The Jeffersonian Perspective

Commentary on Today's Social and Political Issues
Based on the Writings of Thomas Jefferson


Brief Notes on Jeffersonian Topics

The 9th and 10th Amendments

The Framers intended the Constitution to be a limiting document, and the 9th and 10th Amendments describe the parameters of those limitations. The rights specified in the Constitution are NOT the only rights that citizens have (9th), and ALL the powers not specifically delegated to the federal government are reserved to the States or the people (10th). From that body of rights and powers not given to the federal, the people and the states may at any future time delegate any of the powers, including the power to determine the extent any right may be exercised, to the federal. Until they do that, those rights and powers remain in the hands of the people and the states for their own management. If the people wish to delegate that management to the states, they may. If to the federal, they may (through the amendment process and their state legislatures). If they wish to keep it to themselves and not to be controlled by either state or federal (such as between a woman and her doctor in the case of abortion), they may. That is the way the assignment of power to the federal government is supposed to work. The 9th and 10th Amendments do not fix the division between specific rights and powers forever; they merely establish the dividing line at any given time, and that dividing line may be readjusted throughout the life of the republic.

Jefferson believed that the 10th Amendment described the essence of federal power:

Once those boundaries are violated, who is to say what are the limits of federal power? The ultimate governor of federal and state power is the people themselves, or else it has no limits.


The Jeffersonian Perspective: Table of Contents | Front Page
Thomas Jefferson on Politics & Government: Front Page | Table of Contents

© 1999 by Eyler Robert Coates, Sr.