• The Heritage Network
    • Resize:
    • A
    • A
    • A
  • Donate
  • The Constitution in One Sentence: Understanding the Tenth Amendment

    After the House of Representatives’ reading last week, the Constitution is suddenly the talk of the town.  Congressmen and women on both sides of the aisle are eager to display the latest “must-have accessory” – their pocket Constitutions.  This renewed interest goes beyond simply reading the document; people actually want to understand and apply it.  One section that deserves such detailed attention is the Tenth Amendment.

    The words of the Tenth Amendment are unambiguous: “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.”  This sentence, indeed, effectively summarizes the entire Constitution, and the idea of a limited government with specific, enumerated powers.  Its place at the end of the Bill of Rights serves as a safeguard against the possible intrusion of federal authority, and thus fills a crucial role in the document as a whole.

    The third installment of Heritage’s new Constitutional Guidance for Lawmakers series, “The Constitution in One Sentence: Understanding the Tenth Amendment”, illustrates the structural importance of the Tenth Amendment, and how it “acts as a bulwark against federal intrusion on state authority and individual liberty”.

    Posted in First Principles [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to The Constitution in One Sentence: Understanding the Tenth Amendment

    1. Susan_Hess says:

      The best application on my iPhone is a free us constitution and bill of rights!

    2. George Colgrove, VA says:

      Considering the constitution – sans amendments – was far more concerned about the limited scope of the operations of the federal government and not the country, it is telling that the founders felt they needed to immediately add 10 amendments that protected the citizenry from that government.

      They knew that without the amendments, the future federal government and those it would employ would use their stature to steal from and suppress the people. They knew that the future federal workforce would strip the people of their hard earned financial resources for their own personal gain. They knew that we would end up with the greed for power and wealth we currently see within the halls of the federal government. They knew this because this is what government was and unfortunately currently is – unless it is suppressed by the will of the people. History is replete with examples of governments suppressing the people and stealing their wealth. It is often said that government is a necessary evil, which it is. Nevertheless, an evil that the founders felt needed to be controlled. And with their wisdom and keen foresight, they did it.

      The 10th amendment is the "Duhhhh" amendment. Even though the rest of the constitution clearly defined the limited role the federal government was to have in our society, the founders knew the natural corrupt heart of a federal official – elected or otherwise (king down to the tax collector) would pilliage the public. They knew that those in the federal government if not prevented would fulfill their perverse, “inherently governmental” need to garnish as much power and wealth from the masses. They knew this tendency needed to be controlled and prevented. Thus they wrote 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.”

      is probably the clearest statement in the entire constitution and it took the federal workforce and elected officials 150 years to manipulate truth enough for the nation to agree to abandon it. FDR took advantage of two crisis' to impose big government, and using his model, many federal officials and congress members have perpetuated that corrupt means to grow government even larger.

      In the current drive to reverse the perversion of governmental control over the masses and the federal worker’s assault on American’s pocketbooks, we need to educate people about this amendment. We need to implement this amendment. In truth, the amendment should have never been written. People using kindness and restraint should never feel they need to steal people’s property via an IRS nor should they attempt to garnish power via a DHS. However, they do, as we can see today with the federal workforce – from halls of congress to the mailroom. However, ignoring the 10th amendment as we have since FDR, we can see what the founders were trying to prevent.

      The federal government need only concern itself with the defense of the country, making sure each state can engage in open, fair and unhindered commerce, and that we can interact with the rest of the world. What the government should be by nature is transparent and open to the people with extremely limited and timely secrets. We have a lot of work to do to get back to that tradition.

      A government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not need a lawyer. Once that government starts to "protect itself” from the people it becomes a separate entity – one that can start to wield its power over us. It is that government we currently have.

    3. Kat Oliver says:

      I found the last comment was very succinct in explaining the Constitution and what place government has in this country. For years (until recently) the percentage of people voting and participating in government had dropped quite a bit. It represented the apathy and disinterest in our government as many pursued their "happiness." This allowed government to increasingly overstep their power and in many cases, ignore the Constitution. It created a disconnect between the people and the government. So much so that now-much of the Democratic Party has been hijacked by a progressive movement that has very little to do with American values. The Republican Party also was not listening to the people. The boss was out of town for so long, they forgot who they were working for.

      Now fast forward…with the progressives pushing a huge power and money grab with over regulation, the auto bail outs (which ran over the rights of many including the investors and franchise owners), and of course the health care bill. This woke the sleeping giant as they realized their liberty, their rights and all that makes them American was being taken away without our consent. The Tea Party, the larger voter turnout, and more people running for office is the push back. Americans are stepping up to take ownership of their country before it is stripped away into something unrecognizable. The people now realize that this "change" was not about a responsible transparent government, it was about changing what was American. It was about a creating a new governing system that "took care of" its citizens instead of empowering them to take care of themselves. It was about stealing freedom to not only succeed but also to fail. Failure of a necessary by-product of freedom…it is necessary to keep a people strong in it's own abilities to face challenges. It keeps people off the drug that is public assistance.

      What is our blueprint? What is the path back to our foundation?-the Constitution. A document that has proven time and again to successfully bring us back from the brink of destroying ourselves. We call on it again. Thank God!

    4. The Prudent Patriot says:

      To comprehend our Constitution and the FOUNDER'S INTENT, READ THE FEDERALIST PAPERS!!!

      Better yet, READ BOTH THE HERITAGE'S primer on "How to Read & Understand The Federalist Papers"!

      There isn't any better concensus about their intentions THAN THE VERY PUBLIC DEBATE THAT THESE PAPERS REPRESENT, WRITTEN BY OUR MOST IMPORTANT FOUNDERS THEMSELVES! Anyone who fails to take the time to read The Federalist Papers, at once make their lack of intelligence and patriotism self-evident!

    5. Pingback: » Financial News Update – 1/11/11 NoisyRoom.net: The Progressive Hunter

    6. West Texan says:

      Well stated article and comments. As prudent patriot said, read the Federalist Papers for a better understanding of our country's constitution. Particularly James Madison's commentaries. Hamilton and Jay are a little too elitist. And to appreciate why Madison added the tenth amendment requires a look at the Anti-Federalist writings, such as Brutus. Returning sanity to federal government begins with a knowledgeable and informed electorate. That’s where we come in as voters.

    7. Fred Yates, Lebanon says:

      Yes they went through the motions of reciting (repeating aloud) the Constitution, but they were so disinterested nobody caught the fact they skipped Article 4, Section 4 and part of Article 5 as it happened.

      Even worse yet as Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., the House's top-ranking African-American who did not participate pointed out, "..omitting the slavery clauses amounted to "revisionist history."

      They couldn't even get it right. So what hope do we have as they surge forward?

    8. George (Oldguy), Wes says:

      Kat… how do we get back to the Constitution when those we elect to support and defend it start undermining or ignoring it.

      If the voters can find a way to initiate action the U.S. Code may have a way:

      5 USC Sec. 2903

      TITLE 5

      PART III

      Subpart A

      CHAPTER 29

      SUBCHAPTER I

      *[71 U.S. 333, 334] ON the 2d of July, 1862, Congress, by 'An act to prescribe an oath of office, and for other purposes,'1 enacted:

      'That hereafter every person elected or appointed to any office of honor or profit under the government of the United States, either in the civil, military, or naval departments of the public service, excepting the President of the United States, shall, before entering upon the duties of such office, take and subscribe the following oath or affirmation:

      5 U.S.C. Sec. 3331 01/06/97

      TITLE 5 – GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION AND EMPLOYEES

      PART III – EMPLOYEES

      Subpart B – Employment and Retention

      CHAPTER 33 – EXAMINATION, SELECTION, AND PLACEMENT

      SUBCHAPTER II – OATH OF OFFICE

      Sec. 3331. Oath of office

      Statute

      An individual, except the President, elected or appointed to an office of honor or profit in the civil service or uniformed services, shall take the following oath: ''I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.'' This section does not affect other oaths required by law.

      'Any person who shall falsely take the said oath shall be guilty of perjury; and, on conviction, in addition to the penalties now prescribed for that offense, shall be deprived of his office, and rendered incapable forever after of holding any office or place under the United States.'

      18 U.S.C. Sec. 1621 01/26/98

      TITLE 18 – CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE

      PART I – CRIMES

      CHAPTER 79 – PERJURY

      Sec. 1621. Perjury generally

      Whoever -

      (1) having taken an oath before a competent tribunal, officer, or person, in any case in which a law of the United States authorizes an oath to be administered, that he will testify, declare, depose, or certify truly, or that any written testimony, declaration, deposition, or certificate by him subscribed, is true, willfully and contrary to such oath states or subscribes any material matter which he does not believe to be true; or (2) in any declaration, certificate, verification, or statement under penalty of perjury as permitted under section 1746 of title 28, United States Code, willfully subscribes as true any material matter which he does not believe to be true; is guilty of perjury and shall, except as otherwise expressly provided by law, be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. This section is applicable whether the statement or subscription is made within or without the United States.

      I am not a lawyer, but it sure looks promising to me! How about all you folks out there?

    9. Jamie, Costa Mesa CA says:

      The imporatnce of states rights and diversity and competition of thought and governence between the 50 states is something that both red and blue Americans can agree on http://purpleground.com/2011/01/15/50-examples-of

    10. Glenn Simar in Calif says:

      So simple and so misunderstood.

    Comments are subject to approval and moderation. We remind everyone that The Heritage Foundation promotes a civil society where ideas and debate flourish. Please be respectful of each other and the subjects of any criticism. While we may not always agree on policy, we should all agree that being appropriately informed is everyone's intention visiting this site. Profanity, lewdness, personal attacks, and other forms of incivility will not be tolerated. Please keep your thoughts brief and avoid ALL CAPS. While we respect your first amendment rights, we are obligated to our readers to maintain these standards. Thanks for joining the conversation.

    Big Government Is NOT the Answer

    Your tax dollars are being spent on programs that we really don't need.

    I Agree I Disagree ×

    Get Heritage In Your Inbox — FREE!

    Heritage Foundation e-mails keep you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.

    ×