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Resolution proposing the Eleventh Amendment, January 14, 1794

State governments feared the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision in Chisholm v. Georgia, which confirmed that a citizen of one state could sue the government of another state. Many states had war debts and could face similar suits. On March 4, 1794, Congress passed a resolution calling for a constitutional amendment to limit federal jurisdiction over suits against states.

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

Resolution proposing the Eleventh Amendment Resolution proposing the Eleventh Amendment

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.