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Maryland v. Wirtz


Maryland v. Wirtz was an important step in the battle over the nature of federalism--the balance of power between the states and the federal government. This decision clearly established the sovereignty of the federal government, even if a federal ruling could be shown to have harmful effects on the states' ability "to provide for the welfare or necessities of their inhabitants."

When the U.S. Constitution was first submitted to the 13 colonies for ratification, the colonies were concerned about maintaining the autonomy they had enjoyed before the Revolution. For this and other reasons, the states refused to ratify the Constitution until the Bill of Rights was added. The Tenth Amendment to the Constitution specifically addresses the question of states' rights:

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

One of the most important rights that was delegated to the United States was the right to regulate interstate commerce. The so-called "Commerce Clause," Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution specifies that, "The congress shall have power . . . to regulate commerce . . . among the several States . . ." The tension between the states' rights to govern themselves and the federal government's right to regulate interstate commerce was at the heart of the conflict in Maryland v. Wirtz.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972Maryland v. Wirtz - Significance, Minimum Wage And Overtime, Interstate Commerce And Labor Peace, Disrupting The Fiscal Policy Of The States