Justice Kennedy, delivered the opinion of the Court.
In 1992, petitioners, a group of probation officers, filed suit against their employer, the State of Maine, in the United States District Court for the District of Maine. The officers alleged the State had violated the overtime provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 52 Stat. 1060, as
The Maine Supreme Judicial Court's decision conflicts with the decision of the Supreme Court of Arkansas, Jacoby v. Arkansas Dept. of Ed., 331 Ark. 508, 962 S.W.2d 773 (1998), and calls into question the constitutionality of the provisions of the FLSA purporting to authorize private actions against States in their own courts without regard for consent, see 29 U. S. C. §§ 216(b), 203(x). In light of the importance of the question presented and the conflict between the courts, we granted certiorari. 525 U.S. 981 (1998). The United States intervened as a petitioner to defend the statute.
We hold that the powers delegated to Congress under Article I of the United States Constitution do not include the power to subject nonconsenting States to private suits for damages in state courts. We decide as well that the State of Maine has not consented to suits for overtime pay and liquidated damages under the FLSA. On these premises we affirm the judgment sustaining dismissal of the suit.
The Eleventh Amendment makes explicit reference to the States' immunity from suits "commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States by Citizens of another State, or by Citizens or Subjects of any Foreign State." U. S.
Although the Constitution establishes a National Government with broad, often plenary authority over matters within its recognized competence, the founding document "specifically recognizes the States as sovereign entities." Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, supra, at 71, n. 15; accord, Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775, 779 (1991) ("[T]he States entered the federal system with their sovereignty intact"). Various textual provisions of the Constitution assume the States' continued existence and active participation in the fundamental processes of governance. See Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 919 (1997) (citing Art. III, § 2; Art. IV, §§ 2-4; Art. V). The limited and enumerated powers granted to the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial Branches of the National Government, moreover, underscore the vital role reserved to the States by the constitutional design, see, e. g., Art. I, § 8; Art. II, §§ 2-3; Art. III, § 2. Any doubt regarding the constitutional role of the States as sovereign entities is removed by the Tenth Amendment, which, like the other provisions of the Bill of Rights, was enacted to allay lingering concerns about the extent of
The federal system established by our Constitution preserves the sovereign status of the States in two ways. First, it reserves to them a substantial portion of the Nation's primary sovereignty, together with the dignity and essential attributes inhering in that status. The States "form distinct and independent portions of the supremacy, no more subject, within their respective spheres, to the general authority than the general authority is subject to them, within its own sphere." The Federalist No. 39, p. 245 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961) (J. Madison).
Second, even as to matters within the competence of the National Government, the constitutional design secures the founding generation's rejection of "the concept of a central government that would act upon and through the States" in favor of "a system in which the State and Federal Governments would exercise concurrent authority over the people— who were, in Hamilton's words, `the only proper objects of government.'" Printz, supra, at 919-920 (quoting The Federalist No. 15, at 109); accord, New York, supra, at 166 ("The Framers explicitly chose a Constitution that confers upon Congress the power to regulate individuals, not States"). In this the Founders achieved a deliberate departure from the Articles of Confederation: Experience under the Articles had "exploded on all hands" the "practicality of making laws, with coercive sanctions, for the States as political bodies." 2 Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, p. 9 (M. Farrand ed. 1911) (J. Madison); accord, The Federalist No. 20, at 138 (J. Madison and A. Hamilton); James Iredell: Some
The States thus retain "a residuary and inviolable sovereignty." The Federalist No. 39, at 245. They are not relegated to the role of mere provinces or political corporations, but retain the dignity, though not the full authority, of sovereignty.
The generation that designed and adopted our federal system considered immunity from private suits central to sovereign dignity. When the Constitution was ratified, it was well established in English law that the Crown could not be sued without consent in its own courts. See Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419, 437-446 (1793) (Iredell, J., dissenting) (surveying English practice); cf. Nevada v. Hall, 440 U.S. 410, 414 (1979) ("The immunity of a truly independent sovereign from suit in its own courts has been enjoyed as a matter of absolute right for centuries. Only the sovereign's own consent could qualify the absolute character of that immunity"). In reciting the prerogatives of the Crown, Blackstone—whose works constituted the preeminent authority on English law for the founding generation—underscored the close and necessary relationship understood to exist between sovereignty and immunity from suit:
Although the American people had rejected other aspects of English political theory, the doctrine that a sovereign could not be sued without its consent was universal in the
The ratification debates, furthermore, underscored the importance of the States' sovereign immunity to the American people. Grave concerns were raised by the provisions of Article III, which extended the federal judicial power to controversies between States and citizens of other States or foreign nations. As we have explained:
The leading advocates of the Constitution assured the people in no uncertain terms that the Constitution would not strip the States of sovereign immunity. One assurance was contained in The Federalist No. 81, written by Alexander Hamilton:
At the Virginia ratifying convention, James Madison echoed this theme:
Although the state conventions which addressed the issue of sovereign immunity in their formal ratification documents sought to clarify the point by constitutional amendment, they made clear that they, like Hamilton, Madison, and Marshall, understood the Constitution as drafted to preserve the States' immunity from private suits. The Rhode Island Convention thus proclaimed that "[i]t is declared by the Convention, that the judicial power of the United States, in cases in which a state may be a party, does not extend to criminal prosecutions, or to authorize any suit by any person against a state." 1 id., at 336. The convention sought, in addition, an express amendment "to remove all doubts or controversies respecting the same." Ibid. In a similar fashion, the New York Convention "declare[d] and ma[d]e known," 1 id., at 327, its understanding "[t]hat the judicial power of the United States, in cases in which a state may be a party, does not extend to criminal prosecutions, or to authorize any suit
Despite the persuasive assurances of the Constitution's leading advocates and the expressed understanding of the only state conventions to address the issue in explicit terms, this Court held, just five years after the Constitution was adopted, that Article III authorized a private citizen of another State to sue the State of Georgia without its consent. Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419 (1793). Each of the four Justices who concurred in the judgment issued a separate opinion. The common theme of the opinions was that the case fell within the literal text of Article III, which by its terms granted jurisdiction over controversies "between a State and Citizens of another State," and "between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens, or Subjects." U. S. Const., Art. III, § 2. The argument that this provision granted jurisdiction only over cases in which the State was a plaintiff was dismissed as inconsistent with the ordinary meaning of "between," and with the provision extending jurisdiction to "Controversies between two or more States," which by necessity contemplated jurisdiction over suits to which States were defendants. Two Justices also argued that sovereign immunity was inconsistent with the principle of popular sovereignty established by the Constitution, 2 Dall., at 454-458 (Wilson, J.); id., at 470-472 (Jay, C. J.); although the others did not go so far, they contended that the text of Article III evidenced the States' surrender of sovereign immunity as to those provisions extending jurisdiction over suits to which States were parties, id., at 452 (Blair, J.); id., at 468 (Cushing, J.).
The Court's decision "fell upon the country with a profound shock." 1 C. Warren, The Supreme Court in United States History 96 (rev. ed. 1926); accord, Hans, supra, at 11; Principality of Monaco v. Mississippi, 292 U.S. 313, 325 (1934); Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 69. "Newspapers representing a rainbow of opinion protested what they viewed as an unexpected blow to state sovereignty. Others spoke more concretely of prospective raids on state treasuries." D. Currie, The Constitution in Congress: The Federalist Period 1789-1801, p. 196 (1997).
The States, in particular, responded with outrage to the decision. The Massachusetts Legislature, for example, denounced the decision as "repugnant to the first principles of a federal government," and called upon the Commonwealth's Senators and Representatives to take all necessary steps to "remove any clause or article of the . . . Constitution, which can be construed to imply or justify a decision, that, a State is compellable to answer in any suit by an individual or individuals in any Court of the United States." 15 Papers of Alexander Hamilton 314 (H. Syrett & J. Cooke eds. 1969) (internal quotation marks omitted). Georgia's response was more intemperate: Its House of Representatives passed a bill
An initial proposal to amend the Constitution was introduced in the House of Representatives the day after Chisholm was announced; the proposal adopted as the Eleventh Amendment was introduced in the Senate promptly following an intervening recess. Currie, supra, at 196. Congress turned to the latter proposal with great dispatch; little more than two months after its introduction it had been endorsed by both Houses and forwarded to the States. 4 Annals of Congress 25, 30, 477, 499 (1794); 1 Stat. 402.
Each House spent but a single day discussing the Amendment, and the vote in each House was close to unanimous. See 4 Annals of Congress, at 30-31, 476-478 (the Senate divided 23 to 2; the House 81 to 9). All attempts to weaken the Amendment were defeated. Congress in succession rejected proposals to limit the Amendment to suits in which "`the cause of action shall have arisen before the ratification of the amendment,'" or even to cases "`where such State shall have previously made provision in their own Courts, whereby such suit may be prosecuted to effect'"; it refused as well to make an exception for "`cases arising under treaties made under the authority of the United States.'" 4 id., at 30, 476.
It might be argued that the Chisholm decision was a correct interpretation of the constitutional design and that the Eleventh Amendment represented a deviation from the original understanding. This, however, seems unsupportable. First, despite the opinion of Justice Iredell, the majority failed to address either the practice or the understanding that prevailed in the States at the time the Constitution was adopted. Second, even a casual reading of the opinions suggests the majority suspected the decision would be unpopular and surprising. See, e. g., 2 Dall., at 454-455 (Wilson, J.)
The text and history of the Eleventh Amendment also suggest that Congress acted not to change but to restore the original constitutional design. Although earlier drafts of the Amendment had been phrased as express limits on the judicial power granted in Article III, see, e. g., 3 Annals of Congress 651-652 (1793) ("The Judicial Power of the United States shall not extend to any suits in law or equity, commenced or prosecuted against one of the United States . . ."), the adopted text addressed the proper interpretation of that provision of the original Constitution, see U. S. Const., Amdt. 11 ("The Judicial power of the United States shall not
The text reflects the historical context and the congressional objective in endorsing the Amendment for ratification. Congress chose not to enact language codifying the traditional understanding of sovereign immunity but rather to address the specific provisions of the Constitution that had raised concerns during the ratification debates and formed the basis of the Chisholm decision. Cf. 15 Papers of Alexander Hamilton, at 314 (quoted supra, at 720). Given the outraged reaction to Chisholm, as well as Congress' repeated refusal to otherwise qualify the text of the Amendment, it is doubtful that if Congress meant to write a new immunity into the Constitution it would have limited that immunity to the narrow text of the Eleventh Amendment:
The more natural inference is that the Constitution was understood, in light of its history and structure, to preserve the States' traditional immunity from private suits. As the Amendment clarified the only provisions of the Constitution that anyone had suggested might support a contrary understanding, there was no reason to draft with a broader brush.
Finally, the swiftness and near unanimity with which the Eleventh Amendment was adopted suggest "either that the Court had not captured the original understanding, or that the country had changed its collective mind most rapidly." D. Currie, The Constitution in the Supreme Court: The First Hundred Years: 1789-1888, p. 18, n. 101 (1985). The more reasonable interpretation, of course, is that regardless of the views of four Justices in Chisholm, the country as a whole— which had adopted the Constitution just five years earlier— had not understood the document to strip the States of their immunity from private suits. Cf. Currie, The Constitution in Congress, at 196 ("It is plain that just about everybody in Congress agreed the Supreme Court had misread the Constitution").
Although the dissent attempts to rewrite history to reflect a different original understanding, its evidence is unpersuasive. The handful of state statutory and constitutional provisions authorizing suits or petitions of right against States only confirms the prevalence of the traditional understanding that a State could not be sued in the absence of an express waiver, for if the understanding were otherwise, the provisions would have been unnecessary. The constitutional amendments proposed by the New York and Rhode Island Conventions undercut rather than support the dissent's view
The dissent's remaining evidence cannot bear the weight the dissent seeks to place on it. The views voiced during the ratification debates by Edmund Randolph and James Wilson, when reiterated by the same individuals in their respective capacities as advocate and Justice in Chisholm, were decisively rejected by the Eleventh Amendment, and General Pinkney did not speak to the issue of sovereign immunity at all. Furthermore, Randolph appears to have recognized that his views were in tension with the traditional understanding of sovereign immunity, see 3 Elliot's Debates 573 ("I think, whatever the law of nations may say, that any doubt respecting the construction that a state may be plaintiff, and not defendant, is taken away by the words where a state shall be a party"), and Wilson and Pinkney expressed a radical nationalist vision of the constitutional design that not only deviated from the views that prevailed at the time but, despite the dissent's apparent embrace of the position, remains startling even today, see post, at 776
In short, the scanty and equivocal evidence offered by the dissent establishes no more than what is evident from the decision in Chisholm —that some members of the founding generation disagreed with Hamilton, Madison, Marshall, Iredell, and the only state conventions formally to address the matter. The events leading to the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment, however, make clear that the individuals who believed the Constitution stripped the States of their immunity from suit were at most a small minority.
Not only do the ratification debates and the events leading to the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment reveal the original understanding of the States' constitutional immunity from suit; they also underscore the importance of sovereign
The Court has been consistent in interpreting the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment as conclusive evidence "that the decision in Chisholm was contrary to the well-understood meaning of the Constitution," Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 69, and that the views expressed by Hamilton, Madison, and Marshall during the ratification debates, and by Justice Iredell in his dissenting opinion in Chisholm, reflect the original understanding of the Constitution. See, e. g., Hans, 134 U. S., at 12, 14-15, 18-19; Principality of Monaco, 292 U. S., at 325; Edelman, supra, at 660, n. 9; Seminole Tribe, supra, at 70, and nn. 12-13. In accordance with this understanding, we have recognized a "presumption that no anomalous and unheard-of proceedings or suits were intended to be raised up by the Constitution—anomalous and unheard of when the constitution was adopted." Hans, 134 U. S., at 18; accord, id., at 15. As a consequence, we have looked to "history and experience, and the established order of things," id., at 14, rather than "[a]dhering to the mere letter" of the Eleventh Amendment, id., at 13, in determining the scope of the States' constitutional immunity from suit.
Following this approach, the Court has upheld States' assertions of sovereign immunity in various contexts falling outside the literal text of the Eleventh Amendment. In Hans, the Court held that sovereign immunity barred a citizen from suing his own State under the federal-question head of jurisdiction. The Court was unmoved by the petitioner's argument that the Eleventh Amendment, by its
Later decisions rejected similar requests to conform the principle of sovereign immunity to the strict language of the Eleventh Amendment in holding that nonconsenting States are immune from suits brought by federal corporations, Smith v. Reeves, 178 U.S. 436 (1900), foreign nations, Principality of Monaco, supra, or Indian tribes, Blatchford v. Native Village of Noatak, 501 U.S. 775 (1991), and in concluding that sovereign immunity is a defense to suits in admiralty, though the text of the Eleventh Amendment addresses only suits "in law or equity," Ex parte New York, 256 U.S. 490 (1921).
These holdings reflect a settled doctrinal understanding, consistent with the views of the leading advocates of the Constitution's ratification, that sovereign immunity derives not from the Eleventh Amendment but from the structure of the original Constitution itself. See, e. g., Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho, 521 U.S. 261, 267-268 (1997) (acknowledging "the broader concept of immunity, implicit in the Constitution, which we have regarded the Eleventh Amendment as evidencing and exemplifying"); Seminole Tribe, supra, at 55-56; Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98-99 (1984); Ex parte New York, supra, at 497. The Eleventh Amendment confirmed, rather
Or, as we have more recently reaffirmed:
In this case we must determine whether Congress has the power, under Article I, to subject nonconsenting States to private suits in their own courts. As the foregoing discussion makes clear, the fact that the Eleventh Amendment by its terms limits only "[t]he Judicial power of the United States" does not resolve the question. To rest on the words of the Amendment alone would be to engage in the type of ahistorical literalism we have rejected in interpreting the scope of the States' sovereign immunity since the discredited decision in Chisholm Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 68; see also id., at 69 (quoting Principality of Monaco, supra, at 326, in turn quoting Hans, 134 U. S., at 15) ("[W]e long have recognized that blind reliance upon the text of the Eleventh Amendment is ` "to strain the Constitution and the law to a construction never imagined or dreamed of"` ").
While the constitutional principle of sovereign immunity does pose a bar to federal jurisdiction over suits against nonconsenting States, see, e. g., Principality of Monaco, 292 U. S., at 322-323, this is not the only structural basis of sovereign immunity implicit in the constitutional design. Rather, "[t]here is also the postulate that States of the Union, still possessing attributes of sovereignty, shall be immune from suits, without their consent, save where there has been `a surrender of this immunity in the plan of the convention.' " Ibid. (quoting The Federalist No. 81; accord, Blatchford, supra, at 781; Seminole Tribe, supra, at 68. This separate and distinct structural principle is not directly related to the scope of the judicial power established by Article III, but inheres in the system of federalism established by the Constitution. In exercising its Article I powers Congress
Petitioners contend the text of the Constitution and our recent sovereign immunity decisions establish that the States were required to relinquish this portion of their sovereignty. We turn first to these sources.
Article I, § 8, grants, Congress broad power to enact legislation in several enumerated areas of national concern. The Supremacy Clause, furthermore, provides:
It is contended that, by virtue of these provisions, where Congress enacts legislation subjecting the States to suit, the legislation by necessity overrides the sovereign immunity of the States.
As is evident from its text, however, the Supremacy Clause enshrines as "the supreme Law of the Land" only those Federal Acts that accord with the constitutional design. See Printz, 521 U. S., at 924. Appeal to the Supremacy Clause alone merely raises the question whether a law is a valid exercise of the national power. See The Federalist No. 33, at 204 (A. Hamilton) ("But it will not follow from this doctrine that acts of the larger society which are not pursuant to its constitutional powers, but which are invasions of the residuary authorities of the smaller societies, will become the supreme law of the land"); Printz, supra, at 924-925.
Nor can we conclude that the specific Article I powers delegated to Congress necessarily include, by virtue of the Necessary and Proper Clause or otherwise, the incidental authority to subject the States to private suits as a means of achieving objectives otherwise within the scope of the enumerated powers. Although some of our decisions had endorsed this contention, see Parden v. Terminal R. Co. of Ala. Docks Dept., 377 U.S. 184, 190-194 (1964); Pennsylvania v. Union Gas Co., 491 U.S. 1, 13-23 (1989) (plurality opinion), they have since been overruled, see Seminole Tribe, supra, at 63-67, 72; College Savings Bank v. Florida Prepaid Postsecondary Ed. Expense Bd., ante, at 680. As we have recognized in an analogous context:
The cases we have cited, of course, came at last to the conclusion that neither the Supremacy Clause nor the enumerated powers of Congress confer authority to abrogate the States' immunity from suit in federal court. The logic of the decisions, however, does not turn on the forum in which the suits were prosecuted but extends to state-court suits as well.
The dissenting opinion seeks to reopen these precedents, contending that state sovereign immunity must derive either from the common law (in which case the dissent contends it is defeasible by statute) or from natural law (in which case the dissent believes it cannot bar a federal claim). See post, at 797-798. As should be obvious to all, this is a false dichotomy. The text and the structure of the Constitution protect various rights and principles. Many of these, such as the right to trial by jury and the prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, derive from the common law. The common-law lineage of these rights does not mean they are defeasible by statute or remain mere common-law rights, however. They are, rather, constitutional rights, and form the fundamental law of the land.
Although the sovereign immunity of the States derives at least in part from the common-law tradition, the structure and history of the Constitution make clear that the immunity exists today by constitutional design. The dissent has provided no persuasive evidence that the founding generation regarded the States' sovereign immunity as defeasible by federal statute. While the dissent implies this view was held by Madison and Marshall, see post, at 778, nothing in the comments made by either individual at the ratification
Despite the dissent's assertion to the contrary, the fact that a right is not defeasible by statute means only that it is protected by the Constitution, not that it derives from natural law. Whether the dissent's attribution of our reasoning and conclusions to natural law results from analytical confusion or rhetorical device, it is simply inaccurate. We do not contend the Founders could not have stripped the States of sovereign immunity and granted Congress power to subject them to private suit but only that they did not do so. By the same token, the contours of sovereign immunity are determined by the Founders' understanding, not by the principles or limitations derived from natural law.
The dissent has offered no evidence that the Founders believed sovereign immunity extended only to cases where the sovereign was the source of the right asserted. No such limitation existed on sovereign immunity in England, where sovereign immunity was predicated on a different theory altogether.
In light of the ratification debates and the history of the Eleventh Amendment, there is no reason to believe the Founders intended the Constitution to preserve a more restricted immunity in the United States. On the contrary, Congress' refusal to modify the text of the Eleventh Amendment to create an exception to sovereign immunity for cases arising under treaties, see supra, at 721, suggests the States' sovereign immunity was understood to extend beyond statelaw causes of action. And surely the dissent does not believe that sovereign immunity poses no bar to a state-law suit against the United States in federal court, or that the Federal Tort Claims Act effected a contraction, rather than an expansion, of the United States' amenability to suit.
There are isolated statements in some of our cases suggesting that the Eleventh Amendment is inapplicable in state courts. See Hilton v. South Carolina Public Railways Comm'n, 502 U.S. 197, 204-205 (1991); Will v. Michigan Dept. of State Police, 491 U.S. 58, 63 (1989); Atascadero State Hospital v. Scanlon, 473 U. S., at 239-240, n. 2; Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 9, n. 7 (1980); Hall, supra, at 418-421. This, of course, is a truism as to the literal terms of
Two of the cases discussing state-court immunity may be dismissed out of hand. The footnote digressions in Atascadero State Hospital and Thiboutot were irrelevant to either opinion's holding or rationale. The discussion in Will was also unnecessary to the decision; our holding that 42 U. S. C. § 1983 did not create a cause of action against the States rendered it unnecessary to determine the scope of the States' constitutional immunity from suit in their own courts. Our opinions in Hilton and Hall, however, require closer attention, for in those cases we sustained suits against States in state courts.
In Hilton we held that an injured employee of a stateowned railroad could sue his employer (an arm of the State) in state court under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 53 Stat. 1404, 45 U. S. C. §§ 51-60. Our decision was "controlled and informed" by stare decisis. 502 U. S., at 201. A generation earlier we had held that because the FELA made clear that all who operated railroads would be subject to suit by injured workers, States that chose to enter the railroad business after the statute's enactment impliedly waived their sovereign immunity from such suits. See Parden v. Terminal R. Co. of Ala. Docks Dept., 377 U.S. 184 (1964). Some States had excluded railroad workers from the coverage of their workers' compensation statutes on the assumption that the FELA provided adequate protection for those workers. Hilton, 502 U. S., at 202. Closing the courts to FELA suits against state employers would have dislodged settled expectations and required an extensive legislative response. Ibid.
Furthermore, our decision in Parden was based on concepts of waiver and consent. Although later decisions have undermined the basis of Parden`s reasoning, see, e. g., Welch v. Texas Dept. of Highways and Public Transp., 483 U.S. 468, 476-478 (1987) (recognizing that Parden erred in finding a clear congressional intent to subject the States to suit); College Savings Bank, ante, at 680 (overruling Parden`s theory of constructive waiver), we have not questioned the general proposition that a State may waive its sovereign immunity and consent to suit, see Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 65.
Hilton, then, must be read in light of the doctrinal basis of Parden, the issues presented and argued by the parties, and the substantial reliance interests drawn into question by the litigation. When so read, we believe the decision is best understood not as recognizing a congressional power to subject nonconsenting States to private suits in their own courts, nor even as endorsing the constructive waiver theory of Parden, but as simply adhering, as a matter of stare decisis and presumed historical fact, to the narrow proposition
In Hall we considered whether California could subject Nevada to suit in California's courts and determined the Constitution did not bar it from doing so. We noted that "[t]he doctrine of sovereign immunity is an amalgam of two quite different concepts, one applicable to suits in the sovereign's own courts and the other to suits in the courts of another sovereign." 440 U. S., at 414. We acknowledged that "[t]he immunity of a truly independent sovereign from suit in its own courts has been enjoyed as a matter of absolute right for centuries. Only the sovereign's own consent could qualify the absolute character of that immunity," ibid., that "the notion that immunity from suit is an attribute of sovereignty is reflected in our cases," id., at 415, and that "[t]his explanation adequately supports the conclusion that no sovereign may be sued in its own courts without its consent," id., at 416. We sharply distinguished, however, a sovereign's immunity from suit in the courts of another sovereign:
Since we determined the Constitution did not reflect an agreement between the States to respect the sovereign immunity of one another, California was free to determine whether it would respect Nevada's sovereignty as a matter of comity.
Our opinion in Hall did distinguish a State's immunity from suit in federal court from its immunity in the courts of
The Federal Government, by contrast, "can claim no powers which are not granted to it by the constitution, and the powers actually granted must be such as are expressly given, or given by necessary implication." Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1 Wheat. 304, 326 (1816); see also City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507, 516 (1997); United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 552 (1995).
Our decision in Hall thus does not support the argument urged by petitioners here. The decision addressed neither Congress' power to subject States to private suits nor the States' immunity from suit in their own courts. In fact, the distinction drawn between a sovereign's immunity in its own courts and its immunity in the courts of another sovereign, as well as the reasoning on which this distinction was based, are consistent with, and even support, the proposition urged by respondent here—that the Constitution reserves to the
Petitioners seek support in two additional decisions. In Reich v. Collins, 513 U.S. 106 (1994), we held that, despite its immunity from suit in federal court, a State which holds out what plainly appears to be "a clear and certain" postdeprivation remedy for taxes collected in violation of federal law may not declare, after disputed taxes have been paid in reliance on this remedy, that the remedy does not in fact exist. Id., at 108. This case arose in the context of taxrefund litigation, where a State may deprive a taxpayer of all other means of challenging the validity of its tax laws by holding out what appears to be a "clear and certain" postdeprivation remedy. Ibid.; see also Fair Assessment in Real Estate Assn., Inc. v. McNary, 454 U.S. 100 (1981). In this context, due process requires the State to provide the remedy it has promised. Cf. Hudson v. Palmer, 468 U.S. 517, 539 (1984) (O'Connor, J., concurring). The obligation arises from the Constitution itself; Reich does not speak to the power of Congress to subject States to suits in their own courts.
In Howlett v. Rose, 496 U.S. 356 (1990), we held that a state court could not refuse to hear a § 1983 suit against a school board on the basis of sovereign immunity. The school board was not an arm of the State, however, so it could not assert any constitutional defense of sovereign immunity to which the State would have been entitled. See Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 280 (1977). In Howlett, then, the only question was "whether a state-law defense of `sovereign immunity' is available to a school board otherwise subject to suit in a Florida court even though such a defense would not be available if the action had been brought in a federal forum." 496 U. S., at 358-359. The decision did not address the question of Congress' power to compel a state court to entertain an action against a nonconsenting State.
Whether Congress has authority under Article I to abrogate a State's immunity from suit in its own courts is, then, a question of first impression. In determining whether there is "compelling evidence" that this derogation of the States' sovereignty is "inherent in the constitutional compact," Blatchford, 501 U. S., at 781, we continue our discussion of history, practice, precedent, and the structure of the Constitution.
We look first to evidence of the original understanding of the Constitution. Petitioners contend that because the ratification debates and the events surrounding the adoption of the Eleventh Amendment focused on the States' immunity from suit in federal courts, the historical record gives no instruction as to the founding generation's intent to preserve the States' immunity from suit in their own courts.
We believe, however, that the Founders' silence is best explained by the simple fact that no one, not even the Constitution's most ardent opponents, suggested the document might strip the States of the immunity. In light of the overriding concern regarding the States' war-time debts, together with the well-known creativity, foresight, and vivid imagination of the Constitution's opponents, the silence is most instructive. It suggests the sovereign's right to assert immunity from suit in its own courts was a principle so well established that no one conceived it would be altered by the new Constitution.
The arguments raised against the Constitution confirm this strong inference. In England, the rule was well established that "no lord could be sued by a vassal in his own court, but each petty lord was subject to suit in the courts of a higher lord." Hall, 440 U. S., at 414-415. It was argued that, by analogy, the States could be sued without consent in federal court. Id., at 418. The point of the argument
The response the Constitution's advocates gave to the argument is also telling. Relying on custom and practice— and, in particular, on the States' immunity from suit in their own courts, see 3 Elliot's Debates 555 (remarks of J. Marshall)—they contended that no individual could sue a sovereign without its consent. It is true the point was directed toward the power of the Federal Judiciary, for that was the only question at issue. The logic of the argument, however, applies with even greater force in the context of a suit prosecuted against a sovereign in its own courts, for in this setting, more than any other, sovereign immunity was long established and unquestioned. See Hall, supra, at 414.
Similarly, while the Eleventh Amendment by its terms addresses only "the Judicial power of the United States," nothing in Chisholm, the catalyst for the Amendment, suggested the States were not immune from suits in their own courts. The only Justice to address the issue, in fact, was explicit in distinguishing between sovereign immunity in federal court and in a State's own courts. See 2 Dall., at 452 (opinion of Blair, J.) ("When sovereigns are sued in their own Courts, such a method [a petition of right] may have been established as the most respectful form of demand; but we are not now in a State-Court; and if sovereignty be an exemption from suit in any other than the sovereign's own Courts, it follows that when a State, by adopting the Constitution, has agreed to be amenable to the judicial power of the United States, she has, in that respect, given up her right of sovereignty").
The language of the Eleventh Amendment, furthermore, was directed toward the only provisions of the constitutional text believed to call the States' immunity from private suits into question. Although Article III expressly contemplated
Finally, the Congress which endorsed the Eleventh Amendment rejected language limiting the Amendment's scope to cases where the States had made available a remedy in their own courts. See supra, at 721. Implicit in the proposal, it is evident, was the premise that the States retained their immunity and the concomitant authority to decide whether to allow private suits against the sovereign in their own courts.
In light of the language of the Constitution and the historical context, it is quite apparent why neither the ratification debates nor the language of the Eleventh Amendment addressed the States' immunity from suit in their own courts. The concerns voiced at the ratifying conventions, the furor raised by Chisholm, and the speed and unanimity with which the Amendment was adopted, moreover, underscore the jealous care with which the founding generation sought to preserve the sovereign immunity of the States. To read this history as permitting the inference that the Constitution stripped the States of immunity in their own courts and allowed Congress to subject them to suit there would turn on its head the concern of the founding generation—that Article III might be used to circumvent state-court immunity. In light of the historical record it is difficult to conceive that the Constitution would have been adopted if it had been understood to strip the States of immunity from suit in their own courts and cede to the Federal Government a power to subject nonconsenting States to private suits in these fora.
Our historical analysis is supported by early congressional practice, which provides "contemporaneous and weighty evidence
Not only were statutes purporting to authorize private suits against nonconsenting States in state courts not enacted by early Congresses; statutes purporting to authorize such suits in any forum are all but absent from our historical experience. The first statute we confronted that even arguably purported to subject the States to private actions was the FELA. See Parden, 377 U. S., at 187 ("Here, for the first time in this Court, a State's claim of immunity against suit by an individual meets a suit brought upon a cause of action expressly created by Congress"). As we later recognized, however, even this statute did not clearly create a cause of action against the States. See Welch, 483 U. S., at 476-478. The provisions of the FLSA at issue here, which were enacted in the aftermath of Parden, are among the first statutory enactments purporting in express terms to subject nonconsenting States to private suits. Although similar statutes have multiplied in the last generation, "they are of such recent vintage that they are no more probative than the [FLSA] of a constitutional tradition that lends meaning to the text. Their persuasive force is far outweighed by almost two centuries of apparent congressional avoidance of the practice." Printz, supra, at 918.
The theory and reasoning of our earlier cases suggest the States do retain a constitutional immunity from suit in their own courts. We have often described the States' immunity in sweeping terms, without reference to whether the suit was prosecuted in state or federal court. See, e. g., Briscoe v. Bank of Kentucky, 11 Pet. 257, 321-322 (1837) ("No sovereign state is liable to be sued without her consent"); Board of Liquidation v. McComb, 92 U.S. 531, 541 (1876) ("A State, without its consent, cannot be sued by an individual"); In re Ayers, 123 U.S. 443, 506 (1887) (same); Great Northern Life Ins. Co. v. Read, 322 U.S. 47, 51 (1944) ("The inherent nature of sovereignty prevents actions against a state by its own citizens without its consent").
We have said on many occasions, furthermore, that the States retain their immunity from private suits prosecuted in their own courts. See, e. g., Beers v. Arkansas, 20 How. 527, 529 (1858) ("It is an established principle of jurisprudence in all civilized nations that the sovereign cannot be sued in its own courts, or in any other, without its consent and permission"); Railroad Co. v. Tennessee, 101 U.S. 337, 339 (1880) ("The principle is elementary that a State cannot be sued in its own courts without its consent. This is a privilege of sovereignty"); Cunningham v. Macon & Brunswick
We have also relied on the States' immunity in their own courts as a premise in our Eleventh Amendment rulings. See Hans, 134 U. S., at 10 ("It is true the amendment does so read, and, if there were no other reason or ground for abating his suit, it might be maintainable; and then we should have this anomalous result [that a State may be sued by its own citizen though not by the citizen of another State, and that a State] may be thus sued in the federal courts, although not allowing itself to be sued in its own courts. If this is the necessary consequence of the language of the Constitution
In particular, the exception to our sovereign immunity doctrine recognized in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), is based in part on the premise that sovereign immunity bars relief against States and their officers in both state and federal courts, and that certain suits for declaratory or injunctive relief against state officers must therefore be permitted if the Constitution is to remain the supreme law of the land. As we explained in General Oil Co. v. Crain, 209 U.S. 211 (1908), a case decided the same day as Ex parte Young and extending the rule of that case to state-court suits:
As it is settled doctrine that neither substantive federal law nor attempted congressional abrogation under Article I bars a State from raising a constitutional defense of sovereign immunity in federal court, see Part II-A-1, supra, our decisions suggesting that the States retain an analogous constitutional immunity from private suits in their own courts support the conclusion that Congress lacks the Article I power to subject the States to private suits in those fora.
Our final consideration is whether a congressional power to subject nonconsenting States to private suits in their own courts is consistent with the structure of the Constitution. We look both to the essential principles of federalism and to the special role of the state courts in the constitutional design.
Although the Constitution grants broad powers to Congress, our federalism requires that Congress treat the States in a manner consistent with their status as residuary sovereigns and joint participants in the governance of the Nation. See, e. g., United States v. Lopez, 514 U. S., at 583 (Kennedy, J., concurring); Printz, 521 U. S., at 935; New York, 505 U. S., at 188. The founding generation thought it "neither becoming nor convenient that the several States of the Union, invested with that large residuum of sovereignty which had not been delegated to the United States, should be summoned as defendants to answer the complaints of private persons." In re Ayers, 123 U. S., at 505. The principle of sovereign immunity preserved by constitutional design "thus accords the States the respect owed them as members
Petitioners contend that immunity from suit in federal court suffices to preserve the dignity of the States. Private suits against nonconsenting States, however, present "the indignity of subjecting a State to the coercive process of judicial tribunals at the instance of private parties," In re Ayers, supra, at 505; accord, Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 58, regardless of the forum. Not only must a State defend or default but also it must face the prospect of being thrust, by federal fiat and against its will, into the disfavored status of a debtor, subject to the power of private citizens to levy on its treasury or perhaps even government buildings or property which the State administers on the public's behalf.
In some ways, of course, a congressional power to authorize private suits against nonconsenting States in their own courts would be even more offensive to state sovereignty than a power to authorize the suits in a federal forum. Although the immunity of one sovereign in the courts of another has often depended in part on comity or agreement, the immunity of a sovereign in its own courts has always been understood to be within the sole control of the sovereign itself. See generally Hall, 440 U. S., at 414-418. A power to press a State's own courts into federal service to coerce the other branches of the State, furthermore, is the power first to turn the State against itself and ultimately to commandeer the entire political machinery of the State against its will and at the behest of individuals. Cf. Coeur d'Alene Tribe, supra, at 276. Such plenary federal control of state governmental processes denigrates the separate sovereignty of the States.
It is unquestioned that the Federal Government retains its own immunity from suit not only in state tribunals but also in its own courts. In light of our constitutional system
Underlying constitutional form are considerations of great substance. Private suits against nonconsenting States—especially suits for money damages—may threaten the financial integrity of the States. It is indisputable that, at the time of the founding, many of the States could have been forced into insolvency but for their immunity from private suits for money damages. Even today, an unlimited congressional power to authorize suits in state court to levy upon the treasuries of the States for compensatory damages, attorney's fees, and even punitive damages could create staggering burdens, giving Congress a power and a leverage over the States that is not contemplated by our constitutional design. The potential national power would pose a severe and notorious danger to the States and their resources.
A congressional power to strip the States of their immunity from private suits in their own courts would pose more subtle risks as well. "The principle of immunity from litigation assures the states and the nation from unanticipated intervention in the processes of government." Great Northern Life Ins. Co. v. Read, 322 U. S., at 53. When the States' immunity from private suits is disregarded, "the course of their public policy and the administration of their public affairs" may become "subject to and controlled by the mandates of judicial tribunals without their consent, and in favor of individual interests." In re Ayers, supra, at 505. While the States have relinquished their immunity from suit in some special contexts—at least as a practical matter—see Part III, infra, this surrender carries with it substantial costs to the autonomy, the decisionmaking ability, and the sovereign capacity of the States.
A general federal power to authorize private suits for money damages would place unwarranted strain on the
By "`split[ting] the atom of sovereignty,' " the Founders established "`two orders of government, each with its own direct relationship, its own privity, its own set of mutual rights and obligations to the people who sustain it and are governed by it.' " Saenz v. Roe, 526 U.S. 489, 504, n. 17 (1999), quoting U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 838 (1995) (Kennedy, J., concurring). "The Constitution thus contemplates that a State's government will represent and remain accountable to its own citizens." Printz, 521 U. S., at 920. When the Federal Government asserts authority over a State's most fundamental political processes, it strikes at the heart of the political accountability so essential to our liberty and republican form of government.
The asserted authority would blur not only the distinct responsibilities of the State and National Governments but also the separate duties of the judicial and political branches of the state governments, displacing "state decisions that `go to the heart of representative government.' " Gregory v.
Congress cannot abrogate the States' sovereign immunity in federal court; were the rule to be different here, the National Government would wield greater power in the state courts than in its own judicial instrumentalities. Cf. Howlett, 496 U. S., at 365 (noting the anomaly that would arise if "a State might be forced to entertain in its own courts suits from which it was immune in federal court"); Hilton, 502 U. S., at 206 (recognizing the "federalism-related concerns that arise when the National Government uses the state courts as the exclusive forum to permit recovery under a congressional statute").
The resulting anomaly cannot be explained by reference to the special role of the state courts in the constitutional design. Although Congress may not require the legislative or executive branches of the States to enact or administer federal regulatory programs, see Printz, supra, at 935; New York, 505 U. S., at 188, it may require state courts of "adequate and appropriate" jurisdiction, Testa, 330 U. S., at 394, "to enforce federal prescriptions, insofar as those prescriptions relat[e] to matters appropriate for the judicial power," Printz, supra, at 907. It would be an unprecedented step, however, to infer from the fact that Congress may declare federal law binding and enforceable in state courts the further
The provisions of the Constitution upon which we have relied in finding the state courts peculiarly amenable to federal command, moreover, do not distinguish those courts from the Federal Judiciary. The Supremacy Clause does impose specific obligations on state judges. There can be no serious contention, however, that the Supremacy Clause imposes greater obligations on state-court judges than on the Judiciary of the United States itself. The text of Article III, § 1, which extends federal judicial power to enumerated classes of suits but grants Congress discretion whether to establish inferior federal courts, does give strong support to the inference that state courts may be opened to suits falling within the federal judicial power. The Article in no way suggests, however, that state courts may be required to assume jurisdiction that could not be vested in the federal courts and forms no part of the judicial power of the United States.
In light of history, practice, precedent, and the structure of the Constitution, we hold that the States retain immunity from private suit in their own courts, an immunity beyond the congressional power to abrogate by Article I legislation.
The constitutional privilege of a State to assert its sovereign immunity in its own courts does not confer upon the
Sovereign immunity, moreover, does not bar all judicial review of state compliance with the Constitution and valid federal law. Rather, certain limits are implicit in the constitutional principle of state sovereign immunity.
The first of these limits is that sovereign immunity bars suits only in the absence of consent. Many States, on their own initiative, have enacted statutes consenting to a wide variety of suits. The rigors of sovereign immunity are thus "mitigated by a sense of justice which has continually expanded by consent the suability of the sovereign." Great Northern Life Ins. Co. v. Read, 322 U. S., at 53. Nor, subject to constitutional limitations, does the Federal Government lack the authority or means to seek the States' voluntary consent to private suits. Cf. South Dakota v. Dole, 483 U.S. 203 (1987).
The States have consented, moreover, to some suits pursuant to the plan of the Convention or to subsequent constitutional Amendments. In ratifying the Constitution, the States consented to suits brought by other States or by the Federal Government. Principality of Monaco, supra, at 328-329 (collecting cases). A suit which is commenced and prosecuted against a State in the name of the United States by those who are entrusted with the constitutional duty to "take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed," U. S. Const., Art. II, § 3, differs in kind from the suit of an individual: While the Constitution contemplates suits among the
We have held also that in adopting the Fourteenth Amendment, the people required the States to surrender a portion of the sovereignty that had been preserved to them by the original Constitution, so that Congress may authorize private suits against nonconsenting States pursuant to its § 5 enforcement power. Fitzpatrick v. Bitzer, 427 U.S. 445 (1976). By imposing explicit limits on the powers of the States and granting Congress the power to enforce them, the Amendment "fundamentally altered the balance of state and federal power struck by the Constitution." Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 59. When Congress enacts appropriate legislation to enforce this Amendment, see City of Boerne v. Flores, 521 U.S. 507 (1997), federal interests are paramount, and Congress may assert an authority over the States which would be otherwise unauthorized by the Constitution. Fitzpatrick, supra, at 456.
The second important limit to the principle of sovereign immunity is that it bars suits against States but not lesser entities. The immunity does not extend to suits prosecuted against a municipal corporation or other governmental entity which is not an arm of the State. See, e. g., Mt. Healthy City Bd. of Ed. v. Doyle, 429 U. S., at 280; Lincoln County v. Luning, 133 U.S. 529 (1890). Nor does sovereign immunity bar all suits against state officers. Some suits against state officers are barred by the rule that sovereign immunity is not limited to suits which name the State as a party if the suits are, in fact, against the State. See, e. g., In re Ayers, 123 U. S., at 505-506; Idaho v. Coeur d'Alene Tribe of Idaho,
The principle of sovereign immunity as reflected in our jurisprudence strikes the proper balance between the supremacy of federal law and the separate sovereignty of the States. See Pennhurst State School and Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U. S., at 105. Established rules provide ample means to correct ongoing violations of law and to vindicate the interests which animate the Supremacy Clause. See Green v. Mansour, 474 U. S., at 68. That we have, during the first 210 years of our constitutional history, found it unnecessary to decide the question presented here suggests a federal power to subject nonconsenting States to private suits in their own courts is unnecessary to uphold the Constitution and valid federal statutes as the supreme law.
The sole remaining question is whether Maine has waived its immunity. The State of Maine "regards the immunity from suit as `one of the highest attributes inherent in the nature of sovereignty,' " Cushing v. Cohen, 420 A.2d 919, 923 (Me. 1981) (quoting Drake v. Smith, 390 A.2d 541, 543 (Me. 1978)), and adheres to the general rule that "a specific authority conferred by an enactment of the legislature is requisite
This case at one level concerns the formal structure of federalism, but in a Constitution as resilient as ours form mirrors substance. Congress has vast power but not all power. When Congress legislates in matters affecting the States, it may not treat these sovereign entities as mere prefectures or corporations. Congress must accord States the esteem due to them as joint participants in a federal system, one beginning with the premise of sovereignty in both the central Government and the separate States. Congress has ample means to ensure compliance with valid federal laws, but it must respect the sovereignty of the States.
In an apparent attempt to disparage a conclusion with which it disagrees, the dissent attributes our reasoning to natural law. We seek to discover, however, only what the Framers and those who ratified the Constitution sought to accomplish when they created a federal system. We appeal to no higher authority than the Charter which they wrote and adopted. Theirs was the unique insight that freedom is enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one. We need not attach a label to our dissenting colleagues' insistence that the constitutional structure adopted by the Founders
The case before us depends upon these principles. The State of Maine has not questioned Congress' power to prescribe substantive rules of federal law to which it must comply. Despite an initial good-faith disagreement about the requirements of the FLSA, it is conceded by all that the State has altered its conduct so that its compliance with federal law cannot now be questioned. The Solicitor General of the United States has appeared before this Court, however, and asserted that the federal interest in compensating the States' employees for alleged past violations of federal law is so compelling that the sovereign State of Maine must be stripped of its immunity and subjected to suit in its own courts by its own employees. Yet, despite specific statutory authorization, see 29 U. S. C. § 216(c), the United States apparently found the same interests insufficient to justify sending even a single attorney to Maine to prosecute this litigation. The difference between a suit by the United States on behalf of the employees and a suit by the employees implicates a rule that the National Government must itself deem the case of sufficient importance to take action against the
Justice Souter, with whom Justice Stevens, Justice Ginsburg, and Justice Breyer join, dissenting.
In Seminole Tribe of Fla. v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44 (1996), a majority of this Court invoked the Eleventh Amendment to declare that the federal judicial power under Article III of the Constitution does not reach a private action against a State, even on a federal question. In the Court's conception, however, the Eleventh Amendment was understood as having been enhanced by a "background principle" of state sovereign immunity (understood as immunity to suit), see id., at 72, that operated beyond its limited codification in the Amendment, dealing solely with federal citizen-state diversity jurisdiction. To the Seminole Tribe dissenters, of whom I was one, the Court's enhancement of the Amendment was at odds with constitutional history and at war with the conception of divided sovereignty that is the essence of American federalism.
Today's issue arises naturally in the aftermath of the decision in Seminole Tribe. The Court holds that the Constitution bars an individual suit against a State to enforce a federal statutory right under the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (FLSA), 29 U. S. C. § 201 et seq. (1994 ed. and Supp. III), when brought in the State's courts over its objection. In thus complementing its earlier decision, the Court of course confronts the fact that the state forum renders the Eleventh Amendment beside the point, and it has responded by discerning a simpler and more straightforward theory of state sovereign immunity than it found in Seminole Tribe: a State's sovereign immunity from all individual suits is a "fundamental
The sequence of the Court's positions prompts a suspicion of error, and skepticism is confirmed by scrutiny of the Court's efforts to justify its holding. There is no evidence that the Tenth Amendment constitutionalized a concept of sovereign immunity as inherent in the notion of statehood, and no evidence that any concept of inherent sovereign immunity was understood historically to apply when the sovereign sued was not the font of the law. Nor does the Court fare any better with its subsidiary lines of reasoning, that the state-court action is barred by the scheme of American federalism, a result supposedly confirmed by a history largely devoid of precursors to the action considered here. The Court's federalism ignores the accepted authority of Congress to bind States under the FLSA and to provide for enforcement of federal rights in state court. The Court's history simply disparages the capacity of the Constitution to order relationships in a Republic that has changed since the founding.
On each point the Court has raised it is mistaken, and I respectfully dissent from its judgment.
The Court rests its decision principally on the claim that immunity from suit was "a fundamental aspect of the sovereignty which the States enjoyed before the ratification of the Constitution," ante, at 713, an aspect which the Court understands to have survived the ratification of the Constitution in 1788 and to have been "confirm[ed]" and given constitutional status, ante, at 714, by the adoption of the Tenth Amendment in 1791. If the Court truly means by "sovereign immunity" what that term meant at common law, see ante, at 737, its argument would be insupportable. While sovereign immunity entered many new state legal systems as a part of the common law selectively received from England, it was not understood to be indefeasible or to have been given any such status by the new National Constitution, which did not mention it. See Seminole Tribe, supra, at 132-142, 160-162, and n. 55 (Souter, J., dissenting). Had the question been posed, state sovereign immunity could not have been thought to shield a State from suit under federal law on a subject committed to national jurisdiction by Article I of the Constitution. Congress exercising its conceded Article I power may unquestionably abrogate such immunity. I set out this position at length in my dissent in Seminole Tribe and will not repeat it here.
The Court does not, however, offer today's holding as a mere corollary to its reasoning in Seminole Tribe, substituting the Tenth Amendment for the Eleventh as the occasion
I understand the Court to rely on the Hamiltonian formulation with the object of suggesting that its conception of sovereign immunity as a "fundamental aspect" of sovereignty was a substantially popular, if not the dominant, view in the periods of Revolution and Confederation. There is, after all, nothing else in the Court's opinion that would suggest a basis for saying that the ratification of the Tenth Amendment gave this "fundamental aspect" its constitutional status and protection against any legislative tampering by Congress.
The American Colonies did not enjoy sovereign immunity, that being a privilege understood in English law to be reserved for the Crown alone; "antecedent to the Declaration of Independence, none of the colonies were, or pretended to be, sovereign states," 1 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution § 207, p. 149 (5th ed. 1891). Several colonial charters, including those of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Georgia, expressly specified that the corporate body established thereunder could sue and be sued. See 5 Sources and Documents of United States Constitutions 36 (W. Swindler ed. 1975) (Massachusetts); 2 id., at 131 (Connecticut); 8 id., at 363 (Rhode Island); 2 id., at 434 (Georgia). Other charters were given to individuals, who were necessarily subject to suit. See Gibbons, The Eleventh Amendment and State Sovereign Immunity: A Reinterpretation, 83 Colum. L. Rev. 1889, 1897 (1983). If a colonial lawyer had looked into Blackstone for the theory of sovereign immunity, as indeed many did, he would have found nothing clearly suggesting that the Colonies as such enjoyed any immunity
It is worth pausing here to note that after Blackstone had explained sovereign immunity at common law, he went on to say that the common law tradition was compatible with sovereign immunity as discussed by writers on "natural law":
Starting in the mid-1760's, ideas about sovereignty in colonial America began to shift as Americans argued that, lacking a voice in Parliament, they had not in any express way consented to being taxed. See B. Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution 204-219 (1968); G. Wood, The Creation of the American Republic, 1776-1787, pp. 347-348 (1969). The story of the subsequent development of conceptions of sovereignty is complex and uneven;
As the concept of sovereignty was unsettled, so was that of sovereign immunity. Some States appear to have understood themselves to be without immunity from suit in their own courts upon independence.
This "petition" was clearly reminiscent of the English petition of right, as was the language "shall proceed to do right thereon," which paralleled the formula of royal approval, "soit droit fait al partie," technically required before a petition of right could be adjudicated. See 3 Blackstone *256; Pfander, supra, at 940, and nn. 143-144. A New York statute similarly authorized petition to the court of chancery by anyone who thought himself aggrieved by the state auditor general's resolution of his account with the State. See An Act Directing a Mode for the Recovery of Debts Due to, and the Settlement of Accounts with, this State, March 30, 1781,
Pennsylvania not only adopted a law conferring the authority to settle accounts upon the Comptroller General, see Act of Apr. 13, 1782, ch. 959, 2 Laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania 19 (1810), but in 1785 provided for appeal from such adjudications to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, where a jury trial could be had, see id., at 26-27; Pfander, supra, at 941, n. 147. Although in at least one recorded case before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court the Commonwealth, citing Blackstone, pleaded common law sovereign immunity, see Respublica v. Sparhawk, 1 Dall. 357, 363 (Pa. 1788), the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania did not reach this argument, concluding on other grounds that it lacked jurisdiction.
At the Constitutional Convention, the notion of sovereign immunity, whether as natural law or as common law, was not an immediate subject of debate, and the sovereignty of a State in its own courts seems not to have been mentioned. This comes as no surprise, for although the Constitution required state courts to apply federal law, the Framers did not consider the possibility that federal law might bind States, say, in their relations with their employees.
The only arguable support for the Court's absolutist view that I have found among the leading participants in the debate surrounding ratification was the one already mentioned, that of Alexander Hamilton in The Federalist No. 81, where he described the sovereign immunity of the States in language suggesting principles associated with natural law:
Hamilton chose his words carefully, and he acknowledged the possibility that at the Convention the States might have surrendered sovereign immunity in some circumstances, but the thrust of his argument was that sovereign immunity was "inherent in the nature of sovereignty."
In the Virginia ratifying convention, Madison was among those who debated sovereign immunity in terms of the result it produced, not its theoretical underpinnings. He maintained that "[i]t is not in the power of individuals to call any state into court," 3 Debates on the Federal Constitution 533 (J. Elliot 2d ed. 1863) (hereinafter Elliot's Debates), and thought that the phrase "in which a State shall be a Party" in Article III, § 2, must be interpreted in light of that general principle, so that "[t]he only operation it can have, is that, if a state should wish to bring a suit against a citizen, it must be brought before the federal court." Elliot's Debates 533.
There was no unanimity among the Virginians either on state- or federal-court immunity, however, for Edmund Randolph anticipated the position he would later espouse as plaintiff's counsel in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419 (1793). He contented himself with agnosticism on the significance of what Hamilton had called "the general practice of mankind," and argued that notwithstanding any natural law view of the nonsuability of States, the Constitution permitted suit against a State in federal court: "I think, whatever the law
At the furthest extreme from Hamilton, James Wilson made several comments in the Pennsylvania Convention that suggested his hostility to any idea of state sovereign immunity. First, he responded to the argument that "the sovereignty of the states is destroyed" if they are sued by the United States, "because a suiter in a court must acknowledge the jurisdiction of that court, and it is not the custom of sovereigns to suffer their names to be made use of in this manner." 2 id., at 490. For Wilson, "[t]he answer [was] plain and easy: the government of each state ought to be subordinate to the government of the United States." Ibid.
From a canvass of this spectrum of opinion expressed at the ratifying conventions, one thing is certain. No one was espousing an indefeasible, natural law view of sovereign immunity. The controversy over the enforceability of state debts subject to state law produced emphatic support for sovereign immunity from eminences as great as Madison and Marshall, but neither of them indicated adherence to any immunity conception outside the common law.
At the close of the ratification debates, the issue of the sovereign immunity of the States under Article III had not been definitively resolved, and in some instances the indeterminacy led the ratification conventions to respond in ways that point to the range of thinking about the doctrine. Several state ratifying conventions proposed amendments and issued declarations that would have exempted States from subjection to suit in federal court.
The Rhode Island Convention, when it finally ratified on June 16, 1790, called upon its representatives to urge the passage of a list of amendments. This list incorporated language, some of it identical to that proposed by New York, in the following form:
Even more clearly than New York's proposal, this amendment appears to have been intended to clarify Article III as reflecting some theory of sovereign immunity, though without indicating which one.
Unlike the Rhode Island proposal, which hinted at a clarification of Article III, the Virginia and North Carolina ratifying conventions proposed amendments that by their terms would have fundamentally altered the content of Article III. The Virginia Convention's proposal for a new Article III omitted entirely the language conferring federal jurisdiction over a controversy between a State and citizens of another State, see 3 id., at 660-661, and the North Carolina Convention proposed an identical amendment, see 4 id., at 246-247. These proposals for omission suggest that the conventions of Virginia and North Carolina thought they had subjected themselves to citizen suits under Article III as enacted, and that they wished not to have done so.
If the natural law conception of sovereign immunity as an inherent characteristic of sovereignty enjoyed by the States had been broadly accepted at the time of the founding, one would expect to find it reflected somewhere in the five opinions delivered by the Court in Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. 419 (1793). Yet that view did not appear in any of them. And since a bare two years before Chisholm, the Bill of Rights had been added to the original Constitution, if the Tenth Amendment had been understood to give federal constitutional status to state sovereign immunity so as to endue it with the equivalent of the natural law conception, one would be certain to find such a development mentioned somewhere in the Chisholm writings. In fact, however, not one of the opinions espoused the natural law view, and not one of them so much as mentioned the Tenth Amendment. Not even Justice Iredell, who alone among the Justices thought that a State could not be sued in federal court, echoed Hamilton or hinted at a constitutionally immutable immunity doctrine.
Chisholm presented the questions whether a State might be made a defendant in a suit brought by a citizen of another State, and if so, whether an action of assumpsit would lie against it. See id., at 420 (questions presented).
Justice Wilson took up the argument for the sovereignty of the people more vociferously. Building on a conception of sovereignty he had already expressed at the Pennsylvania
As if to contrast his own directness
This was necessarily to reject any natural law conception of sovereign immunity as inherently attached to an American State, but this was not all. Justice Wilson went on to identify the origin of sovereign immunity in the feudal system that had, he said, been brought to England and to the common law by the Norman Conquest. After quoting Blackstone's formulation of the doctrine as it had developed in England, he discussed it in the most disapproving terms imaginable:
With this rousing conclusion of revolutionary ideology and rhetoric, Justice Wilson left no doubt that he thought the
Chief Justice Jay took a less vehement tone in his opinion, but he, too, denied the applicability of the doctrine of sovereign immunity to the States. He explained the doctrine as an incident of European feudalism, id., at 471, and said that by contrast,
From the difference between the sovereignty of princes and that of the people, Chief Justice Jay argued, it followed that a State might be sued. When a State sued another State, as all agreed it could do in federal court, all the people of one State sued all the people of the other. "But why it should be more incompatible, that all the people of a State should be sued by one citizen, than by one hundred thousand, I cannot perceive, the process in both cases being alike; and the consequences of a judgment alike." Id., at 473. Finally, Chief Justice Jay pointed out, Article III authorized suits between a State and citizens of another State. Although the Chief Justice reserved judgment on whether the United States might be sued by a citizen, given that the courts must rely on the Executive to implement their decisions, he made it clear that this reservation was practical, and not theoretical: "I wish the State of society was so far improved, and the science of Government advanced to such a degree of perfection, as that the whole nation could in the peaceable course
Justice Cushing's opinion relied on the express language of Article III to hold that Georgia might be sued in federal court. He dealt shortly with the objection that States' sovereignty would be thereby restricted so that States would be reduced to corporations: "As to corporations, all States whatever are corporations or bodies politic. The only question is, what are their powers?" Id., at 468. Observing that the Constitution limits the powers of the States in numerous ways, he concluded that "no argument of force can be taken from the sovereignty of States. Where it has been abridged, it was thought necessary for the greater indispensable good of the whole." Ibid. From the opinion, it is not possible to tell with certainty what Justice Cushing thought about state sovereign immunity in state court, although his introductory remark is suggestive. The case, he wrote, "turns not upon the law or practice of England, although perhaps it may be in some measure elucidated thereby, nor upon the law of any other country whatever; but upon the Constitution established by the people of the United States." Id., at 466. It is clear that he had no sympathy for a view of sovereign immunity inherent in statehood and untouchable by national legislative authority.
Justice Blair, like Justice Cushing, relied on Article III, and his brief opinion shows that he acknowledged state sovereign immunity, but common law immunity in state court. First, Justice Blair asked hypothetically whether a verdict against the plaintiff would be preclusive if the plaintiff "should renew his suit against the State, in any mode in
It is worth noting that for Justice Blair, the petition brought in state court was properly called a suit. This reflects the contemporary practice of his native Virginia, where, as we have seen, supra, at 769, suits as of right against the State were authorized by statute. Justice Blair called sovereignty "an exemption from suit in any other than the sovereign's own Courts" because he assumed that, in its own courts, a sovereign will naturally permit itself to be sued as of right.
Justice Iredell was the only Member of the Court to hold that the suit could not lie; but if his discussion was farreaching, his reasoning was cautious. Its core was that the Court could not assume a waiver of the State's common law sovereign immunity where Congress had not expressly passed such a waiver. See 2 Dall., at 449 (dissenting opinion). Although Justice Iredell added, in what he clearly identified as dictum, that he was "strongly against" any construction of the Constitution "which will admit, under any circumstances, a compulsive suit against a State for the recovery of money," ibid.,
This did not mean, of course, that the States had not delegated to Congress the power to subject them to suit, but merely that such a delegation would have been necessary on Justice Iredell's view.
In sum, then, in Chisholm two Justices (Jay and Wilson), one of whom had been present at the Constitutional Convention, took a position suggesting that States should not enjoy sovereign immunity (however conceived) even in their own courts; one (Cushing) was essentially silent on the issue of sovereign immunity in state court; one (Blair) took a cautious position affirming the pragmatic view that sovereign immunity was a continuing common law doctrine and that States would permit suit against themselves as of right; and one (Iredell) expressly thought that state sovereign immunity at common law rightly belonged to the sovereign States. Not a single Justice suggested that sovereign immunity was an inherent and indefeasible right of statehood, and neither counsel for Georgia before the Circuit Court, see n. 21, supra, nor Justice Iredell seems even to have conceived the possibility that the new Tenth Amendment produced the equivalent of such a doctrine. This dearth of support makes it very implausible for today's Court to argue that a substantial (let alone a dominant) body of thought at the time of the framing understood sovereign immunity to be an inherent right of statehood, adopted or confirmed by the Tenth Amendment.
The Court, citing Hans v. Louisiana, 134 U.S. 1 (1890), says that the Eleventh Amendment "overruled" Chisholm, ante, at 723, but the animadversion is beside the point. The significance of Chisholm is its indication that in 1788 and 1791 it was not generally assumed (indeed, hardly assumed at all) that a State's sovereign immunity from suit in its own courts was an inherent, and not merely a common law, advantage. On the contrary, the testimony of five eminent legal minds of the day confirmed that virtually everyone who understood immunity to be legitimate saw it as a common law prerogative (from which it follows that it was subject to abrogation by Congress as to a matter within Congress's Article I authority).
The Court does no better with its trio of arguments to undercut Chisholm`s legitimacy: that the Chisholm majority "failed to address either the practice or the understanding that prevailed in the States at the time the Constitution was adopted," ante, at 721; that "the majority suspected the decision would be unpopular and surprising," ibid.; and that "two Members of the majority acknowledged that the United States might well remain immune from suit despite" Article III, ante, at 722. These three claims do not, of course, go to the question whether state sovereign immunity was understood to be "fundamental" or "inherent," but in any case, none of them is convincing.
As for the second point, it is a remarkable doctrine that would hold anticipation of unpopularity the benchmark of constitutional error. In any event, the evidence proffered by the Court is merely this: that Justice Wilson thought the prerevolutionary conception of sovereignty misguided, 2 Dall., at 454-455; that Justice Cushing stated axiomatically that the Constitution could always be amended, id., at 468; that Chief Justice Jay noted that the losing defendant might still come to understand that sovereign immunity is inconsistent with republicanism, id., at 478-479; and that Attorney
As to the third objection, that two Justices noted that the United States might possess sovereign immunity notwithstanding Article III, I explained, supra, at 785-786, that Chief Justice Jay thought this possibility was purely practical, not at all legal, and without any implication for state immunity vis-à-vis federal claims. Justice Cushing was so little troubled by the possibility he raised that he wrote, "If this be a necessary consequence, it must be so," Chisholm, supra, at 469, and simply suggested a textual reading that might have led to a different consequence.
Nor can the Court make good on its claim that the enactment of the Eleventh Amendment retrospectively reestablished the view that had already been established at the time of the framing (though eluding the perception of all but one Member of the Supreme Court), and hence "acted . . . to restore the original constitutional design," ante, at 722.
It is clear enough that the Court has no historical predicate to argue for a fundamental or inherent theory of sovereign immunity as limiting authority elsewhere conferred by the Constitution or as imported into the Constitution by the Tenth Amendment. But what if the facts were otherwise and a natural law conception of state sovereign immunity in a State's own courts were implicit in the Constitution? On good authority, it would avail the State nothing, and the Court would be no less mistaken than it is already in sustaining the State's claim today.
The opinion of this Court that comes closer to embodying the present majority's inherent, natural law theory of sovereign immunity than any other I can find was written by Justice Holmes in Kawananakoa v. Polyblank, 205 U.S. 349 (1907).
Jean Bodin produced a similar explanation nearly threequarters of a century before Hobbes, see J. Bodin, Les six livres de la république, Bk. 1, ch. 8 (1577); Six Books of the Commonwealth 28 (M. Tooley transl. 1967) ("[T]he sovereign . . . cannot in any way be subject to the commands of another, for it is he who makes law"). Eliot cited Baldus for the crux of the theory: majesty is "a fulness of power subject to noe necessitie, limitted within no rules of publicke Law," 1 J. Eliot, De Jure Maiestatis: or Political Treatise of Government 15 (A. Grosart ed. 1882), and Baldus himself made the point in observing that no one is bound by his own statute as of necessity, see Commentary of Baldus on the statute Digna vox in Justinian's Code 1.14.4, Lectura super Codice folio 51b (Chapter De Legibus et constitutionibus) (Venice ed. 1496) ("nemo suo statuto ligatur necessitative").
The "jurists who believe in natural law" might have reproved Justice Holmes for his general skepticism about the intrinsic value of their views, but they would not have faulted him for seeing the consequence of their position: if the sovereign is not the source of the law to be applied, sovereign immunity has no applicability. Justice Holmes indeed explained that in the case of multiple sovereignties, the subordinate
There is no escape from the trap of Holmes's logic save recourse to the argument that the doctrine of sovereign immunity is not the rationally necessary or inherent immunity of the civilians, but the historically contingent, and to a degree illogical, immunity of the common law. But if the Court admits that the source of sovereign immunity is the common law, it must also admit that the common law doctrine could be changed by Congress acting under the Commerce Clause. It is not for me to say which way the Court should turn; but in either case it is clear that Alden's suit should go forward.
The Court's rationale for today's holding based on a conception of sovereign immunity as somehow fundamental to sovereignty or inherent in statehood fails for the lack of any substantial support for such a conception in the thinking of the founding era. The Court cannot be counted out yet, however, for it has a second line of argument looking not to a clause-based reception of the natural law conception or even to its recognition as a "background principle," see Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 72, but to a structural basis in the Constitution's creation of a federal system. Immunity, the
The National Constitution formally and finally repudiated the received political wisdom that a system of multiple sovereignties constituted the "great solecism of an imperium in imperio," cf. Bailyn, The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution, at 223.
Hence the flaw in the Court's appeal to federalism. The State of Maine is not sovereign with respect to the national objectives of the FLSA.
It is symptomatic of the weakness of the structural notion proffered by the Court that it seeks to buttress the argument by relying on "`the dignity and respect afforded a State,
It would be hard to imagine anything more inimical to the republican conception, which rests on the understanding of its citizens precisely that the government is not above them, but of them, its actions being governed by law just like their own. Whatever justification there may be for an American
It is equally puzzling to hear the Court say that "federal power to authorize private suits for money damages would place unwarranted strain on the States' ability to govern in accordance with the will of their citizens." Ante, at 750-751. So long as the citizens' will, expressed through state legislation, does not violate valid federal law, the strain will not be felt; and to the extent that state action does violate federal law, the will of the citizens of the United States already trumps that of the citizens of the State: the strain then is not only expected, but necessarily intended.
Least of all does the Court persuade by observing that "other important needs" than that of the "judgment creditor" compete for public money, ante, at 751. The "judgment creditor" in question is not a dunning bill collector, but a citizen whose federal rights have been violated, and a constitutional structure that stints on enforcing federal rights out of an abundance of delicacy toward the States has substituted politesse in place of respect for the rule of law.
If neither theory nor structure can supply the basis for the Court's conceptions of sovereign immunity and federalism, then perhaps history might. The Court apparently believes that because state courts have not historically entertained Commerce Clause based federal-law claims against the States, such an innovation carries a presumption of unconstitutionality. See ante, at 744 (arguing that absence of statutes authorizing suits against States in state court suggests an assumed absence of such power). At the outset, it has to be noted that this approach assumes a more cohesive record than history affords. In Hilton v. South Carolina Public Railways Comm'n, 502 U.S. 197 (1991) (Kennedy, J.), a case the Court labors mightily to distinguish, see ante, at 737,
It was at one time, though perhaps not from the framing, believed that "Congress' authority to regulate the States under the Commerce Clause" was limited by "certain underlying
Today, however, in light of Garcia, supra (overruling National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833 (1976)), the law is settled that federal legislation enacted under the Commerce Clause may bind the States without having to satisfy a test of undue incursion into state sovereignty. "[T]he fundamental limitation that the constitutional scheme imposes on the Commerce Clause to protect the `States as States' is one of process rather than one of result." Garcia, supra, at 554. Because the commerce power is no longer thought to be circumscribed, the dearth of prior private federal claims entertained against the States in state courts does not tell us anything, and reflects nothing but an earlier and less expansive application of the commerce power.
Least of all is it to the point for the Court to suggest that because the Framers would be surprised to find States subjected to a federal-law suit in their own courts under the commerce power, the suit must be prohibited by the Constitution. See ante, at 741-743 (arguing on the basis of the "historical record" that the Constitution would not have been adopted if it had been understood to allow suit against States
If the Framers would be surprised to see States subjected to suit in their own courts under the commerce power, they would be astonished by the reach of Congress under the Commerce Clause generally. The proliferation of Government, State and Federal, would amaze the Framers, and the administrative state with its reams of regulations would leave them rubbing their eyes. But the Framers' surprise at, say, the FLSA, or the Federal Communications Commission, or the Federal Reserve Board is no threat to the constitutionality of any one of them, for a very fundamental reason:
If today's decision occasions regret at its anomalous versions of history and federal theory, it is the more regrettable in being the second time the Court has suddenly changed the course of prior decision in order to limit the exercise of authority over a subject now concededly within the Article I jurisdiction of the Congress. The FLSA, which requires employers to pay a minimum wage, was first enacted in 1938, with an exemption for States acting as employers. See Maryland v. Wirtz, 392 U.S. 183, 185-186 (1968). In 1966, it was amended to remove the state employer exemption so far as it concerned workers in hospitals, institutions, and schools. See id., at 186-187, and n. 6. In Wirtz, the Court upheld the amendment over the dissent's argument that extending the FLSA to these state employees was "such a serious invasion of state sovereignty protected by the Tenth Amendment that it is . . . not consistent with our constitutional federalism." Id., at 201 (opinion of Douglas, J.).
In 1974, Congress again amended the FLSA, this time "extend[ing] the minimum wage and maximum hour provisions to almost all public employees employed by the States and by their various political subdivisions." National League of Cities, 426 U. S., at 836. This time the Court went the other way: in National League of Cities, the Court held the extension of the Act to these employees an unconstitutional infringement of state sovereignty, id., at 852; for good measure, the Court overturned Wirtz, dismissing its reasoning as no longer authoritative, see 426 U. S., at 854-855.
But National League of Cities was not the last word. In Garcia, decided some nine years later, the Court addressed the question whether a municipally owned mass-transit
The FLSA has not, however, fared as well in practice as it has in theory. The Court in Seminole Tribe created a significant impediment to the statute's practical application by rendering its damages provisions unenforceable against the States by private suit in federal court. Today's decision blocking private actions in state courts makes the barrier to individual enforcement a total one.
The Court might respond to the charge that in practice it has vitiated Garcia by insisting, as counsel for Maine argued, Brief for Respondent 11-12, that the United States may bring suit in federal court against a State for damages under the FLSA, on the authority of United States v. Texas, 143 U.S. 621, 644-645 (1892). See also Seminole Tribe, 517 U. S., at 71, n. 14. It is true, of course, that the FLSA does authorize the Secretary of Labor to file suit seeking damages, see 29 U. S. C. § 216(c), but unless Congress plans a significant expansion of the National Government's litigating forces to provide a lawyer whenever private litigation is barred by today's decision and Seminole Tribe, the allusion to enforcement of private rights by the National Government is probably not much more than whimsy. Facing reality, Congress specifically found, as long ago as 1974, "that the enforcement capability of the Secretary of Labor is not alone sufficient to provide redress in all or even a substantial portion of the situations where compliance is not forthcoming voluntarily." S. Rep. No. 93-690, p. 27 (1974). One hopes that such voluntary compliance will prove more popular than it has in Maine, for there is no reason today to suspect that enforcement by the Secretary of Labor alone would likely prove adequate to assure compliance with this federal law in the multifarious circumstances of some 4.7 million employees of the 50 States of the Union.
The point is not that the difficulties of enforcement should drive the Court's decision, but simply that where Congress has created a private right to damages, it is implausible to claim that enforcement by a public authority without any incentive beyond its general enforcement power will ever afford the private right a traditionally adequate remedy. No
So there is much irony in the Court's profession that it grounds its opinion on a deeply rooted historical tradition of sovereign immunity, when the Court abandons a principle nearly as inveterate, and much closer to the hearts of the Framers: that where there is a right, there must be a remedy. Lord Chief Justice Holt could state this as an unquestioned proposition already in 1702, as he did in Ashby v. White, 6 Mod. 45, 53-54, 87 Eng. Rep. 808, 815 (Q. B.):
Yet today the Court has no qualms about saying frankly that the federal right to damages afforded by Congress under the FLSA cannot create a concomitant private remedy. The right was "made for the benefit of" petitioners; they have been "hindered by another of that benefit"; but despite what has long been understood as the "necessary consequence of law," they have no action, cf. Ashby, supra, at 53, 87 Eng. Rep., at 815. It will not do for the Court to respond that a remedy was never available where the right in question was against the sovereign. A State is not the sovereign when a federal claim is pressed against it, and even the English sovereign opened itself to recovery and,
The Court has swung back and forth with regrettable disruption on the enforceability of the FLSA against the States, but if the present majority had a defensible position one could at least accept its decision with an expectation of stability ahead. As it is, any such expectation would be naïve. The resemblance of today's state sovereign immunity to the Lochner era's industrial due process is striking. The Court began this century by imputing immutable constitutional status to a conception of economic self-reliance that was never true to industrial life and grew insistently fictional with the years, and the Court has chosen to close the century by conferring like status on a conception of state sovereign immunity that is true neither to history nor to the structure of the Constitution. I expect the Court's late essay into immunity doctrine will prove the equal of its earlier experiment in laissez-faire, the one being as unrealistic as the other, as indefensible, and probably as fleeting.
Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance were filed for the Commonwealth of Kentucky by Stuart E. Alexander III; for the State of Maryland et al. by J. Joseph Curran, Jr., Attorney General of Maryland, and Andrew H. Baida and Michele J. McDonald, Assistant Attorneys General, and by the Attorneys General for their respective States as follows: Bill Pryor of Alabama, Janet Napolitano of Arizona, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Ken Salazar of Colorado, M. Jane Brady of Delaware, Robert A. Butterworth of Florida, Thurbert E. Baker of Georgia, Margery S. Bronster of Hawaii, Alan G. Lance of Idaho, Jeffrey A. Modisett of Indiana, Thomas J. Miller of Iowa, Carla J. Stovall of Kansas, Thomas F. Reilly of Massachusetts, Jennifer M. Granholm of Michigan, Mike Moore of Mississippi, Don Stenberg of Nebraska, Frankie Sue Del Papa of Nevada, Philip T. McLaughlin of New Hampshire, Peter Verniero of New Jersey, Eliot Spitzer of New York, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, W. A. Drew Edmondson of Oklahoma, Hardy Myers of Oregon, D. Michael Fisher of Pennsylvania, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Charles M. Condon of South Carolina, Mark Barnett of South Dakota, Paul G. Summers of Tennessee, John Cornyn of Texas, Jan Graham of Utah, William H. Sorrell of Vermont, Mark L. Earley of Virginia, Darrell V. McGraw of West Virginia, James E. Doyle of Wisconsin, and Guy Woodhouse of Wyoming; for the Home School Legal Defense Association by Michael P. Farris; for the Pacific Legal Foundation by M. Reed Hopper; and for the National Conference of State Legislatures et al. by Richard Ruda and Richard H. Seamon.
Nor is the Court correct to say that the views of Wilson, Randolph, and General Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, see n. 17, infra, "cannot bear the weight" I put upon them, ante, at 725. Indeed, the yoke is light, since I intend these Framers only to do their part in showing that a diversity of views with respect to sovereignty and sovereign immunity existed at the several state conventions, and that this diversity stands in the way of the Court's assumption that the founding generation understood sovereign immunity in the natural law sense as indefeasibly "fundamental" to statehood.
Finally, the Court calls Wilson's view "a radical nationalist vision of the constitutional design," ibid., apparently in an attempt to discount it. But while Wilson's view of sovereignty was indeed radical in its deviation from older conceptions, this hardly distanced him from the American mainstream, and in October 1787, Washington himself called Wilson "as able, candid, & honest a member as any in Convention," 5 Papers of George Washington: Confederation Series 379 (W. Abbot & D. Twohig eds. 1997).
The first trouble with this view is that it assumes that the Eleventh Amendment was intended to reach all federal-law suits, and not only those arising under diversity jurisdiction. If the framers of the Eleventh Amendment had in mind only diversity cases, as the Court was prepared to concede in Seminole Tribe, see 517 U. S., at 69-70 ("The text dealt in terms only with the problem presented by the decision in Chisholm . . . . [I]t seems unlikely that much thought was given to the prospect of federal-question jurisdiction over the States"), then it might plausibly follow that the framers of that Amendment assumed that States possessed sovereign immunity in their own courts with respect to state law. But it certainly does not follow that the Amendment's authors would have thought that States enjoyed immunity in state court on questions of federal law. To accept this would require one to believe that the framers of the Eleventh Amendment were blind to an extremely anomalous application of sovereign immunity, under which a State is immune even when it is not the font of the law under which it is sued, cf. infra, at 797-798, 800. The Court today may labor under the misapprehension that sovereign immunity can apply where the sovereign is not the font of law, but the Court adduces no evidence to suggest that the framers of the Eleventh Amendment held such a view. And the framers were much closer than the Court to the theory of sovereign immunity according to which the font of law may not be subject to suit under that law. This leaves the Court in the position of supporting its view of what the Eleventh Amendment means by the "historical" assertion that the framers must have intended it to mean the same.
Maine's refusal to follow federal law in the case before us, however, is of a different order. Far from defaulting on debt to eyes-open creditors, Maine is simply withholding damages from private citizens to whom they appear to be due. Before Seminole Tribe was decided, petitioners here were the beneficiaries of a District Court ruling to the effect that they were entitled to some coverage, and hence to some amount of damages, under the FLSA. Mills v. Maine, 839 F.Supp. 3 (Me. 1993). Before us, Maine has not claimed that petitioners are not covered by the FLSA, but only that it is protected from suit. Indeed, Maine acknowledges that it may be sued by the United States in federal court for damages on the very same claim, Brief for Respondent 12-13, and we are told that Maine now pays employees like petitioners overtime as covered by the FLSA, id., at 3. Why the State of Maine has not rendered this case unnecessary by paying damages to petitioners under the FLSA of its own free will remains unclear to me. The Court says that "it is conceded by all that the State has altered its conduct so that its compliance with federal law cannot now be questioned." Ante, at 759. But the ambiguous qualifier "now" allows the Court to avoid the fact that whatever its forward-looking compliance, the State still has not paid damages to petitioners; had it done so, the case before us would be moot.