10th Amendment Simplified

10th Amendment to US Constitution
The 10th Amendment states that powers not granted to the federal government belong to the states, or to the people.

Amendment 10 is perhaps the simplest amendment of all 27 and the most straightforward of the first 10 amendments in the Bill of Rights.

What is the 10th Amendment?

The 10th Amendment simply says that any powers that aren’t mentioned in the Constitution as belonging to the government belong to the states themselves.

Read on to find out what this actually means.

10th Amendment
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.

Limiting Federal Power

In simple terms, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution sets out the limits to the powers of the federal government. 

Government buildings
Washington, DC.

It states that any powers that the Constitution does not give to the federal government are the states’ responsibility.

These “powers” fall into three categories:

Expressed Powers

Expressed Powers are sometimes referred to as “enumerated powers.” These are the powers given to Congress by the United States Constitution.

US tank
The right to declare war is an expressed power of the federal government.

Included among these powers is the right to:

  • Declare war
  • Print paper money and mint coinage
  • Issue regulations to control foreign trade and the trade carried out between the states
  • Run a postal service
  • Control the granting of patents

Reserved Powers

Reserved powers are those given to individual states. Reserved powers examples include:

  • calling and holding elections
  • organizing police provision
  • issuing licenses for a range of things such as hunting, marriage, and driving
Issuing marriage licenses is a reserved power of the states.

The states are also responsible for ratifying amendments proposed to the US Constitution.

Shared Powers

Shared or concurrent powers are those that are the responsibility of both state governments and the federal government.

Raising taxes is one of the most important of these. Taxes are needed at the local state level to cover the cost of police departments, fire departments, and various public facilities.

Tax filing
Taxation is a power that is shared between the states and the federal government.

The federal government needs tax income to provide military services and a range of national commitments.

Crossover Between State and Federal Laws

Where federal and state laws are similar, then the federal law will take precedence over the state law. 

Sometimes conflict can occur when the state law disagrees with the federal law. There are several examples of this situation occurring recently, including drug enforcement.

Why Was the 10th Amendment Necessary?

Although the predecessor to the US Constitution, the Articles of Confederation made clear that each state would retain its freedom and sovereignty, it was felt that the matter needed clarifying in the Constitution itself.

James Madison
Founding Father, James Madison.

James Madison, who was the architect of the first ten Amendments, originally proposed at the Constitutional Convention, and included in the Bill of Rights knew that the states needed to feel confident about the limits of federal power. 

He introduced the 10th Amendment so there would be no doubt about the separation between states’ and federal powers.

Critics of the 10th Amendment

The 10th Amendment was criticized by Founding Fathers such as Alexander Hamilton as being superfluous when James Madison proposed it. 

Map of United States
Madison sought greater clarification on federal and state powers via the 10th Amendment.

It seems that Madison was reacting to suggestions being made by the states themselves and felt that it would be better to include an amendment that clarified the division of powers between the federal government and the states.

The Bill of Rights had strong support from men like Thomas Jefferson and George Mason, which aided Madison’s cause.

Madison appealed to the Senate to pass the amendment on the grounds that there was no harm in doing so. He felt that precision in the matter was better than upsetting the states.

Senate Approval of the 10th Amendment

The 10th Amendment passed the Senate and was sent to the House of Representatives for approval. 

United States Congress
The United States Senate approved the 10th Amendment.

The Senate clerk felt it appropriate to add the phrase “or to the people” at the end of the text. The circumstances of that addition being made are not known.

Similarly, the Ninth Amendment stated that any unenumerated right belonged to the people, not the federal government.

The 10th Amendment is the last of the 10 Amendments that comprise the United States Bill of Rights.

State Ratification

The 10th Amendment was proposed to the legislatures by the First Congress on September 25, 1789. 

The following States ratified it, and the President successively communicated the notifications of ratification by the Governors thereof to Congress:

New Jersey, November 20, 1789;

Maryland, December 19, 1789;

North Carolina, December 22, 1789;

South Carolina, January 19, 1790;

New Hampshire, January 25, 1790;

Delaware, January 28, 1790;

New York, February 24, 1790;

Pennsylvania, March 10, 1790;

Rhode Island, June 7, 1790;

Vermont, November 3, 1791;

Virginia, December 15, 1791.

Ratification was completed on December 15, 1791. The amendments were subsequently ratified by the legislatures of:

Massachusetts, March 2, 1939;

Georgia, March 18, 1939;

Connecticut, April 19, 1939.


18 Responses

  1. Can states stop illegal immigrants from entering their borders even though the POTUS allows illegal immigration?

    1. Yes.
      Btw, how can a President “allow” ILLEGAL immigration? POTUS and the federal government is responsible to keep “trespassers/invaders” OUT of the “United” States. If feds fail that responsibilty, states may (SHOULD!) arrest “illegal” persons.
      It is patently illogical (a contradiction in terms) for feds to “allow”/permit ILLEGAL entry.

      1. They aren’t illegal when they come though the border. Stop being a hater. 627,027 died of Covid because of stupid people, we have room for some people fleeing war, hunger, homelessness.

        1. The people who cross the border, without permission, are ‘Breaking the Law’. They start their lives in the US, as Criminals. If they cross the Border in a wave of people, they are INVADERS (Look up the term). Before you call somebody a “Stupid”, I suggest you don’t look “stupid saying it.

        2. Penn they are bringing in diseases, apparently, you are not in the medical field. I spoke with a nurse who had an influx of TB in Canada when they had open borders for many coming in from other countries. So this is what you want, a high percentage in the US? Do you want the Constitution to be disregarded? Take out on portion can lead to others like being able to post here.

        3. Technically, being in this country without a visa, or being a naturalized citizen is a crime. It is a minor crime but still a crime. What is more interesting to track the influx of immigrants in relationship to the strength of the political party in power. Moreover, it is interesting for a discourse perspective to note how political correctness has changed the narrative. To be clear it is a tragedy when any life is lost due to something that is preventable. America reached the one million death toll mark because of the pandemic.
          A question that begs discussion is: How many of the immigrants died because of the “anti-vaccination crowd?”
          Corollary to this question is “When does the alleged rights of Americans who complain about government interference give way to the rising death count? Two million, three, four etc

          1. Interesting that you state as fact we reached the one million death toll mark because of the pandemic when there has been no significant change in mortality in recent years.
            70% of deaths from Covid in Canada since February of this year are among double vaxed and boosted. Looks like the “anti vaxers” have a more solid case now. And for clarification, we are not anti vaccination. We just don’t trust the Fauci Ouchy.

      2. The current administration is “allowing” people from other countries to enter the USA without going through the immigration process, so the current Biden / Harris administration is ignoring the immigration process, thus allowing illegal immigration.

      3. Explain the term “illegal immigrant.” How is one an “illegal immigrant” in a country stolen from its original inhabitants–the native Americans? Every person descended from the European invaders who plundered and stole this land through the genocide of its original people can rightly be called an “illegal immigrant.”

    2. While it’s my opinion, if immigration control powers were given to the feds by the states and the feds refuse to exercise that power then shouldn’t states retake that authority?

  2. The provisions of the Constitution only work if you have rational executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. As witnessed by the Trump administration, who were not willing to obey conventional policies and processes for governing, namely a tyrant in the executive branch placing political judges on the Supreme Court, the Constitution is not working. Subpoenas by the legislative branch are ignored by the executive branch. The Supreme Court makes decisions that 70% of the population find unpopular. Lies about the legality of 2020 election are prompting audits that violate free and fair elections. Gerrymandering is making it impossible for a more equal vote for legislators to congress. In short, the Constitution is not working now. Something has to be done!

    1. Would you consider the Trump presidency rational if your mother or sister or daughter were sexually assaulted by Trump? I am thing of the audio recording of Trump stating “Grab them by their pussies”
      Or the Russian collusion in the election? Or the attempted overthrow of the United States Government?

  3. you really need to study the US Constitution. 1 IRS and banking see 4th Admen.2 2 Laws regarding elections, Only written by legislators, period. Want to change that? Only by a Convention of States. Not by Senators and Reps. 3 Four Supreme Court Cases beginning in the 1800’s and the last in 1966 (I believe called “Precedence” deal with that, also fifth case by Supreme Court of California in 2007. In essence, Any law or code that violates a state or the federal Constitution is automatically void.Not, we shall make a decision, automatically. Period

  4. keep “trespassers/invaders” OUT of the “United” States. If feds fail that responsibility, States may (SHOULD!) arrest “illegal” persons.

  5. Dale, isn’t there a process for asylum? If someone defects? Those who cross illegally would have to “seek asylum.”

    1. Anyone and everyone can claim asylum. Once asylum is claimed, a court date is given to that person so they can prove they need asylum. Today, everyone who comes to the border is saying they are seeking asylum because they know that will let them in. Because of the numbers of people seeking asylum at the border, court dates are about 5 years out for them. In the meantime, those people stay with families or sponsoring families in the US. They are able to work in the US while waiting their court date. From what I have heard from CBP officers, only about 12% of asylum seekers actually go to their court date.

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