11th Amendment: Lesson for Kids

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  • 0:04 What Is the 11th Amendment?
  • 1:20 11th Amendment Purpose
  • 2:07 11th Amendment Interpretation
  • 2:48 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Diane Sieverson

Diane has taught all subjects at the elementary level, was the principal of a K-8 private school and has a master's degree in Measurement and Evaluation.

Expert Contributor
Lesley Chapel

Lesley has taught American and World History at the university level for the past seven years. She has a Master's degree in History.

The 11th Amendment to the US Constitution was added in 1795. Come learn about this amendment, why it was added to the Constitution, and some other interesting facts about this amendment.

What Is the 11th Amendment?

If someone ran into your bicycle and broke it into pieces, you would probably want them to fix it or get you a new one. When things like that happen to adults, they sometimes hire a lawyer, go to court, and sue the other person or a company. And though people can sue other people and businesses, you can't sue your state or any other state thanks to the 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

When a person sues someone, they're using laws to try and get a U.S. court to force a person or company to do something or give them something because they believe they've been mistreated or hurt. In the case of the broken bicycle, you might sue the person for money to replace the bike if they don't want to take responsibility for it.

The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says that U.S. courts cannot hear cases and make decisions against a state if it is sued by a citizen who lives in another state or a person who lives in another country.

Unlike people and companies, states have sovereign immunity, which means that they're protected by law from being sued unless they give permission or the federal government gives permission. Without this permission, the 11th Amendment stops courts from hearing cases if a state is sued.

11th Amendment Purpose

States didn't always have sovereign immunity. Not long after the Constitution was ratified, or approved, people could and did sue some states for different reasons.

One important case that led to the addition of the 11th Amendment was Chisholm vs. Georgia. A man named Chisholm, who lived in South Carolina, sued the state of Georgia in 1793 because he said it owed him money borrowed during the Revolutionary War. The Supreme Court said the case could go to the federal courts.

At the same time, a British citizen sued the state of Massachusetts because his property had been taken away from him during the war. In order to prevent more lawsuits and keep British citizens from getting the land back that they lost, the 11th Amendment was added to the Constitution.

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Additional Activities

Prompts About the 11th Amendment for Kids:

Definitions Prompt:

Provide the definitions, in your own words, of the bolded terms from the lesson (sues, 11th Amendment, sovereign, immunity). Each definition should be one to two sentences in length.

Tip: You may want to provide the pronunciation of sovereign in parentheses.

Essay Prompt 1:

In at least one paragraph, write an essay that explains why the 11th Amendment was added to the Constitution. Be sure that your essay describes the notable court cases that occurred before the 11th Amendment was passed, and explains why these cases helped lead to the creation of the 11th Amendment.

Example: After the Revolutionary War, a British citizen in Massachusetts tried to sue the state over property he had lost during the war. The 11th Amendment was designed to prevent future lawsuits like this.

Essay Prompt 2:

Write an essay of one paragraph that explains how the Supreme Court has interpreted the 11th Amendment. Consider what the Supreme Court has said about a person suing their own state, as well as whether or not the federal government can sue states and if states can sue each other. What does the example of the lawsuit between Montana and Wyoming illustrate about the 11th Amendment?

Example: The Supreme Court has ruled that states can sue each other.

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