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Message from President George Washington accompanying the New York State ratification, November 21, 1794

The states ratified the Eleventh Amendment—the first amendment after the Bill of Rights—on February 7, 1795. It prohibited suits against states by citizens of another state or of a foreign country. The Eleventh Amendment marked Congress’s first use of its power to propose changes to the Constitution to limit the jurisdiction of the courts.

Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives and Records Administration

Message from President George Washington accompanying Message from President George Washington accompanying

Congress Overrides the Supreme Court

Congress can counter Supreme Court rulings by proposing constitutional amendments. In Chisholm v. Georgia (1793), the court held that the Constitution permitted a lawsuit in federal court against a state by a citizen of another state. States with Revolutionary War debts did not want to be vulnerable to lawsuits from creditors. They protested, prompting Congress to pass a resolution to amend the Constitution to bar suits against states. The Eleventh Amendment was ratified by the states in 1795.

Congress has the power to propose constitutional amendments that limit the jurisdiction of federal courts. In 1795 Congress proposed the Eleventh Amendment in response to a Supreme Court ruling concerning lawsuits against states.