Federalism and the Tenth Amendment

The term federalism refers to the division of power and responsibility between the states and the national government. Implicit in the structure of the Constitution and reaffirmed by the Tenth Amendment, the principles of dual sovereignty-commonly called federalism-limit the powers of the national government in three significant ways. First, as the Eleventh Amendment confirms, the states retain their immunity from suit. Second, dual sovereignty limits Congress's power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment. Third, federalism limits Congress's ability to regulate interstate commerce. The origins of federalism in the Constitution and early Supreme Court rulings are discussed in this entry, along with the Court-ordered limitations on Congress's power to enforce the Fourteenth Amendment or to regulate interstate commerce.


In The Federalist No. 51, James Madison wrote, “In the ...

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