Contemporary Quotes on Federalism and States' Rights

"In the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks, some commentators have suggested that the constitutional principle of federalism is a luxury we can no longer afford. But precisely the opposite is the case. The constitutional distinction between what is properly local and what is properly national has never been more important. Combating the international threat of terrorism is a job for which the Constitution provides the federal government ample authority, in the form of the power to declare war and to punish offenses against the laws of nations. Prosecuting firearms offenses is a local issue, one that the Constitution properly leaves to states and localities. It is unwise to squander federal resources in the pursuit of offenders that the states and localities are perfectly equipped to handle. Even more important, we cannot afford to squander our constitutional heritage of limited government."

Gene Healy
Policy Analysis, No. 440
Cato Institute
May 28, 2002
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Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"The various attempts to understand the relationships among state size, federalism, republicanism, and liberal freedom or modern liberty provide an instance-- a centrally important instance— of the eighteenth and nineteenth-century struggles to understand the threats to freedom from, on the one hand, thick local communities and, on the other, rationalistic central states. Most broadly, we see three institutional views of the social and constitutional structures that make freedom possible. The small-civic-republicans (e.g. Brutus) saw freedom as protected by the people themselves, a local and homogenous body, if they are governed in a way that allows them to act effectively and decisively on their government. This view was widely rejected in the 1780s and succeeding decades, replaced by an understanding of republicanism that did not depend on self-abnegating civic virtue, homogeneity, or material equality. It was rejected alike by those who supported unitary or centralized republics and those who supported federalism or confederalism. Unitary large-state republicans (Tracy, Paine, Turgot) considered freedom best protected by weakening the power of local and particularistic communities or intermediate bodies such as the aristocracy or the church. Rational reform and legislation was to come from the center in a large, diverse liberal commercial republic. Federalists— Publius, Jefferson, Constant— took neither tack. They worried about institutional unity and concentrations of power, and opted for complexity. They preferred neither the nearby nor the distant as such, neither the thick and local nor the rationalist and central. The small republics, if unconstrained, were prone to enthusiastic and passionate majority factions that could tyrannize over minorities. A unitary republic could be worse still, because uncheckable and unconstrainable. But the large-republic problem was not only an instance of this general dispute over centralization, pluralism, and freedom; federalism was not the only institutional question at stake.

The large-republic problem, particularly as articulated and refined by Montesquieu, had distinctive institutional peculiarities not shared with the general centralization/ pluralism debate: the problem of constraining both the executive that controls the military and the military itself. During and after the 1780s many theorists on both sides of the Atlantic were united in their rejection of classical politics, of smallness, homogeneity, and civic virtue as constitutive of republicanism— including some who preceded and some who wrote independent of The Federalist Papers."

Jacob T. Levy
History of Political Thought, Vol 27, Issue 1
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"Even before the addition of the Bill of Rights, advocates of the new Constitution insisted that Congress had only expressly enumerated powers. According to James Madison, the addition of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments merely confirmed the preexisting principle of expressly delegated power. During the early decades of the Constitution, judges and commentators regularly inserted into their description of the Tenth Amendment the very word John Marshall insisted had been intentionally left out. These statements took place during and immediately after ratification and were voiced by a broad range of figures directly involved in the effort to ratify the Constitution."

Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"Still, in any given policy area, there are bound to be laggard states, or states thought to be laggard. There are two ways to look at this: One is that not every state has to be out front and on top of every problem in the manner that experts or advocates think they should be. The second way to view this is to ask if there are ways to bring laggard states up to some acceptable standard. Let the leading states do it their way. At the same time, don't countenance laggard states being far behind. I think there are ways we can be, indeed that we have been, institutionally inventive in these terms. This occurs when federal grant-in-aid programs assist all states to deal with a particular problem or conditions on what is in effect a minimum standard basis, while at the same time taking advantage of the creativity and vibrancy of American federalism by allowing some states to exceed this standard."

Richard Nathan
The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government
September 2008
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"What sort of language would restore a healthy balance between federal and state power while protecting the liberties of the people?

One simple proposal would be to repeal the 16th Amendment enacted in 1913 that authorized a federal income tax. This single change would strike at the heart of unlimited federal power and end the costly and intrusive tax code. Congress could then replace the income tax with a 'uniform' national sales or 'excise' tax (as stated in Article I, section 8) that would be paid by everyone residing in the country as they consumed, and would automatically render savings and capital appreciation free of tax. There is precedent for repealing an amendment. In 1933, the 21st Amendment repealed the 118th Amendment that had empowered Congress to prohibit the sale of alcohol."

Randy E. Barnett
The Wall Street Journal
April 23, 2009
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"As Madison explained in Federalist 45, the powers delegated to the federal government were 'few and defined', to be exercised mainly on 'external objects' like foreign policy and international trade. All else -- criminal law, marriage, social policy -- remained with the states or the people."

Gene Healy
The Washington Examiner
November 17, 2009
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Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"Fiscal federalism is the idea that states should set their own economic policies rather than following directives from Washington. Libertarians have a particular attachment to the concept. If states can differentiate themselves on the basis of taxes, spending, and regulation, that gives Americans more leeway in deciding the rules under which we live. If we're dissatisfied with the policies of the state we live in, we can register our discontent by voting with our feet and moving to another jurisdiction. This competition for residents helps keep lawmakers in check, giving them an incentive to keep taxes and other intrusions modest."

Veronique de Rugy
Reason Foundation
March 17, 2010
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"Most importantly, our results suggest that the recent large increase in federal grants to state and local governments that has occurred as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) will have significant future tax implications at the state and local level as these governments raise revenue to continue these newly funded programs into the future. Federal grants to state and local governments have risen from $461 billion in 2008 to $654 billion in 2010. Based on our estimates, future state taxes will rise by between 33 and 42 cents for every dollar in federal grants states received today, while local revenues will rise by between 23 and 46 cents for every dollar in federal (or state) grants received today. Using our estimates, this increase of $200 billion in federal grants will eventually result in roughly $80 billion in future state and local tax and own source revenue increases. This suggests the true cost of fiscal stimulus is underestimated when the costs of future state and local tax increases are overlooked."

Russell Sobel Ph.D
George R. Crowley
Working Paper, No. 10-51
Mercatus Center at George Mason University
August 2010
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"The Tenth Amendment expresses the principle that undergirds the entire plan of the original Constitution: the national government possesses only those powers delegated to it. The Framers of the Tenth Amendment had two purposes in mind when they drafted it. The first was a necessary rule of construction. The second was to reaffirm the nature of the federal system."

Charles Cooper
Constitution Report, #3
The Heritage Foundation
January 10, 2011
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"What is absolutely clear, affirmed by the text of the 1789 Constitution, by the Tenth Amendment ratified in 1791, and by innumerable cases of ours in the 220 years since, is that there are structural limits upon federal power—upon what it can prescribe with respect to private conduct, and upon what it can impose upon the sovereign States. Whatever may be the conceptual limits upon the Commerce Clause and upon the power to tax and spend, they cannot be such as will enable the Federal Government to regulate all private conduct and to compel the States to function as administrators of federal programs.

That clear principle carries the day here."

Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Anthony Kennedy
Justice Clarence Thomas
Justice Samuel Alito
U.S. Supreme Court
June 28, 2012
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"The Act before us here exceeds federal power both in mandating the purchase of health insurance and in denying nonconsenting States all Medicaid funding. These parts of the Act are central to its design and operation, and all the Act's other provisions would not have been enacted without them. In our view it must follow that the entire statute is inoperative."

Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Anthony Kennedy
Justice Clarence Thomas
Justice Samuel Alito
U.S. Supreme Court
June 28, 2012
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits

"The Constitution, though it dates from the founding of the Republic, has powerful meaning and vital relevance to our own times. The constitutional protections that this case involves are protections of structure. Structural protections—notably, the restraints imposed by federalism and separation of powers—are less romantic and have less obvious a connection to personal freedom than the provisions of the Bill of Rights or the Civil War Amendments. Hence they tend to be undervalued or even forgotten by our citizens. It should be the responsibility of the Court to teach otherwise, to remind our people that the Framers considered structural protections of freedom the most important ones, for which reason they alone were embodied in the original Constitution and not left to later amendment. The fragmentation of power produced by the structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril. Today's decision should have vindicated, should have taught, this truth; instead, our judgment today has disregarded it.

For the reasons here stated, we would find the Act invalid in its entirety. We respectfully dissent."

Justice Antonin Scalia
Justice Anthony Kennedy
Justice Clarence Thomas
Justice Samuel Alito
U.S. Supreme Court
June 28, 2012
Library Topic
Library Topic: Constitutional Limits
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Commentary or Blog Post

"Across America, there is a growing restlessness and discontent toward Washington, D.C. Frustration is in the air. A recent poll found that four-out-of-five Americans don't trust Washington. Another poll found that eighty-six percent of Americans think the federal government is 'broken.'

In an effort to work toward long-term...

"Jack Balkin has an interesting post on today's two Defense of Marriage Act cases from the federal District of Massachusetts, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management, and Massachusetts v. HHS. The latter case found DOMA unconstitutional, as applied to Massachusetts, because DOMA violates the Tenth Amendment by infringing the state's traditional...

"[...]many self-described conservatives, including Republican presidential candidate John McCain, support the prosecution of people like [medical marijuana patient] Charlie Lynch, abandoning their avowed federalist principles because of blind hostility toward a plant they associate with draft-dodging, flag-burning hippies. It's not surprising, but it's shameful."...

In this opinion piece, Healy talks about recent Federalism-related developments in the Obama administration and medical marijuana legislation in the states.

"A federal district judge in California has ruled that it's unconstitutional to define marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman.

The impact of the decision, should it stand, is that it nationalizes marriage—one of many matters the 10th Amendment leaves to the people and the states. That amendment states that powers not...

This web-only op-ed from the liberal publication The American Prospect rails against Tenth-Amendment advocates, referring to the individuals as "Tenthers."

"[The 'Tenthers'] members are convinced that the 10th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits spending programs and regulations disfavored by conservatives....

"I think the Constitution is a hopeless sham, and that it's not possible to have a successful amendment process. It's not possible to fix it by amendment. It's a set of paper limits enforced and interpreted by the very state that it seeks to limit (see, on this, Hoppe and de Jasay). And if we are going to amend it there are many others I'd want–maybe a return to...

"In states around the country, there's a growing movement to address and resist two of the most abused parts of the Constitution – the Commerce Clause and the 2nd Amendment.  Already being considered in a number of state legislatures, and passed as law in Montana and Tennessee this year, the Firearms Freedom Act (FFA) is a state law that seeks to do just...

"The American Prospect, The New Republic, and other left-of-center outlets are pushing the 'Tenther' smear, aimed at lumping those who, horrors!, still take seriously the Tenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in with the Obama birth certificate deniers and 9/11 truthers."

"In response to an unprecedented expansion of federal power, citizens have held hundreds of 'tea party' rallies around the country, and various states are considering 'sovereignty resolutions' invoking the Constitution's Ninth and Tenth Amendments. For example, Michigan's proposal urges 'the federal government to halt its practice of imposing mandates upon the...

Rugy tackles the financial centralization of government over recent decades in this piece: "Last May the Obama administration forced South Carolina not just to take its share of federal stimulus funds, but to spend the money on new programs rather than paying down the state's debt. I was horrified. Obama, I felt, had killed fiscal federalism. Then I realized that...

"National Rifle Association Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre recently gave a fiery speech before the NRA Annual Convention, railing against those who would shred the Constitution in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

The Constitution, he said 'is pristine and inviolate...The Bill of Rights doesn't care about opinion...

"Last week a federal judge confounded both sides of the political spectrum by ruling that the 10th Amendment requires the federal government to recognize state-approved gay marriages. Progressives worried that U.S. District Judge Joseph Tauro's reasoning cast doubt on the constitutionality of many existing federal programs, while conservatives worried that it...

Chart or Graph

"According to data computed by the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards, in 1980 there were 434 federal grant programs for state and local governments."

This table shows, from a financial perspective, the strength of D.C. government vs state government.

"Figure 1 shows federal grant spending in constant dollars from 1960 to 2013."

Analysis Report White Paper

The Civil War often is seen as a turning point in the history of American federalism. In one sense the truth of this perception is beyond dispute. Had the South secured secession by force of arms, the Union would have been broken, the federal system disrupted.

The thesis that republicanism was only suited for small states was given its decisive eighteenth-century formulation by Montesquieu, who emphasized not only republics' need for homogeneity and virtue but also the difficulty of constraining military and executive power in large republics.

Every dollar in temporary federal grants leads to 40 cents of tax increases. Economists have long suggested the existence of a 'flypaper effect,' wherein federal money given to states prompts additional spending.

The theory behind aid to the states is that federal policymakers can design and operate programs in the national interest to efficiently solve local problems. In practice, most federal politicians are not inclined to pursue broad, national goals; they are consumed by the competitive scramble to secure subsidies for their states.

As a political principle, federalism has to do with the constitutional diffusion of power so that the constituting elements in a federal arrangement share in the processes of common policy-making and administration by right, while the activities of the common government are conducted in such a way as to maintain their respective integrities.

Stanford's Philosophy Department put together a rather comprehensive piece defining and analyzing federalism in one encyclopedia article.

I suggest that a coherent classical liberal must be generally supportive of federal political structures, because any division of authority must, necessarily, tend to limit the potential range of political coercion.

Until recently, courts have not addressed the potential conflict between jury selection rules and the possibility that a jury would be called upon to impose the federal death penalty even in states without the death penalty.

If the purpose of federalism is to compensate for worrisome tendencies toward centralization, then it is desirable that the provinces large enough to have political power be stable and entrenched and be able to engender loyalty from their citizens, such as the loyalty felt to ethnoculturally specific provinces.

Unfortunately, policymakers and courts have mainly discarded federalism in recent decades. Congress has undertaken many activities that were traditionally reserved to the states and the private sector. Grants-in-aid are a primary mechanism that the federal government has used to extend its power into state and local affairs.

This Article reports the results of a comprehensive study of core free speech cases decided by the federal courts over a 14-year period. The study finds that speech-restrictive laws adopted by the federal government are far more likely to be upheld than similar laws adopted by state and local governments.

"To consider liberty in relation to the Constitution is to enter upon a subject of some ambiguity. Which Constitution are we to consider? The document has undergone dramatic shifts in its coverage and in its meaning over the course of our history.

Few have done more over the years to articulate the conservative response to liberal judicial activism than Judge Robert Bork. Writing recently in The American Spectator, he argues that courts, working reciprocally with elite opinion, have given constitutional finality to values most Americans oppose

Driven by concerns of disparate treatment and undue leniency in punishment, Congress created an independent agency, the U.S. Sentencing Commission, to formulate a new sentencing regime that would drastically limit the discretion of federal judges.

An intriguing policy report discussing the viewpoints of individualism related to its critiques, social obligations and various viewpoints on the role of the state.

Nathan addresses the role of the states, the Rockefeller lectures on federalism in the mid-1900s, and provides an analysis of where the nation stands today with regards to federalism.

"The Court's opinion in United States v. Lopez sent shock waves through official Washington, not least because Washington had simply assumed, since the era of the New Deal, that its regulatory powers were plenary."

A fundamental reexamination of the federal regulatory structure is in order. It is imperative that Congress reexamine the role of the federal government, as well as the role of criminal sanctions, in environmental law. Reform should begin with the immediate restoration of the legal rights and privileges that are enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

"Plenty of analysts can tell you how government policies differ from country to country, but surprisingly few consider such differences domestically. I find this surprising, because tax and regulatory burdens can differ substantially among the states, which in some cases have total output (and customer bases) larger than most foreign countries."

"The Tenth Amendment expresses the principle that undergirds the entire plan of the original Constitution: the national government possesses only those powers delegated to it. The Framers of the Tenth Amendment had two purposes in mind when they drafted it. The first was a necessary rule of construction. The second was to reaffirm the nature of the federal system...

As Justice Sandra O'Connor has recently observed, those who ratified the Constitution had several reasons for wishing to ensure that the states would continue to hold ultimate power on all matters other than those delegated to the federal government.

"Courts and the legal academy both generally agree that early efforts to limit the federal government to only 'expressly' delegated powers were decisively rebuffed by Chief Justice John Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland."

The centerpiece of President Bush's crimefighting program is an initiative called Project Safe Neighborhoods. That initiative calls for the hiring of some 700 lawyers who will be dedicated to prosecuting firearm offenses, such as the unlawful possession of a gun by a drug user or a convicted felon.

Recent regulations promulgated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency assert a sweeping authority to preempt a broad array of state laws, including consumer protection laws, applicable not only to national banks but also to their state-chartered operating subsidiaries.


"There has recently been a resurgence in support of the 10th Amendment by the 'Tenthers' in the recent wave of government expansions, especially with the recent passage of the healthcare overhaul. Roger Pilon gives a brief history of what the Constitution was originally intended to accomplish, and how that paradigm changed in the 1930s. Since the New Deal the...

"This panel will assess American federalism as a competitive institution that offers a marketplace of state regulatory regimes. With the recession impacting some states more heavily than others, it is time to ask whether interstate competition is good for the nation. Should state-by-state approaches to issues such as healthcare, financial regulation, environmental...

"Down on the boardwalk, we interview a few young Americans to find out what they know about the Constitution of the United States. Can you answer the questions? Does it matter?"

"We ask moms on the street what they know about the Constitution. Can you answer the questions? Does it matter?"

This video discusses the recently-passed Montana Firearms Freedom Act and its relevance to Federalism, States' Rights and the state's current battle to reassert sovereignty. Governor Schweitzer is featured in the interview explaining the rationale behind the legislation.

Woods gives the historical background and rationale behind the Kentucky & Virginia resolutions (in response to the Alien and Sedition Act), explaining one of the first battles for power between the state and federal governments.

"As statehouses open for the 2011 session, happy days are not here again. Rather, for most states harsh fiscal reality must be faced. Many question if the fundamental structure of American politics is broken and if this structure will continue to force states and citizens toward a downward spiral of massive, ever-increasing debt.


"The Mercatus Center is hosting a breakfast roundtable discussion with Dr. Russell Sobel of West Virginia University and the Mercatus Center on his recent paper, 'Do Intergovernmental Grants Create Ratchet Effects in State and Local Taxes?' This paper addresses the question of whether federal funding in a given year results in states beginning new spending programs...

In this brief video Nathan addresses the concept of Federalism, its relation to today's political parties and its relevance in modern governance.

Primary Document

In this essay, the author, most commonly believed to have been New York judge Robert Yates, provides his reasons for arguing that "a free republic cannot long subsist over a country of the great extent of these states. If then this new constitution is calculated to consolidate the thirteen states into one, as it evidently is, it ought not to be adopted."

"If any possible situation makes it a duty, it is our present important one, for in the course of sixty or ninety days you are to approve of or reject the present proceedings of your [Constitutional] Convention, which, if established, will certainly effect, in a greater or less degree, during the remainder of your lives, those privileges which you esteem dear...

Written under a nom de plume, this extensive political treatise investigates the authority of governments over their subjects and citizens. Specifically, this treatise outlines the concepts of a righteous overthrow of a governmental leader, laying down much of the theoretical groundwork for the the American Revolution. Written from the perspective of the...

"Two essays by Rousseau on the issue of war written during the mid 1750s. The first is a critique of the abbé Saint-Pierre's ideas on the prospects of a European Federation to reduce the likelihood of war. The second is his attempt to formulate a theory of just war."

In this message to Congress, Lincoln makes the case to free the slaves, proposing three constitutional amendments, which would provide for federal compensation to states that voluntary chose to abolish slavery, federal compensation to slave-holders, and federal funds to colonize American Blacks outside the United States. None of these proposed amendments were...

Calling a special session in order to acquire permission to pay for the war against the South, Lincoln lays out the reasoning behind his actions at the start of the war. He also states his case for the preservation of the Union and forcefully argues against the claim that the states have a right to secession.

"It is proposed that humble application be made for an act of Parliament of Great Britain, by virtue of which one general government may be formed in America, including all the said colonies, within and under which government each colony may retain its present constitution, except in the particulars wherein a change may be directed by the said act, as hereafter...

This economic classic is noted for providing us with terms for and expositions of such key economic ideas as the division of labor, "invisible hand," self-interest as a beneficial force, and freedom of trade.

In this famous philosophical treatise, Immanuel Kant defines "Enlightenment" as the ability to think for yourself. Politically speaking, Kant argues that governments should allow their citizens much more freedom, such as the ability to freely speak their minds in the public forum without fear of reprisal and the ability to freely choose or ignore the practices and...

Transcript of the Bill of Rights to the Constitution.

This treatise, written in the early 19th century by Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, outlines his views on the Tenth Amendment. He viewed the Tenth Amendment as the capstone of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, claiming that "This amendment is a mere affirmation of what, upon any just reasoning, is a necessary rule of interpreting the constitution."

"We may summarize our view of constitutional government by saying that its ultimate and essential objects are:

1st. To bring the active and planning will of each part of the government into accord with the prevailing popular thought and need, in order that government may be the impartial instrument of a symmetrical national...

"The right to complete freedom in the utterance of political opinions has been so long a fundamental principle in the United States that probably few Americans will recall the fact that exactly a hundred years ago the controversy which eventuated in the complete triumph of that principle raged all over the Union. The Virginia and Kentucky...

Tocqueville's famous analysis of the American economic and political system, as he observed during his travels of the country in the 1830s.

Dred Scott was a slave who, because his owner had moved him to a free state for a period of time, sued for his freedom. The Court held that slaves were not citizens of the United States and therefore not entitled to constitutional protections. And since slaves were considered property, the Court held that their owners could not be deprived of them without due...

This document, written by an anonymous author, outlines his view regarding the separation of powers between the state and national governments. He believes that it is best for the framers of the Constitution to fully enumerate the powers of both the state and federal governments, instead of enumerating one and then being silent on the reserved rights of the other...

Writing under the pseudonym "Publius" James Madison discusses the relationship between the federal and state governments, concluding that "the powers proposed to be lodged in the federal government are as little formidable to those reserved to the individual States, as they are indispensably necessary to accomplish the purposes...

In this speech, FDR discusses Jefferson's philosophy in connection with idea that the "purpose of Government [is] based on a universality of interest." As examples of the execution of such a purpose, Roosevelt argues for the proper regulation of public utilities in order to keep prices down and ensure equal access, as well as the establishment of a tariff system...

This case overruled a previous Supreme Court case (National League of Cities v. Usery, 1976), saying that the Tenth Amendment does not impede Congress' authority to regulate employment conditions and practices in state governments. Justice Blackmun writes that the Fair Labor Standards Act, when applied to state government employees, is not in...

This Supreme Court case deals with how the Commerce Clause gives the federal government the right to criminalize the growing and personal usage of marijuana, even when these actions are in accordance to state law. 

California's Compassionate Use Act allows people to use limited amounts of marijuana for strictly medicinal...

This case brought before the Court the question of whether it is "within the authority of Congress in regulating commerce among the States to prohibit the transportation in interstate commerce of manufactured goods, the product of a factory in which, within thirty days prior to their removal therefrom, children under the age of fourteen have been employed or...

In this treatise, 18th century philosopher David Hume writes about his notion of a perfect system of government. His idea of government was very much federalist in nature, based in the rule of law with limited governmental powers.

"The Hart-Cellar Act abolished the national origins quota system that had structured American immigration policy since the 1920s, replacing it with a preference system that focused on immigrants' skills and family relationships with citizens or residents of the U.S. Numerical restrictions on visas were set at 170,000 per year, not including immediate relatives of U...

In this document, the fifth president of the United States, James Monroe, outlines his views on the concept of enumerated powers. He believed that the powers given to the federal government "are enumerated and defined in the most precise form."

This document from the Constitution Ratification Covention shows James Wilson's view regarding the line of demarcation between federal and state authority. In Wilson's view, a blurred line of authority is not necessarily a bad thing, as he believes state and federal governments will be able to act and behave not as "enemies of each other" but rather in harmony, "...

Jefferson argues against the creation of a national bank on the grounds that it is not one of the delegated powers given to Congress under the Constitution.

"Memorandum from the President to: Secretary of Defense, Acting Attorney General, Secretary of the Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, Secretary of Commerce, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Director, Office of Economic Opportunity, Director, Office of Emergency Planning.

This case addressed the Fair Labor Standards Act. The dissent, written by Justice William Douglas, explains why the Fair Labor Standards Act cannot be constitutionally applied to the employees of State governments, as such a law is in clear violation of the Tenth Amendment.

This Supreme Court case is considered a landmark case on the issue of federalism. The decision held that the authority of the federal government is expressly enumerated in the Constitution, and that the implied powers of the federal government override the reserved rights of the states. According to Chief Justice Marshall, the Necessary and Proper clause implies...

The U.S. Supreme Court's highly anticipated decision which upheld the Affordable Care Act.

In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Fair Labor Standards Act could not be applied to state governments.

The Fair Labor Standards Act regulates employees working hours, overtime pay, etc. Justice Rehnquist wrote that the Constitution did not grant Congress the ability to control the working...

Lord Action presciently analyzes the dangers inherent in the "modern" concept of nationality. By making "the State and the nation commensurate with each other in theory, it reduces practically to a subject condition all other nationalities that may be within the boundary. ...According, therefore, to the degree of humanity and civilisation in that dominant...

During the wars of the French Revolution Kant was inspired by the Treaty of Basel to contemplate how both self-interest and international cooperation might bring an end to war. This edition is interesting because it was published during World War One."

This case decision, written by Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that certain aspects of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act are unconstitutional. Scalia argued that the supporters of the Brady Act misinterpreted the Tenth Amendment and the Necessary and Proper clause of the Constitution, as the Brady Act "violates the principle of State Sovereignty" in...

In this work, English philosopher John Stuart Mill argues his views regarding the morality and practicality of government systems, concluding that a representative government is the best form of government.

With this executive order, Reagan sought to "restore the division of governmental responsibilities between the national government and the States that was intended by the Framers of the Constitution and to ensure that the principles of federalism established by the Framers guide the Executive departments and agencies in the formulation and implementation of...

This decision by the Court upheld a federal law that deprived states with a drinking age of less than 21 years of 5 percent of their federal highway funds: "Even if Congress, in view of the Twenty-first Amendment, might lack the power to impose directly a national minimum drinking age (a question not decided here), § 158's indirect encouragement of state action to obtain uniformity in the...

This primary document provides you with St. George Tucker's legal commentaries regarding the separation of powers between the federal and state governments. Tucker believed that while the federal government was indeed granted some powers via the Constitution, he believed that the states themselves are sovereign in their rights and indeed could dissolve the union if...

This page, provided by the Cornell University Law School, contains a relatively in-depth legal discussion regarding the Tenth Amendment. This page is an excellent source for the legal history and background of the Tenth Amendment, as well as a primer for the current debate today.

After the Pennsylvania Convention ratified the new constitution on December 12, 1787, by a vote of 46 to 23, twenty-one members of the minority signed a dissenting address that appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser....

This document provides unique insight into American constitutional views in the 19th century, having fully eliminated the "General Welfare" Clause and any language referring to "General Welfare." Many anti-federalists and especially those in the south believed that the "ticking-time-bomb" of the Clause would eventually lead to further infringements by the federal...

"In a word, the people and the states no longer trust Washington...because Washington has assumed a vast array of regulatory and redistributive powers that were never its to assume--not, that is, if we take the Constitution seriously."

"HAVING shown that no one of the powers transferred to the federal government is unnecessary or improper, the next question to be considered is, whether the whole mass of them will be dangerous to the portion of authority left in the several States."

"The Federalist Papers were a series of articles written under the pen name of Publius by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Madison, widely recognized as the Father of the Constitution, would later go on to become President of the United States. Jay would become the first Chief Justice of the US...

The Kentucky Resolutions, passed by the Kentucky Legislature in 1799, asserted that the U.S. Constitution was a "compact" between the states which sought to preserve state sovereignty from federal encroachment.

Montesquieu was a significant advocate of separation of powers between executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and his discussion of law contributed significantly to the concept of rule of law.

The Constitution of the United States established the federal governmental system currently in place with three branches of government. The premise of executive privilege developed from the separation of powers clause.

The dissent of this case, written by Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, argues against the Majority ruling that the States cannot legislate additional prerequisites for their representatives in Congress beyond what is set down in the Constitution.

Justice Thomas argues that because the Constitution is silent on the...

The first written constitution of the United States of America. They maintained state sovereignty, yet unified the colonies into a single nation.

"In Butler, the Court struck down the Agricultural Adjustment Act, which taxed processors in order to pay farmers to reduce production. Although invalidating the statute, the Court adopted the Hamiltonian view (almost in passing) that the General Welfare Clause is a separate grant of congressional authority, linked to and qualified by the spending power...

This is considered a landmark case as it was the first time since the New Deal that federal legislation claiming authority under the commerce clause was overturned. 

Chief Justice William Rehnquist wrote the majority opinion for this case, declaring that the Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 was unconstitutional because...

Chief Justice Rehnquist delivered the majority opinion in this case, ruling that the Violence Against Women Act of 1994 was unconstitutional. This law gave victims of gender-motivated crimes the right to sue for damages in federal court. In this instance, the court ruled that the Commerce Clause and Fourteenth Amendment did not give Congress the authority to enact...

This case involved the contest of a charge of "unlawful transportation and possession of intoxicating liquors in violation of section 3 of title 2 of the National Prohibition Act." A lower court had granted the defendants' claim that the "Eighteenth Amendment by authority of which the [National Prohibition Act] was enacted has not been ratified so as to become part...