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1.8: Federalism and the Tenth Amendment


  • To better understand the vocabulary related to federalism and the 10th Amendment, and the connection between them.


  1. Read the text below on Federalism and the Tenth Amendment.
  2. When you finish, please write a post in our discussion forum

Federalism and the Tenth Amendment

  • As you’ve seen, the Constitution is a document that helps organize the structure and powers of the US government. Also, through the Bill of Rights, the Constitution protects rights and freedoms of the people. 
  • The resulting system created by the Constitution is a system of “federalism.”
  • There are two key anchors in the Constitution that can help us better understand how federalism works in the US: the Tenth Amendment and the Supremacy Clause
  • We’ll start by discussing federalism and the 10th Amendment (which is in the Bill of Rights)


Federalism is a system where power is distributed to a national government and also state governments.

You might be surprised to learn that the word ‘federalism’ does not appear in the Constitution. However, the division of power between the national government and state governments affected how the Constitution was drafted more than 200 years ago, and still affects virtually every social and political issue in the United States today.

For example, when the United States responds to a pandemic such as Covid-19, or tries to address other issues of national importance, there may be cooperation or division between the responses by the national government and state governments. The national government has certain powers, but may not have unlimited powers to act in response to certain issues. Because of federalism, certain powers belong to the states.

The most explicit reference to federalism in the United States is found in Amendment X of the Constitution (see below). The Tenth Amendment, the last Amendment in the Bill of Rights, expressly reserves powers for the states.

As a result of the Tenth Amendment some powers belong only to the federal government and are often referred to as exclusive powers of the federal government. When powers belong to both the state and federal government we usually refer to those powers as shared powers.

Amendment X

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.

Write a Post

  1. Now that you’ve finished reading the text above, in a Discussion post, write at least one thing you learned, realized, or want to know more about after reading the below information about Federalism and the 10th Amendment.
  2. Also, write what you think the connection might be between federalism and the 10th Amendment. You can also discuss what you know about exclusive powers and shared powers. If you are not sure just take a guess or ask questions.