The Supreme Court established that U.S. treaties prevail over conflicting state laws.
The 1783 Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War specified that the newly independent states would not interfere with the collection of prewar debts, but Virginia passed a law allowing its citizens to pay the Virginia treasury in depreciated currency and receive a certificate satisfying the debt. John Marshall, who later became chief justice, unsuccessfully represented a Virginia debtor, losing the only case he argued before the Supreme Court. The Court clearly ruled the treaty valid and binding on Virginia because of the supremacy clause, Article VI of the Constitution, which established the supremacy of federal treaties over conflicting state laws. Justices Samuel Chase, William Paterson, James Wilson, and William Cushing each wrote a serial opinion as was the custom at the time. Justices Oliver Ellsworth and James Iredell did not participate, but Iredell later submitted a written opinion for the record.
States’ rights and state sovereignty