• Exploring American History

10th Amendment – Power to the People

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


The federal government is composed of Congress, the President and the Supreme Court. The Constitution of the United States spells out the powers allocated to each of these three branches in the first three Articles (1 – Congress, 2 – President, 3 – Supreme Court). Any power or authority not listed in these three articles belongs either to the state governments or the people.


The 10th Amendment was added to the Constitution in order to ensure the branches of the federal government did not overstep their bounds and to remind those individuals their power comes from the people.


Some ask – “Which is higher – state or federal law?”


To being with, the Constitution of the United States outranks everything regarding U.S. law. At the same time, the text of the Constitution limits the quantity of authority the federal government actually has. If a power or authority is not mentioned in the Constitution, it is denied to the federal government and belongs to either the states or the people.


Powers held by the federal government include:


· Collecting taxes

· Declaring war

· Coining & regulating money

· Regulate the mail


State government authorities include:


· Collect local taxes

· Hold elections

· Build & maintain roads

· Traffic laws


States are forbidden from:


· Establishing treaties with foreign governments

· Coining money

· Taxing imports and exports


States have the authority to pass laws as they see fit; however, the federal government is allowed to intervene when the nation’s interest is involved.


Though the 9th and 10th amendments compare to each other in view of the fact they both rein in the power of the federal government, the 10th Amendment establishes “states” and “powers”. It serves to confirm on the people the reason the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution – to protect the people and states from an overreaching federal government.




“The powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.”

James Madison

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