Tenth Amendment

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps

Page 460

The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution reads:

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.

Ratified in 1791, the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution embodies the general principles of FEDERALISM in a republican form of government. The Constitution specifies the parameters of authority that may be exercised by the three branches of the federal government: executive, legislative, and judicial. The Tenth Amendment reserves to the states all powers that are not granted to the federal government by the Constitution, except for those powers that states are constitutionally forbidden from exercising.

For example, nowhere in the federal Constitution is Congress given authority to regulate local matters concerning the health, safety, and morality of state residents. Known as POLICE POWERS, such authority is reserved to the states under the Tenth Amendment. Conversely, no state may enter into a treaty with a foreign government because such agreements are prohibited by the plain language of Article I to the Constitution.

At the time the states adopted the Tenth Amendment, two primary conceptions of government were under consideration. Many federalists supported a centralized national authority, with power concentrated in a single entity. This type of government was exemplified by the English constitutional system, which vested absolute authority in the monarchy during the seventeenth century and in Parliament during the eighteenth century.

On the other hand, many anti-federalists supported a more republican form of government consisting of a loose confederation of sovereign states that would form an alliance only for the purpose of mutual defense. The ARTICLES OF CONFEDERATION, which governed the 13 states in national matters until 1787, when the Constitution was ratified, epitomized this form of government. Under the Articles of Confederation, the national government was unable to levy and collect taxes on its own behalf.

Many federalists, such as JAMES MADISON, argued that the Tenth Amendment was unnecessary because the powers of the federal government are carefully enumerated and limited in the Constitution. Because the Constitution does not give Congress, the president, or the federal judiciary the prerogative to regulate wholly local matters, Madison concluded that no such power existed and no such power would ever be exercised. However, British oppression had made the Founding Fathers fearful of unchecked centralized power. The Tenth Amendment was enacted to limit federal power. Although it appears...

To continue reading