Amendment XI of the U. S Federal Constitution

High School ・Political Science ・MLA ・2 Sources

 The Eleventh Amendment to the constitution of the United States was passed by the U.S Congress on 4th March 1794. The states later ratified the eleventh amendment on 7th February 1795 (Milstead 517). In view of Milstead, the eleventh amendment requires the judicial power of the U.S not to be construed to cover any suit in law or equity, prosecuted or commenced against any of the United States by subjects of foreign states or citizens of another state (517). Amendment XI was the first U.S constitutional amendment to be approved after the bill of rights.


 The political debate at the time of ratification of the eleventh amendment concerned whether to ratify the constitution, after controversy arose about one provision of Article III of the constitution that permitted federal courts to preside over disputes arising between states and citizens of other states.

 The ultimate determining factor that resulted into the ratification of the eleventh amendment was the ruling by the supreme court in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793) (Baude 1). The court had ruled, in Chisholm, that federal courts had the power to hear cases in equity and law, presented by private citizens against states. Additionally, the court made verdict that states could not enjoy autonomous immunity from suits brought by subjects of other states in the federal court. Amendment XI was proposed in March 1794 by the third congress, upon approval by the House of Representatives by a vote of 81—9, after being previously passed by the U.S Senate, 23 – 2, in January 1794 (Baude 3). The state legislators of various states later ratified the amendment. According to Milstead the states included New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Kentucky, Virginia, Georgia, and North Carolina (520). Since there were only 15 states by then, the ratification by 12 states brought about the eleventh amendment to the U.S constitution. The amendment was later ratified by South Carolina in December 1797 (Baude 3). About three years after the adoption of the eleventh amendment (1798), John Adams, the U.S president, in his message to the Congress, stated that Amendment XI was now part of the constitution of the U.S, having been ratified by the required number of states Pennsylvania and New Jersey failed to take action on the eleventh amendment, same to Tennessee that became a state later in 1796 (Milstead 519).

 The eleventh amendment is widely applied in the United States today, much as it also faces numerous challenges in court. While the amendment gives immunity to states from suit for equitable relief or money damages without their consent, in 1908, the supreme court ruling in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 indicated that federal courts could charge state officials for violating federal law (Milstead 522). Similarly, the Supreme Court ruling in Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976) stated that Congress could revoke state immunity from suit, as detailed under section 5 of the fourteenth amendment (Milstead 524).  The territorial application of the eleventh amendment has also brought controversies in courts. For instance, the court of appeals in the United States ruled that Puerto Rico could enjoy the immunity enshrined in the Eleventh Amendment, whereas the territories of Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands do not enjoy the immunity granted by the eleventh amendment.

Works Cited

Baude, William. "Sovereign Immunity and the Constitutional Text." Virginia Law Review, vol. 103, no. 1, 2017, pp. 1-29.

Milstead, V. F. (2004). State Sovereign Immunity and the Plaintiff State: Does the Eleventh Amendment Bar Removal of Actions Filed in State Court. J. Marshall L. Rev., 38, 513.


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