Founding Fathers Quotes on the Dangers of Centralized Power in the Ninth & Tenth Amendments
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“The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”
“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.”
If the Crown represented anything to the Founding Fathers, it was the danger of central power. So they took pains to avoid this when drafting the new Constitution. Indeed, the Articles of Confederation period of United States history shows just how entirely distrustful Americans were of centralized power. To that end, the Constitution gives broad powers to the states while intentionally limiting federal power.
While “States Rights” have become almost inextricably identified with slavery and segregation, the actual answer is much more complex than this: The states – and private organizations – have all powers not explicitly delegated to the United States federal government. This means that virtually everything the federal government currently does is extra-Constitutional and properly the role of the 50 state governments. This is not just to provide for a decentralized government structure, but also to provide for people to be able to move from one state to another to live under laws closer to their own choosing. The Founders would never have imagined that places as far apart geographically and culturally as Alabama and California would have the same laws.
“No position appears to me more true than this; that the General Govt. can not effectually exist without reserving to the States the possession of their local rights. They are the instruments upon which the Union must frequently depend for the support and execution of their powers, however immediately operating upon the people, and not upon the States.”
“Gentlemen indulge too many unreasonable apprehensions of danger to the state governments; they seem to suppose that the moment you put men into a national council [federal government], they become corrupt and lose all their affection for their fellow citizens.”
“The State governments possess inherent advantages, which will ever give them an influence and ascendancy over the National Government, and will for ever preclude the possibility of federal encroachments. That their liberties, indeed, can be subverted by the federal head, is repugnant to every rule of political calculation.”
“While the constitution continues to be read, and its principles known, the states, must, by every, rational man, be considered as essential component parts of the union; and therefore the idea of sacrificing the former to the latter is totally inadmissible.”
“It is most important, likewise, that the habits of thinking in a free Country should inspire caution in those entrusted with its administration, to confine themselves within their respective Constitutional Spheres; avoiding in the exercise of the Powers of one department to encroach upon another.”
“The way to have good and safe government, is not to trust it all to one; but to divide it among the many, distributing to every one exactly the functions he is competent to. Let the National government be entrusted with the defence of the nation, and its foreign and federal relations; the State governments with the civil rights, laws, police and administration of what concerns the states generally; the Counties with the local concerns of the counties, and each Ward direct the interests within itself. It is by dividing and subdividing these republics from the great National one down thro’ all its subordinates, until it ends in the administration of every man’s farm and affairs by himself; by placing under every one what his own eye may superintend, that all will be done for the best.”
“The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is ingulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them.”
“Human affections, like the solar heat, lose their intensity as they depart from the center. … On these principles, the attachment of the individual will be first and forever secured by state governments.”
“The powers of the federal government are enumerated; it can only operate in certain cases; it has legislative powers on defined and limited objects, beyond which it cannot extend its jurisdiction.”