Amendment X – Rights Reserved to States (1791)


The Tenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, also known as the Reserved Powers Amendment, was ratified on December 15, 1791.  The Tenth Amendment provided that those powers which are not granted to the United States are reserved for the states or to the people.  The Tenth Amendment reads as follows:

“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 purpose of the Tenth Amendment was to alleviate fears that the national government would seek to exercise powers not granted to it, and that the states might not be able to fully exercise their reserved powers.  As a result of the amendment, it is now clear that the federal government’s powers are limited only to the extent where it is explicitly granted by Constitution, and that the government cannot claim powers which are not explicitly granted to it.

Interestingly, it has to be noted that since the Tenth Amendment came into force, several states and local governments have attempted to assert exemption from various federal regulations, especially in the areas of labor and environmental controls, using the Tenth Amendment as a basis for their claim.  However, the Supreme Court has only very rarely declared laws to be unconstitutional for violating the Tenth Amendment.  The Supreme Court has only struck down a federal law as violative of the Tenth Amendments is in rare situations where the federal government compelled the states to enforce a federal statute.