The 10th Amendment

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The tenth amendment states that 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 tenth amendment, which is part of the Bill of Rights, was ratified in December 1971. Many have argued that this amendment contradicts the ninth amendment, which states that the constitution of the United States does not give any other rights that are not numerated. When the tenth amendment was made, the constitution did not apply to individual states yet, but it did apply to the federal state.

Most federalists who wanted the constitution amended, because they felt that all rights had been granted in the constitution. According to James Madison, a veteran federalist, no single arm of government had the powers to single-handedly influence policies; not the president, the judiciary or the legislature had such powers. He argued that the absence of such powers protected the people as no abuse of power could occur. The oppression in Britain had made these founding fathers very cautious not to place too much power in the hands of an individual or institution. This is the reason why they always put checks and balances to ensure this did not happen (Killenbeck 42).

Prior to the civil war, many politicians read the tenth amendment. None of the states wanted a state that could not protect them from them from internal aggression or from external enemies. They all needed to feel safe and secure at all times. While security was a major concern, they also wanted the local authority to take care of some of the issues in their locality. After the war, the states decided to suspend the tenth amendment for a while. Many years afterwards, changes began to occur. African Americans were given the right to vote, slavery was outlawed, and civil war amendments were also ratified.

It stated that each state had the powers, sovereignty and freedom to give any rights that were not already part of the constitution. When he introduced the tenth amendment to parliament, James Madison stated that many states were willing to ratify the amendment even though critics felt that it was pointless to ratify this particular amendment. The amendment was ratified despite the opposition, and any enumerated rights were left in the hands of the states to decide. Also, appended in writing was the phrase ‘we the people’ – a phrase which had previously been quite controversial.

This amendment describes the principles of federalism in a state that is republican. The constitution clearly defines the powers of the three arms of the federal government: judiciary, executive and the legislature. They could exercise any powers not stated in the constitution except for those forbidden by the state. The federal constitution does not, for example, give congress powers to regulate safety measures, issues of health or morality of the residents of the state. Under the tenth amendment, these powers, also known as police powers, are strictly reserved to the federal state. States are also not allowed to sign any treaties with foreign governments.

When the tenth amendment was adopted by the states, there were two important conceptions that the government was considering. A centralized government system was favored by many federalists who were more inclined towards a national authority. They used the example of the English monarchy which used a single entity or a central form of authority. The English constitutional system used a monarchy form of government in the seventeenth century and a parliamentary system in eighteenth century.

Anti-federalists, on the other hand, supported a form of government where the states remained semi-autonomous. Most of these anti-federalists, most of them republicans, supported a loose confederation of sovereign states that were only allowed to form alliances with other states for the sake of defence or security reasons. This form of government was supported by the Articles of Confederation, which governed the thirteen states which were united in ratifying the tenth amendment. Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government had no rights to collect any taxes independently, because the states were independent (Ferrey 12).

At that point in time, each state was governed by its own laws. Each state came up with its set of rules. Some states made use of this amendment to legalize slavery. The American government realized that this system was not working. Eventually, the federal state decided to make a single constitution that applied to everyone. This came as a result of the fourteenth amendment, which made the law applicable to both the federal government and to the states. This is the main reason why the tenth amendment no longer holds as much water as it once did. This amendment was the same as those provided for by the Articles of confederation.

In conclusion, a close examination of the tenth amendment shows that the founding fathers had to strike a balance when they ratified the amendment. The states co-operated and ratified the tenth amendment, because the Articles of confederation, which were previously used, resulted in the creation of a central government that was weak. This central government could not defend itself and was not able to collect revenues. A government that cannot defend itself and has no funds cannot run effectively. The founding fathers were careful not to create a central government that is too powerful and state authorities that are useless or redundant. The process of balancing powers between the state and the federal government is still in progress (Vile 76).

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