in Lincoln's Constitution

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print May 2003 | ISBN: 9780226237930
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226237954 | DOI:

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The idea of state sovereignty has exercised great appeal in American history. The term sovereignty has several meanings. Political scientists distinguish four types of sovereignty: domestic sovereignty (meaning internal control); interdependence sovereignty (the power to control what crosses the border); international legal sovereignty (diplomatic recognition by foreign nations); and Westphalian sovereignty. Sovereignty often seems to function as an almost metaphysical concept—some secret essence of legal potency that cannot be detected directly, but only as a kind of normative aura. The federal government is clearly sovereign in some respects, most obviously in foreign relations, but it lacks unlimited power within its own territory, since states do have some independent powers and rights of their own. The concept of sovereignty (whether state or federal) has modest intellectual content and is at best an organizing concept, providing a framework for debating other issues. It had great resonance for the Framers' generation and has elicited a corresponding amount of interest on the part of historians.

Keywords: state sovereignty; legal potency; federal government; power; rights

Chapter.  8053 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas

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