The “winners” write the history, and always in favor of their side of the “argument”.
Government’s job is to “control” the people. Control takes power and power comes at a price: the people’s liberty. In a nutshell, government power stands as the enemy of liberty. And when it comes to the war between power and liberty, power generally triumphs.
And government writes our history.
Most people allow the government to educate their children and that means they learn the approved government version of history. Sadly, it is totally corrupt. Few Americans realize it and can’t, or wont, correct the mistake.
I will try to help correct a piece of the disinformation surrounding the 10th Amendment and put it all into the correct perspective for you.
We’ve watched government trample on the Constitution throughout most of our recent history. We do not have to look very far to see examples. President Bush’s Administration created the The Patriot Act, anything but patriotic. Throughout his terms in office, Bush completely disregarded what the Constitution said and wielded the arms of war with wanton disregard.
President Obama continues in the same vein with more anti-constitutional measures. When Congress does not do what Obama wants he creates Executive Orders with the force of law. Effectively legislating from the White House and overstepping his constitutional boundaries without any regard to the laws our country.
Our Constitution is a document designed to LIMIT the power of the federal government. It enumerates the exact duties, responsibilities and powers of each branch of the federal government. In other words, the federal government ONLY has the powers over things that are specifically spelled out in the Constitution. ALL OTHER POWERS are reserved for the states and people. This is succinctly spelled out in 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.”
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution makes explicit what was already implied by the Constitution: all powers not delegated to the federal government stay right where they were. Clearly, we can see by the wording that the states and people retain all powers NOT GIVEN to the federal government. Our Founding fathers wanted local government to be more powerful than some centralized government located far away from where they lived. Think in terms of the adage “All law is local”. The idea of some far away centralized federal government dictating how they run their daily lives was repugnant to the Founders. They wanted as much power as possible to remain local.
The idea was to retain the power in their local state legislatures. Of course, with the federal government in charge of education, that idea has been dumbed down over the years. The federal government has steadily usurped the powers of the states and people across the decades, and no one has held them accountable for their unconstitutional actions. They have done such a good job of it that now nearly everyone believes the federal government is “in charge” of everything.
Perhaps considering how it all got started would clarify what the 10th is all about.
America fought a Revolutionary War of Independence in 1776. On July 2nd of that year, all 13 colonies declared their independence from Great Britain. That decision was made public on July 4th. When the colonies declared their independence, they became thirteen separate, sovereign, individual states (think countries). Each state maintained its own independent government and ran things locally. There were no legal ties binding the states together, other than the few exceptions they made in their common fight against the British.
Think of it in today’s terms. Say the U.S., Canada, England, France and a few other countries all got together to declare war on Afghanistan. The leaders of the countries would make agreements about who would do what during the war and how they would all cooperate with each other to carry out the war. These actions would not make them all one big huge country. No, they would all still remain separate independent sovereign countries, merely cooperating with each other.
Those original 13 colonies were the same way during the Revolutionary War (separate and cooperating). Oh, they surely were thinking of ways to unite themselves together, but at the time, nothing was done about it. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia presented to Congress an idea of confederation between the colonies. Congress then put together an exploratory committee to consider the issue. You can read about the Lee Resolution for a Confederacy here.
As a result, the Articles of Confederation were adopted on November 15, 1777. The Articles were NOT yet law. Each state had to decide whether or not they wanted to be part of the Confederation. Maryland, the final state to ratify the Articles, did so on March 1, 1781. We recognize this date as the moment the states became truly united for the first time.
Why did it take so long to ratify such a document? The answer is simple. They were fighting a war to save themselves from a tyrannical government. They needed time to review what was being done in the Articles because they did not want to replace one tyrannical government with another. A huge argument revolved around what powers the states would give up and which ones would be kept.
People wanted most powers to be retained for themselves. They did not want them to be vested in a far away government’s hand. Remember, each state was already a sovereign state at the time. They realized that they would have to give up some powers to a federal government, but they wanted to retain as many as possible. After all, they are already fighting a war over this issue with Britain and didn’t want to have another one with neighboring states.
As such, the Founders included wording to help stop the newly formed federal government from taking too much power away from the states by including in the Articles Article Two which stated:
“Each state retains its sovereignty, freedom, and independence, and every power, jurisdiction, and right, which is not by this Confederation expressly delegated to the United States, in Congress assembled.”
The Founders want our centralized federal government to have VERY LIMITED powers. The Articles of Confederation did exactly that. You can read about the Articles of Confederation here.
As it happens, the Articles limited centralized power so much, the newly formed federal government could barely function at all. The Articles were so weak and restrictive that our Founders eventually dissolved the government under the Articles and created a new government in its place under the Constitution.
Once again, the States had to ratify the document to make it law. There was a great deal of discussion among the people about the good and bad of the Constitution. The issue of state versus federal power returned to the discussion because of fear that the Constitution took too much power away from the state governments. Heated discussions took place. Federalists argued that the new Constitution would create the limited federal government they all agreed was desirable, and Anti-Federalists believed the proposed Constitution would not adequately restrain the new general government.
Anti-Federalists were NOT happy with the way the Constitution was written at all. There was nothing in it protecting the people or their natural rights. They’d just finished fighting a war to free themselves from a tyrannical government that infringed upon them, and they wanted a Bill of Rights specifically added to the Constitution as a means to protect the people from a new tyrannical government. The Federalists, of course, took the high road, saying that if a power is not mentioned in the Constitution, federal government cannot take action in that area. For instance, since the Constitution delegated no power dealing with religion, it could do nothing to establish a national church. Federalist also warned that listing some rights would inevitably leave some out. Compromising, the 9th Amendment was ultimately added. It reads:
“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
This means that even though certain rights were listed in the amendments, that there were still others that are too numerous to name. Those others, although not listed, were still protected against the infringements of the federal government. In short, the government cannot touch them even if they are not listed.
Ratification of the Constitution was in complete jeopardy. There was not enough states willing to ratify based on the face of the Constitution. Too many people were against it because it made the federal government too powerful. It was not until the Massachusetts Compromise was proposed that ratification could take place. In the Compromise, it was put forth that if the Anti-Federalists would ratify the Constitution, a list of proposed amendments would be sent to the First Congress. That list was known as the Bill of Rights and became the first ten Amendments to the Constitution.
The Constitution was framed with the North West Territory and Articles of Confederation in mind. The wordings of each are quite similar. Look at the wording of the 10th Amendment and that of the Articles to see what I mean. It is clear that the idea of reserving to the states the powers that were NOT granted to the federal government had steadfastly remained a high concern of our Founders throughout this entire process.
Today, we can see that even though the idea of the 10th is lost among the people, it is slowly becoming known and relevant once again. The Constitution does not give the power to regulate the health care industry to the federal government. Many states are enacting local laws that forbid state employees from working with the federal government to enforce their draconian mandates.
President Obama recently passed 21 Executive Actions to gain control of guns in the states. Now, there are several counties and states stepping up to nullify such orders by enacting local laws prohibiting cooperation with the feds. Take Missouri for example. There is pending legislation in the Missouri state government that would nullify all federal actions that go against the Second Amendment.
We are a country of free people. Our government was set up to be of, by and for the people. Somewhere along the way, that picture got muddied. Clearly, it is time to exercise the Constitution. Our federal government is moving into the direction of a tyrannical government. That was something our Founders foresaw and empowered us with the legal right to fix.
States are finally doing what they should have been doing all along. They are working within the 10th Amendment to cast aside the unconstitutional actions of an overbearing centralized federal government.
- Understanding The 10th Amendment - April 26, 2013
- Surprise: Law Professor Misinterprets Supremacy Clause - January 26, 2013
- Federalism and the 10th: The State Reclamation Begins - December 14, 2012