The Tenth Amendment
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
The Tenth Amendment piggybacks off the Ninth Amendment. It 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”
States had existed under the Articles of Confederation as independent but unified states prior to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. However, Federalists and Anti-Federalists grappled over the inclusion of a Bill of Rights, because Federalists believed a Bill of Rights would limit the freedom of the individual as rights not listed might be assumed to be left to the discretion of the federal government. However, after much debate, a Bill of Rights was included to protect certain rights that the Framers found to be crucial to the survival of a free nation.
The language of this amendment aims to reinforce the idea that the federal government had limited power, and anything that was uncertain was left up to the states, which are supposed to act as defenders of individual rights. The amendment is also important because it emphasizes the idea that even though the Bill of Rights clearly protects certain rights, the fundamental role of the government was not altered by the inclusive list. Rather, the Bill of Rights listed just a few inalienable rights, while other rights were to be respected and protected, but also left to the state and the people.
The Tenth Amendment serves as a check on not whether the federal government violated someone’s rights, but whether their actions exceed the federal governments enumerated powers as laid forth in the Constitution.