It is time for another Constitution Post! I hope you’ve been enjoying this series!
Last week, Julia began our study of Article I, Section 8, which delegates specific jurisdictional and regulatory authority to Congress, and discussed the Spending, Uniformity, and Borrowing clauses and how they relate to our current government’s fiscal dealings. This week’s post covers the third clause of Article I, Section 8. It states:
“The Congress shall have the power…
“To regulate commerce with foreign nations…”
This clause is known as the “Commerce with Foreign Nations Clause.” The power granted in this clause gives Congress the authority to regulate such trade issues as tariffs and non-tariff trade barriers and procedures for the importation and exportation of goods and services. (For a more detailed look at some of the processes of trade, check out my article on free trade here.)
Under the Articles of Confederation, each state technically retained the right to regulate its own trade; however, the lack of federal authority hindered their actual ability to regulate trade. Since the individual States were not completely independent nations, they were not recognized by other nations as having the authority to regulate trade, and, unfortunately, they did not have the resources to enforce their regulations. As a result, foreign merchants could manipulate the States in order to create an unfair trade environment. It was recognized by the Framers of the Constitution that only the weight of federal government would be enough to countervail the economic bullying of our more advanced counterparts.
Another problem created by the Articles that the Framers sought to solve by delegating the power of regulating foreign commerce to the federal government was that, by allowing each state to set its own trade regulations, the states could behave economically as competitive businesses, potentially creating economic disparity between states to the detriment of national prosperity. Thus, the Commerce with Foreign Nations Clause was designed to ensure uniformity and equality between the states.
It is important to note that certain of the powers enumerated in Article 8, including the power granted in the Commerce with Foreign Nations Clause, are delegated exclusively to the Federal legislature, and, consequently, denied to the States. This is one of the fundamental differences between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution that bestows a singularly unifying quality upon Constitutional government. While certain powers were denied to the States under the Constitution, this was not done to make the States subservient to the federal government; rather, it was done, as was aforementioned, to ensure uniformity and alleviate disparity.
I hope you’ve found this article helpful and enjoyable! I’d love to hear any thoughts in the comment section below!
Keep up the fight for liberty!
U.S. Constitution, Article I, Section 8:
Articles of Confederation:
Heritage Foundation essay — Commerce with Foreign Nations:
Constitution Post — Article I, Section 8, Clauses 1-3: