Friday, July 6, 2012 | No comments

The Tenth: A Superfluous Amendment?

By Michael Jolley

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It is significant that included in the Bill of Rights, which was designed to protect our natural rights of liberty and property, is a constitutional amendment that reiterates the limited powers of the federal government and reinforces the relative sovereignty of the states. The Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states:

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 founders were clear in their desire that the powers of the federal government be “few and defined” while the rights and powers of the states and the people would be “numerous and indefinite.” This is why you’ll find in Article I of the Constitution, particularly Article I Section 8, the specific powers that have been delegated by the people to the U.S. Congress. The Tenth Amendment serves as a reminder that unless a power is expressly delegated to the federal government as part of the Constitution, it remains the sole purview of the states or the people.

In light of the controversy this constitutional game of chicken with the federal government has created in past decades, it is quite surprising to note the objections made against its initial proposal. Early critics of the Tenth Amendment argued the amendment was “superfluous,” or in other words unnecessary and redundant. To this, James Madison replied:

I find, from looking into the amendments proposed by the State conventions, that several are particularly anxious that it should be declared in the Constitution, that the powers not therein delegated should be reserved to the several States. Perhaps words which may define this more precisely than the whole of the instrument now does, may be considered as superfluous. I admit they may be deemed unnecessary: but there can be no harm in making such a declaration, if gentlemen will allow that the fact is as stated. I am sure I understand it so, and do therefore propose it.

Any rational observer must conclude that Congress has significantly expanded its powers far beyond those expressly delegated to it by the Constitution. It’s now easy to see why the Tenth Amendment was made an important and essential part of the Constitution, since it helps confirm the “original intent” of the founders. The purpose of the Libertas Institute’s Center for Tenth Amendment Studies is to raise awareness of this “original intent” and encourage bold resistance¬†against all unconstitutional usurpations of authority by the national government through any and all available means. It is the duty of the states, and our duty as people, to stand up against the unconstitutional actions of our federal government. We are determined to help Utah lead the way.

Please click here to learn more about the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies and join us in the fight!

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About the Author

Michael Jolley is Director of the Center for Tenth Amendment Studies. He earned a B.A. in Finance/Economics from Utah State University. With experience on campaigns for federal office and previous involvement with the Utah Tenth Amendment Center, he is a committed proponent of limited government and constitutional restraint. Jolley owns a small business in Orem and resides in Lindon with his wife Jessica and their two children.


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