The Abiding Significance of Federalism: the States and Foreign Affairs

Louis Henkin

in Foreign Affairs and the United States Constitution

Second edition

Published in print November 1996 | ISBN: 9780198260981
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191682193 | DOI:
The Abiding Significance of Federalism: the States and Foreign Affairs

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Even in the Articles of Confederation, the states had left themselves little independent authority in foreign relations, and eliminating that authority was a principal purpose of the Constitutional Fathers. Whether, as Curtiss-Wright said, the states never had international ‘sovereignty’, or whether they had international statehood after they declared independence but gave it up when they agreed to Union, they have none under the constitution. Federalism, then, was largely irrelevant to the conduct of foreign affairs even before it began to be a wasting force in U.S. life generally. Foreign relations are national relations. The language, the spirit, and the history of the constitution deny the states authority to participate in foreign affairs, and constitutional construction by the courts has steadily reduced the ways in which the states can affect U.S. foreign relations.

Keywords: Articles of Confederation; foreign relations; Curtiss-Wright; sovereignty; constitution; federalism

Chapter.  9300 words. 

Subjects: Constitutional and Administrative Law

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