“The Tenth Amendment was intended to confirm the understanding of the people at the time the Constitution was adopted, that powers not granted to the United States were reserved to the States or to the people. It added nothing to the instrument as originally ratified.’’ – United States v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716, 733 (1931).
The founding fathers had good reason to pen the Tenth Amendment.
The issue of power – and especially the great potential for a power struggle between the federal and the state governments – was extremely important to the America’s founders. They deeply distrusted government power, and their goal was to prevent the growth of the type of government that the British has exercised over the colonies.
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.
Adoption of the Constitution of 1787 was opposed by a number of well-known patriots including Patrick Henry, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and others. They passionately argued that the Constitution would eventually lead to a strong, centralized state power which would destroy the individual liberty of the People. Many in this movement were given the poorly-named tag “Anti-Federalists.”
The Tenth Amendment was added to the Constitution of 1787 largely because of the intellectual influence and personal persistence of the Anti-Federalists and their allies.
It’s quite clear that the Tenth Amendment was written to emphasize the limited nature of the powers delegated to the federal government. In delegating just specific powers to the federal government, the states and the people, with some small exceptions, were free to continue exercising their sovereign powers.
When states and local communities take the lead on policy, the people are that much closer to the policymakers, and policymakers are that much more accountable to the people. Few Americans have spoken with their president; many have spoken with their mayor.
Adherence to the Tenth Amendment is the first step towards ensuring liberty in the United States. Liberty through decentralization.