In a recent GOP debate, I heard numerous references to the 10th Amendment of the Constitution. The amendment reference was used as a principle of political doctrine. I have a confession, prior to the debate, I wasn’t really sure what the 10th Amendment was about. You may be in the same state of ignorance. So, pull up a chair and let’s talk a little.
First, know that I am not a lawyer much less a Constitutional lawyer. If you need one of those, look in the phonebook. However, if you want to know the basics, I can do that. Fortunately, I like to research topics before opening my mouth (or my laptop) about such topics. With that said, I could be wrong on some details but I think I am directionally correct.
For the basics, the Constitution contains a Preamble and 7 Articles. If you want to learn the preamble, Andy can help you here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oBuPQgV8yBM . If you want to read the Constitution, I found this site very helpful: http://www.heritage.org/constitution . There are currently 27 Amendments. The first 10 Amendments are known as the Bill of Rights. Something that I was not aware of previously is that the Bill of Rights has a Preamble.
“The Conventions of a number of the States, having at the time of their adopting the Constitution, expressed a desire, in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers, that further declaratory and restrictive clauses should be added: And as extending the ground of public confidence in the Government, will best ensure the beneficent ends of its institutions.”
Interestingly, the preamble introduces the fact that, at the time of Constitution adoption, there was a concern that the new federal government would overstep the authority given to it by the people. The people not only understood the potential for governmental abuse, they experienced it. Indeed that is why many came to the New World only to experience that same abuse against the Colonies. It is this type of abuse that led to the Declaration of Independence.
The 10th Amendment is a fairly short statement that 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.”
It seems to me, the purpose of the 10th Amendment serves to reinforce the ideal that the federal government has limited powers. There is much hubub that the phrase “expressly delegated” was not used in the 10th Amendment. While I understand that the added emphasis would make a stronger statement, the omission does not negate the intent of the amendment.
The Constitution is powerless without interpretation and enforcement. It must be decided what powers are given to the Federal government by the people. Ground zero of the debate centers around the Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3). It seems that Congress has determined practically anything falls under the definition of Interstate Commerce. Here are some examples of that broad definition. The Supreme Court has decided that Congress can regulate a single farmer’s production of wheat intended for the consumption at his own table. Wickard v. Filburn (1942). Congress can mandate that all citizens be covered under health insurance by passing ObamaCare. Consider this interpretation as you revisit the Preamble to the Bill of Rights.
This conversation started with the recent political debates. I think this is where we should wrap up. Thinking back on the 10th Amendment, it recognizes the power of “the people”. This is where we must make our stand. Vote? Yes, but more than just voting. Vote after listening to the candidates and researching the truth behind their claims. If we do not limit the power of Congress, it is clear that, the Supreme Court will not.
See you at the ballot.
What are your thoughts on the role of the Federal government? Are you happy with the size of our Federal government today? Is the Constitution being trampled on by Federal courts? Are we headed in the right direction?
Leave a comment and express your 1st Amendment right.