We’ve finished the original Constitution and the first nine amendments. Today, we’ll consider the Tenth Amendment.
This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
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.
This amendment is very short and concise, but it’s one of the most important statements in the entire Constitution. It’s also one that has been increasingly ignored throughout our history.
To put this amendment into perspective, we need to remember the roots of the Constitution itself. It was an agreement—a treaty, if you will—among sovereign states. The signers of our Constitution were not appointed by some king, nor were they elected in some national referendum. They were appointed by the legislatures of the states which were party to this treaty.
In coming together to form a nation, the states gave up part of their sovereignty. The experiment of the Articles of Confederation had shown the folly of trying to form a national government without giving it the power to govern, but none of the delegates wanted to cede too much power to the federal government either. They were concerned about loosing some sort of monster central government that would run rampant over the very states that created it.
Much of the basic document concerned itself with limiting the power of each branch and setting each branch as a check against the powers of the other two. In this amendment, they clearly limited the powers of the federal government to those that were specifically delineated, reserving ALL other powers to the states or the people.
In the 1860’s, we totally ignored this amendment, with the federal government declaring war on a number of its constituent states. No such power was given to the federal government—it was usurped in order to pursue a political agenda.
Under the guise of freeing slaves—which was never the main issue—the U. S. Army was deployed to invade the southern states. The rights of these states and their citizens were completely ignored and trampled.
This abrogation of the Constitution continued after the war when the southern states, which the northerners maintained couldn’t secede, were forced to ratify the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments as a condition of being readmitted to the union. These states could not secede, which implies they were always part of the union, yet they had to be readmitted? Huh?
More recently, the state of Arizona has been told it could not protect its own citizens against an onslaught of illegal aliens. The federal government has inflicted itself so much on our local school systems, voters have almost no say in what goes on. How can this be justified in light of the Tenth Amendment?
I won’t take my research time or your reading time dredging up other instances of violation of this amendment by the federal government, but there have been many. It’s too bad federal judges, Supreme Court justices and elected federal officials don’t know how to read the Constitution.
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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