Constitution: Eleventh Amendment

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The Eleventh Amendment bars the federal judiciary from entertaining suits brought by a private citizen against a sovereign state without its consent. On 20 February 1793, only days after the U.S. Supreme Court announced in Chisholm v. Georgia that the federal judiciary had jurisdiction over such suits, a proposed amendment to the Constitution barring such suits was introduced in the Senate. Congress, however, adjourned in early March without taking action.

The Massachusetts and Virginia legislatures passed resolutions denouncing the Supreme Court's Chisholm decision, which sparked debate and similar resolutions in other states by the close of 1793. When the Third Congress convened, a resolution containing the Eleventh Amendment was introduced into the Senate on 2 January 1794. Both houses of Congress soundly defeated proposed limitations to the wording of the amendment. On 14 January, the Senate passed the resolution by a vote of 23 to 2. On 4 March, the House passed the resolution 81 to 9. On 7 February 1795, the last of the requisite twelve of the fifteen state legislatures ratified the amendment. President George Washington, however, had only submitted eight state ratifications to Congress by January 1796. Congress did not certify the amendment until 8 January 1798, when President John Adams transmitted a report from his secretary of state confirming that the requisite number of states had ratified. The amendment's near-universal acceptance reflected a general public wariness of the Supreme Court's assumption of jurisdiction over the rights of the sovereign states in Chisholm. The Court rejected a procedural challenge to the amendment's validity in Hollingsworth v. Virginia (1798) and dismissed cases on its docket brought by individuals against states.

See alsoChisholm v. Georgia .


Jacobs, Clyde E. The Eleventh Amendment and Sovereign Immunity. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1972.

Orth, John V. The Judicial Power of the United States: The Eleventh Amendment in American History. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

H. Robert Baker

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Constitution: Eleventh Amendment

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Constitution: Eleventh Amendment