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Enabling Acts


ENABLING ACTS. The Constitution grants Congress the power to admit new states. The people of the territory desiring statehood petition Congress for such an enabling act, which authorizes holding a constitutional convention and may seek to impose conditions on the convention and on the new state. Congressional control of the admittance procedures was especially important in the 1840s and 1850s during the conflict over the expansion of slavery. In Coyle v. Smith, 221 U.S. 559 (1911), the Supreme Court held that restrictions were not binding when they related to matters over which the states have jurisdiction. An exception, upheld in Ervien v. United States, 251 U.S. 41 (1919), is when the conditions relate to the use of lands granted to a state by Congress for a specific purpose.


Graves, W. Brooke. American Intergovernmental Relations: Their Origins, Historical Development, and Current Status. New York: Scribner, 1964.

W. BrookeGraves

Thomas J.Mertz

See alsoKansas-Nebraska Act ; Missouri Compromise ; Public Domain .

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