Did you know that the Tenth Amendment Center has an online feedback forum where you can ask questions and make comments or suggestions? We occasionally run into questions that are so good, we need to share them.A TAC member writes:

“In my efforts to promote the importance of nullification and state sovereignty, i’m often confronted with arguments stating that the Civil War drastically changed the implications of the Tenth Amendment, and thereby renders nullification as an nonviable solution to the problems we face with the federal government. I was hoping you might be able to provide some insight on how the Civil War changed state sovereignty so I will be better prepared to debate for the cause of nullifying unconstitutional federal laws.”

This is a great question, and one that all of us have probably encountered at one point.


The short answer to this question is that the Civil War had no effect on state sovereignty and nullification, at least not legally. Some people may point to the Fourteenth Amendment as evidence that the federal government acquired expansive new powers over the states, but that argument doesn’t hold weight when scrutinized closely.

For more information on this argument and its rebuttal, please see these links:


Although the constitutional relationship between the state and federal governments didn’t change after the Civil War, the political environment had. First, the federal government had proven that it had the ability to militarily force states to comply with its edicts. Secondly, the country was divided geographically and along political party lines. Republicans in the north largely supported the federal government and made themselves willingly subservient to it. Southerners had just been defeated, so they were in no position to fight centralization – and given the behavior of their government during the war, there are serious doubts that they would have.

Even with this being the case, the constitutional ramifications of the Tenth Amendment hadn’t changed. It remains as viable a moral and constitutional solution to the problem of oppressive centralized power as it was in the days of Jefferson.


Military might doesn’t alter natural rights. Neither does it change constitutional protections of those rights. Those who would interpret the Civil War, which is an incredibly complicated period in American history, as simply a repudiation of centuries-old political philosophies either have an ax to grind or don’t know what they’re talking about.

If you have a question you would like to ask, please go to ask.tenthamendmentcenter.com.

The 10th Amendment

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