highway safety, the trailer problem, problems created by social security legislation, et cetera, and the framing of uniform state legislation for dealing with some of these.2050


2036 Luther v. Borden, 7 How. (48 U.S.) 1, 45 (1849).
2037 Presser v. Illinois, 116 U.S. 252 (1886).
2038 Poole v. Fleeger, 11 Pet. (36 U.S.) 185, 209 (1837).
2039 Hinderlider v. La Plata Co., 304 U.S. 92, 104 (1938).
2040 Frankfurter and Landis, The Compact Clause of the Constitution—A Study in Interstate Adjustments, 34Yale L.J.685,691 (1925).
2041 Article IX.
2042 Article VI.
2043 14 Pet. (39 U.S.) 540 (1840).
2044 Id., 570, 571, 572.
2045 148 U.S. 503, 518 (1893). See also Stearns v. Minnesota, 179 U.S. 223, 244 (1900).
2046 United States Steel Corp. v. Multistate Tax Comm., 434 U.S. 452 (1978). See also New Hampshire v. Maine, 426 U.S. 363 (1976).
2047 Frankfurter and Landis, The Compact Clause of the Constitution—A Study in Interstate Adjustments, 34Yale L.J.685 (1925); F. Zimmerman and M. Wendell, Interstate Compacts Since 1925 (Chicago: 1951); F. Zimmerman and M. Wendell, The Law and Use of Interstate Compacts (Chicago: 1961).
2048 48 Stat. 909 (1934).
2049 F. Zimmerman and M. Wendell, Interstate Compacts Since 1925 (Chicago: 1951), 91.
2050 7 U.S.C. Sec. 515 ; 15 U.S.C. Sec. 717j ; 16 U.S.C. Sec. 552 ; 33 U.S.C. §§ 11 , 567–567b.
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