Knowledge — 3 years ago

10th Amendment Definition and the Rights it Guarantees

by Kelly B.

10th Amendment, 10th Amendment Definition

10th Amendment: What is the 10th Amendment?

The 10th amendment to the United States Constitution passed on 1791, is designed to protect the rights of both the individual and the state. Part of the all-important Bill of Rights, this an easily understood amendment. The 10th Amendment relates to “Reserved Powers.” But what does this mean?

What Does the 10th Amendment Say?

According to the 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.” These lines, while seemingly simple are the crux of what the roles of the federal government and the state government shall be.

But what did our forefathers mean when they crafted these carefully worded lines? In essence, they say that the federal government’s powers are only those which are granted to it by the Constitution of the United States of America. 

10th Amendment
What Are Federal Government Powers?

So what powers are these? The prominent ones relate to things like the power to declare war, tax collection, as well as the regulation of interstate activities by businesses. These are things that have an impact across state lines or affect the country as a whole.

The Role and Powers of State Governments

The 10th amendment doesn’t specify what powers belong to the states but says that what is not specified as being a national government power by the constitution belongs to either the people or the states. A ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court says that things that relate to local law enforcement, a business within state lines, and family-related laws like marriage and divorce, adoption of a child should be reserved for the states and people.

Why the 10th Amendment is Important

The 10th amendment relates to the division of powers between the federal government and the state governments. In a sense, it is the basis of what federalism means and defines the scope of powers of the national government.

What it also does is highlight an important aspect of how our system of governance is designed. The United States national government is one that has limited powers that are specifically listed out in the Constitution. The basic nature of the national government is not altered in any form by the addition of the Bill of Rights.

10th Amendment Definition
The other thing that this amendment implies is that when a decision is being made or action being taken by the federal government, one must consider if it means the national government is exceeding the powers enumerated or is within its rights to make this decision or action. This comes before the question of whether or not the decision/action violates an individual’s rights. Before it comes down to the nitty-gritty of you as an individual and your rights, you could fundamentally question whether it is even within its rights to take this action on ANYone.

Growth in Activity Levels of Government Brings Its Challenges

We’ve certainly come a long way since 1791. The needs of people, businesses, and society have become more complex. Alongside, the federal government activity has risen considerably, and this has its tricky ground to tread. The challenge has been one of reconciling the national interests with those of the state. Areas like wage laws, hour laws, the powers of the police, taxation, strip-mining, and personal information disclosure(in the context of record keeping) have often been in the spotlight. In more recent times, there have been cases that have come before the Supreme Court, about the 10th Amendment. They usually relate to federal government action that commands state governments on policies they need to adopt or regulates them in some other way.


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