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The 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution Explained

10th Amendment of the Constitution
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 10th Amendment of the United States Constitution sets out the limits to the powers of the Federal government. It states that any powers that the Constitution does not give to the federal government are the responsibility of the states themselves. The “powers” referred to fall into three categories:

Expressed Powers

Expressed Powers are sometimes referred to as “enumerated powers. These are the powers given to Congress by the Constitution of the US. 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 on between the states, run a postal service, and control the granting of patents.

Reserved Powers

Reserved powers are those given to individual states. The reserved powers include calling and holding elections, organizing police provision, issuing licenses for a range of things such as hunting, marriage, driving, and so on. The states also have a responsibility to ratify amendments proposed to the US Constitution.

Shared Powers

Shared, or concurrent, powers are those that are the responsibility of both the 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 a variety of public facilities. The federal government needs tax income to provide military services and a whole range of national commitments. Where there exist both federal and state laws that are similar, then the federal law will take precedence over the state law. Sometimes conflict can occur where 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, who was the architect of the first ten Amendments knew that the states needed to feel confident about the limits to federal powers. He introduced the 10th Amendment so that there would be no doubt as to the separation between states’ powers and federal powers. The 10th Amendment was criticized as being unnecessary and superfluous when Madison proposed it. It seems, though, that he was reacting to suggestions being made by the states themselves, and felt that it would be a better idea to include an amendment that clarified the division of powers between the federal government and the states. He 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. The 10th Amendment passed the Senate and was then sent to the House of Representatives for their approval. 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. The 10th Amendment is the last of the ten Amendments that comprise the United States Bill of Rights.

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8 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. 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.

  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!

  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

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