The Bill of Rights and the 14th Amendment

Ninth and Tenth Amendments

What is the Tenth Amendment?

The Tenth Amendment provides: “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.” It is the only amendment in the Bill of Rights that does not focus solely on protecting an individual right. Rather it limits the power of the federal government vis-à-vis the state governments. It ensures that the federal government does not operate like a super-state government and supersede all state powers. In other words, the Tenth Amendment seeks to “reserve” some powers for the states and reaffirms the basic notion that the federal government is a government of enumerated (listed) powers, not unlimited powers.

Courts often refer to the concept of “dual sovereignty” when mentioning the Tenth Amendment, because it is a key provision in creating a federal system of government in which power is often shared between the federal and state governments.

Periodically, the news media, political pundits, and others refer to “states’ rights” usually as a claim that the federal government is encroaching upon the states’ domain. The constitutional hammer for those who advocate for states’ rights is the Tenth Amendment.


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