Full Faith and Credit Clause - History Before Ratification of The Constitution

History Before Ratification of The Constitution

A similar clause existed in Article IV of the Articles of Confederation, the predecessor to the U.S. Constitution: "Full faith and credit shall be given in each of these States to the records, acts, and judicial proceedings of the courts and magistrates of every other State." A Pennsylvania court explained in 1886 that this provision in the Articles of Confederation did not direct that "executions might issue in one state upon the judgments given in another", but rather was "chiefly intended to oblige each state to receive the records of another as full evidence of such acts and judicial proceedings."

At the Philadelphia Convention, James Madison said that he wanted to supplement that provision in the Articles of Confederation, to let Congress "provide for the execution of Judgments in other States, under such regulations as might be expedient." By September 1, 1787, negotiations at the Constitutional Convention had led to the following draft which included supplementary language as Madison had requested:

Full faith and credit ought to be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings, of every other state; and the legislature shall, by general laws, prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings, shall be proved, and the effect which judgments, obtained in one state, shall have in another.

After several further modifications, the Full Faith and Credit Clause assumed the form in which it remains today. During the ratification process, James Madison remarked further on this subject, in Federalist No. 42. He wrote that the corresponding clause in the Articles of Confederation was "extremely indeterminate, and can be of little importance under any interpretation which it will bear." Of the expanded clause in the Constitution, Madison wrote that it established a power that "may be rendered a very convenient instrument of justice, and be particularly beneficial on the borders of contiguous States."

The final version provides:

Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state. And the Congress may by general laws prescribe the manner in which such acts, records, and proceedings shall be proved, and the effect thereof.

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