In the Constitution, there are some powers that are granted only to the federal government. These powers are called the enumerated powers. There are some powers that are granted only to the state governments. These are called the reserved powers. There are also some powers that both the state governments and the federal government share. These are called the concurrent powers.
The enumerated powers given to the federal government are ones that are off limits to the state government. For example, only the federal government can make treaties affecting the entire country. When a war ends, only the federal government negotiates the peace treaty. Only the federal government can make or print money. Unlike during the days when the Articles of Confederation was our plan of government, states are not allowed to make or print money. The federal government can only do this. The federal government also controls interstate trade and foreign trade. Another enumerated power is that only the federal government can declare war. States aren’t allowed to go to war. Finally, only the federal government can create a post office.
It should also be noted that states are not allowed to pass laws that go against federal laws. The Constitution is the supreme law of the land. Federal laws always have priority over state laws. States aren’t allowed to nullify federal laws. There are several things the states may not do under the plan of government created by the Constitution.
As mentioned, there are many other things that state governments may not do under the constitution. The constitution seeks to ensure there is harmony within its applicable territory. This balance can only be attained by regulating state governments which exercise some level of power within their respective territories. Additional things that the state governments cannot do include:
- Issuing bills of credit as was the case in Missouri when it issued bills of credit to pay taxes which was later ruled as unconstitutional. Bills of credit are issued with the intention of working as money.
- Passing of ex-post facto laws with the intention of increasing the punishment of a crime over and above the existing law established to deal with that particular crime during proceedings or sentencing.
- Letter of Marque issued to mercenaries by a government to carry out acts of retaliation against another nation on its behalf.
- State governments are not at liberty to keep war ships and troops without congress consent and may not engage in war unless invaded.
There are many things that the state governments may not do under the Constitution. The Constitution was written in part to limit the power of the state governments and give the federal government more power than it had previously had. Among the things that the states cannot do are:
- Regulate commerce between them and other states.
- Enter into any treaties or alliances with other countries.
- Coin money of their own.
- Grant titles of nobility.
- Pass any law that infringes on the liberty of people to make contracts.
There are many more things that are forbidden to the states. Many of them are found in Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution.