Constitution Daily

Smart conversation from the National Constitution Center

Article I: The Legislative Branch—Powers Denied to Congress and the States (Sections 9 and 10)

February 21, 2014 by NCC Staff


Article I of the Constitution defines the role of Congress, the federal legislative branch. Sections 9 and 10 of Article I list which powers are denied to Congress and the States.


The following was prepared by the Office of the Secretary of the Senate with the assistance of the Library of Congress, providing the original text of each clause of the Constitution with an accompanying explanation of its meaning and how that meaning has changed over time. Source: U.S. Senate, Library Of Congress


Sections 1, 2 and 3 (Legislative Powers) | Sections 4, 5, 6 and 7 (Elections and Legislative Process) | Section 8 (Enumerated Powers)  |  Sections 9 and 10 (Powers Denied To Congress and States)

Section 9:  Powers Denied to Congress
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 1:  Importation of Slaves
Text   Explanation
The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.   This obsolete provision was designed to protect the slave trade from congressional restriction for a period of time.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2:  Habeas Corpus Suspension
Text   Explanation
The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.   Habeas corpus is a judicial device by which jailed people may require their jailer to justify their imprisonment to a court.  It is a fundamental safeguard of individual liberty, and the Supreme Court has interpreted it to give federal courts review over state court convictions and to enforce federal constitutional guarantees.  It is generally accepted that only Congress has the power to suspend habeas corpus.  President Abraham Lincoln’s suspension of the right during the Civil War met with strong opposition.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 3: Bills of Attainder and Ex Post Facto Laws
Text   Explanation
No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed.   A bill of attainder is a legislative act declaring the guilt of an individual or a group of persons and punishing them.  Only the courts may determine whether one has violated a criminal statute.  An ex post facto law declares an act illegal after it has been committed, or increases the punishment for an offense already committed.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 4:  Taxes
Text   Explanation
No Capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or enumeration herein before directed to be taken.   Direct taxes are poll or “head” taxes and taxes on land.  The Supreme Court once held that income taxes were unconstitutional direct taxes, a result overturned by the 16th amendment.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 5:   Duties on Exports from States
Text   Explanation
No Tax or Duty shall be laid on Articles exported from any State.   To prohibit discrimination against any states or regions, Congress cannot tax goods exported from a state to foreign countries or those that move between states.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 6:   Preference to Ports
Text   Explanation
No Preference shall be given by any Regulation of Commerce or Revenue to the Ports of one State over those of another; nor shall Vessels bound to, or from, one State, be obliged to enter, clear, or pay Duties in another.   Congress cannot favor one state against another while regulating trade.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 7:  Appropriations and Accounting of Public Money
Text   Explanation
No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.   The departments and agencies of the executive branch may not spend any money that Congress has not appropriated, or use federal money for any purpose that Congress has not specified.
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8: Titles of Nobility; Presents
Text   Explanation
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.   This clause was designed to end the aristocratic tendencies that the American Revolution had been fought against.  Federal officials must turn over to the government all but minimal gifts from foreign nations.
Article 1, Section 10:  Powers Denied to The States
Article 1, Section 10, Clause 1:   Not to Make Treaties, Coin Money, Pass Ex Post Facto Laws, Impair Contracts
Text   Explanation
No State shall enter into any Treaty, Alliance, or Confederation; grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; coin Money; emit Bills of Credit; make any Thing but gold and silver Coin a Tender in Payment of Debts; pass any Bill of Attainder, ex post facto Law, or Law impairing the Obligation of Contracts, or grant any Title of Nobility.   These provisions protect national powers from state incursions.
Article 1, Section 10, Clause 2:   Not to Levy Duties on Exports and Imports
Text   Explanation
No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Control of the Congress.   States may not interfere with the international trade of the United States.
Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3:  Not to Lay Tonnage Duties, Keep Troops, Make Compacts, or Engage in War
Text   Explanation
No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.   States cannot levy tonnage duties, which are taxes charged for the privilege of entering, trading in, or remaining in a port.  States may come together to work on common problems, such as pollution of a river passing through several states, but the agreements or compacts they reach are subject to congressional consent.

Sign up for our email newsletter