Thomas Jefferson


The struggle over states rights

The U.S. Constitution’s 10th Amendment that states:

“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 U.S. Constitution establishes a government based on "federalism," or the sharing of power between the national, and state (and local) governments. Our power-sharing form of government is the opposite of "centralized" governments, such as those in England and France, under which national government maintains total power.

While each of the 50 states has its own constitution, all provisions of state constitutions must comply with the U.S. Constitution. For example, a state constitution cannot deny accused criminals the right to a trial by jury, as assured by the U.S. Constitution's 6th Amendment.

Under the U.S. Constitution, both the national and state governments are granted certain exclusive powers and share other powers.


The struggle to insure the superiority of the U.S. Government over the States appears to be well defined by the 10th amendment to the U. S. Constitution, but it is not that clear!

For example, California voters approved the use of medical marijuana, but the federal government held that the federal Controlled Substances Act superseded state law. The District Court agreed with the federal government. But the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision.   It is up to the Supreme Court to make the final decision.


Here, in this act of Congress in 1792, the 3 year-old federal government gives its approval to various acts passed by Maryland, Georgia and Rhode Island … setting the precedence for the federal government to continually verify that the states are not exercising a power reserved to the federal government.