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C, Chisholm v. Georgia,

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall, James W. Ely Jr., Joel B. Grossman

From: The Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court of the United States (2nd Edition)

Edited By: Kermit L. Hall

From: Oxford Constitutions (http://oxcon.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved. Subscriber: null; date: 07 June 2023

Chisholm v. Georgia,

2 Dall. (2 U.S.) 419 (1793), argued 5 Feb. 1793, decided 18 Feb. 1793 by vote of 4 to 1; *seriatim opinions by Jay, Cushing, Wilson, and Blair, Iredell in dissent. The first great case decided by the Court, Chisholm presented a conflict between federal jurisdiction and state sovereignty. The plaintiff, a citizen of South Carolina and the executor of a South Carolina merchant, sued the state of Georgia for the value of clothing supplied by the merchant during the Revolutionary War. Georgia refused to appear, claiming immunity from the suit as a sovereign and independent state. The Constitution (*Article III, sec. 2) extended federal judicial power to controversies between “a State and Citizens of another State” (see cases and controversies). The Court entered a default judgment against Georgia. The opinions of James *Wilson and John *Jay were ringing declarations of the nationalist view that sovereignty resided in the people of the United States “for the purposes of Union” and that as to those purposes Georgia was “not a sovereign state” (p. 457). Chisholm roused old Antifederalist fears of “consolidation” while raising the prospect of creditors flocking to the federal courts. The (p. 168) immediate consequence of the decision was action by Congress ultimately leading to the *Eleventh Amendment (1798), which took away jurisdiction in suits commenced against a state by citizens of another state or of a foreign state. This is the first instance in which a Supreme Court decision was superseded by a constitutional amendment. (See also federalism; reversals of court decisions by amendment; state sovereignty and states’ rights.)

Charles F. Hobson