Legal Definition of State
In its most enlarged sense, a state signifies a self-sufficient body of persons united together in one community for the defense of their rights. 4 min read
Any State of the U.S., the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, any territory or possession of the U.S., any political subdivision, or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof. 18 USC
This word is used in various senses. In its most enlarged sense, it signifies a self-sufficient body of persons united together in one community for the defense of their rights, and to do right and justice to foreigners. In this sense, the state means the whole people united into one body politic; and the state, and the people of the state, are equivalent expressions.
In a more limited sense, the word `state' expresses merely the positive or actual organization of the legislative, or judicial powers; thus the actual government of the state is designated by the name of the state; hence the expression, the state has passed such a law, or prohibited such an act. State also means the section of territory occupied by a state, as the state of Pennsylvania.
By the word state is also meant, more particularly, one of the commonwealths which form the United States of America. The Constitution of the United States makes the following provisions in relation to the states:
- No tax or duty shall be laid on articles exported from any state. No preference shall be given by any regulation of commerce or revenue to the ports of one state over those of another, nor shall vessels bound to or from one state be obliged to enter, clear, or pay duties in another.
- No money shall be drawn from the treasury but in consequence of appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the receipts and expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.
- No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States, and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them shall, without the consent of congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from, any king, prince, or foreign state.
- No state shall enter into any treaty, alliance, or confederation; grant letters of marque and reprisal; coin money; emit bills of credit; make anything but gold and silver coin a tender in payments of debts; pass any bill of attainder, ex-post-facto, or law impairing the obligation of contracts; or grant any title of nobility.
- No state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any imposts or duties on imports or exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing its inspection laws; and the net produce of all duties and imposts laid by any state on imports or exports shall be for the use of the treasury of the United States, and all such laws shall be subject to the revision and control of congress.
- No state shall, without the consent of congress, lay any duty on tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.
The district of Columbia and the territorial districts of the United States, are not states within the meaning of the Constitution and of the judiciary act, so as to enable a citizen thereof to sue a citizen of one of the states in the federal courts.
The several states composing the United States are sovereign and independent, in all things not surrendered to the national government by the Constitution, and are considered, on general principles, by each other as foreign states, yet their mutual relations are rather those of domestic independence, than of foreign alienation.
Condition of Persons
This word has various acceptations. If we inquire into its origin, it will be found to come from the Latin status, which is derived from the verb stare, sto, whence has been made statio, which signifies the place where a person is located, stat, to fulfill the obligations which are imposed upon him.
State is that quality which belongs to a person in society, and which secures to, and imposes upon him different rights and duties in consequence of the difference of that quality.
Although all men come from the hands of nature upon an equality, yet there are among them marked differences. It is from nature that come the distinctions of the sexes, fathers and children, of age and youth, etc.
The civil or municipal laws of each people, have added to these natural qualities, distinctions which are purely civil and arbitrary, founded on the manners of the people, or in the will of the legislature. Such are the differences, which these laws have established between citizens and aliens, between magistrates and subjects, and between freemen and slaves; and those which exist in some countries between nobles and plebeians, which differences are either unknown or contrary to natural law.
Although these latter distinctions are more particularly subject to the civil or municipal law, because to it they owe their origin, it nevertheless extends its authority over the natural qualities, not to destroy or to weaken them, but to confirm them and to render them more inviolable by positive rules and by certain maxims. This union of the civil or municipal and natural law, form among men a third species of differences which may be called mixed, because they participate of both, and derive their principles from nature and the perfection of the law; for example, infancy or the privileges which belong to it, have their foundation in natural law; but the age and the term of these prerogatives are determined by the civil or municipal law.