by Walter Coffey

Why do so many politicians and pundits condemn those who support invoking the Tenth Amendment to check federal power? Because they are invested in the benefits of big government, and the Tenth Amendment is designed to keep government small.

Invoking the Tenth is viewed by the mainstream media as a radical concept today, but it wasn’t considered radical when it was added to the Bill of Rights. In fact, the Constitution likely would not have been ratified if limits on federal authority had not been added to the document. The country’s founders sought to constrain the power of government because, having just fought a war for independence, they knew how oppressive a centralized government could be.

When the Alien and Sedition Acts infringed on constitutional liberties, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison responded with the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions of 1798. These argued that states had the power under the Tenth Amendment to nullify federal laws they believed to be unconstitutional.

Northerners invoked the Tenth Amendment to nullify the Fugitive Slave Act, which forced citizens to help federal authorities to catch runaway slaves. Many outraged northerners refused to abide by this repugnant law. Wisconsin and Ohio officially nullified the act, citing both the Tenth Amendment and the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions as justification.

Today, the mechanisms that the founders had provided for the people to guard their own liberty have somehow become dangerous to invoke. We are routinely told by those in power that there is no recourse against federal power today, no matter how oppressive it may become.

Politicians naturally seek to centralize government because centralization enhances their power. They justify their actions and downplay the Tenth Amendment by using jargon like the federal government has “implied powers” to promote the “general welfare,” and after all, what they do helps the general welfare of the country.

This is why the federal government has seized control over citizens’ healthcare, education, auto industry, mortgage industry, energy, financial institutions, and personal lives through taxation. If the Tenth Amendment was properly applied, the federal government would never have been able to seize the power it has. The governing philosophy in our country today runs almost completely counter to the founders’ intent.

Those who support big government seek to minimize the Tenth Amendment because it’s the power check that forces federal politicians to behave within the constitutional framework. Without this power check, government grows and liberty shrinks.

The people must take their freedom back, regardless of what the big government benefactors may say. And the Tenth Amendment is the way to do it.

Walter Coffey is an author and student of American history who values the individual liberty guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. He can be reached through his website at or via email at  

The 10th Amendment

“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.”



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