Tenth Amendment

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an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, guaranteeing to the states and the people those rights that are not delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.
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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What is the Tenth Amendment?

The Tenth Amendment is an amendment to the US Constitution that says that any right the Constitution does not specifically give to the federal government belongs to the states.

The Constitution of the United States is the document that serves as the  fundamental law of the country. An amendment is a change to something. An amendment to the Constitution is any text added to the original document since its ratification in 1788. The Constitution has been amended 27 times in American history.

The Tenth Amendment reads:

“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.”

Similar to the Ninth Amendment, the Tenth Amendment doesn’t grant citizens any specific rights. The Tenth Amendment has been interpreted to mean that the states have all rights not specifically forbidden them or not given to the federal government by the Constitution (the concept of federalism). For example, the state of Missouri can regulate its own school system, but it cannot declare war on France.

Most Supreme Court cases involving the Tenth Amendment have had to do with taxes, policing, property ownership, and interstate commerce. In general, Tenth Amendment Supreme Court cases have been centered around if, how, and when the national government has the power to involve itself in states’ affairs. In modern Supreme Court Tenth Amendment cases, the Court has often sided with the states and limited the ability of the federal government to regulate state.

Why is Tenth Amendment important?

The Tenth Amendment is one of 10 amendments included in the Bill of Rights, a set of 10 amendments added to the Constitution almost immediately after that document was put into law. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified by the required three-fourths of the state legislatures and added to the Constitution.

Both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments come from the debate held during the drafting of the Constitution. The Federalists, who supported a strong federal government, opposed a Bill of Rights. They argued that a list of rights would imply that any rights not listed were surrendered by both the citizens and the states and it was obviously impossible to include every single right in the Constitution.

The Tenth Amendment was written to make it clear that the existence of a Bill of Rights does not change the relationship between the limited national government and the states. The Tenth Amendment sets into law the fact that the states should have a variety of powers and rights that the federal government cannot interfere with.

Did you know ... ?

The Tenth Amendment originally used the word expressly to describe the word delegated, but it was removed following debate by Congress. In McCulloch v. Maryland (1819), Chief Justice John Marshall specifically cited this omission when he stated that the federal government had “implied powers” given to it by the Constitution that weren’t specifically written in the text.

What are real-life examples of Tenth Amendment?

This tweet depicts a same-sex wedding ceremony. States had the power to ban same-sex marriages through state laws in accordance with the Tenth Amendment until the Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional in 2015.


Many Americans know that the Tenth Amendment guarantees the rights of the states.

Quiz yourself!

True or False?

The Tenth Amendment states that any rights not given to the states by the Constitution belong to the federal government.

How to use Tenth Amendment in a sentence