A Heritage Foundation essay:
“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.”
— Amendment 10
The Tenth Amendment expresses the principle that undergirds the entire plan of the original Constitution: the national government possesses only those powers delegated to it. The Framers of the Tenth Amendment had two purposes in mind when they drafted it. The first was a necessary rule of construction. The second was to reaffirm the nature of the federal system.
Because the Constitution created a government of limited and enumerated powers, the Framers initially believed that a bill of rights was not only unnecessary, but also potentially dangerous. State constitutions recognized a general legislative power in the state governments; hence, limits in the form of state bills of rights were necessary to guard individual rights against the excess of governmental power. The Constitution, however, conferred only the limited powers that were listed or enumerated in the federal Constitution. Because the federal government could not reach objects not granted to it, the Federalists originally argued, there was no need for a federal bill of rights. Further, the Federalists insisted that, under the normal rules of statutory construction, by forbidding the government from acting in certain areas, a bill of rights necessarily implied that the government could act in all other areas not forbidden to it. That would change the federal government from one of limited powers to one, like the states, of general legislative powers.
The Federalists relented and passed the Bill of Rights in the First Congress only after making certain that no such implication could arise from the prohibitions of the Bill of Rights. Hence, the Tenth Amendment—a rule of construction that warns against interpreting the other amendments in the Bill of Rights to imply powers in the national government that were not granted by the original document. Continue reading . . .