The 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly states that the federal government is limited only to the powers expressly written in the Constitution. The 10th Amendment reads: "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."
Did you know that the Constitution of the United States that we have now is actually the second in our nation's 236-year history? When the country defeated the British monarchy in 1776, the founding fathers knew they had to act quickly to draft and establish a central government. The result was our country's first Constitution, the Articles of Confederation, which was approved in 1781.
However, the Articles of Confederation had significant flaws, including a weak central governing body. As a result, the government was forced to rethink the Articles' construction. In 1789, the current Constitution was ratified by 9 of the 13 states and went into effect shortly after. In the years since then, 27 Amendments have been made to the document, and the first 10 of those are called the Bill of Rights.
The Bill of Rights was designed to protect citizens, who still had the American Revolution fresh in their minds, from the tyranny of central government. The Bill of Rights includes famous liberties such as the right to bear arms, the freedoms of speech, press, and religion, and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishments.
People were concerned that a central government left unchecked would lead to a governing body that took away individual liberties. The purpose of the 10th Amendment was to protect America from experiencing a government like the British monarchy, which the colonists saw as oppressive. The 10th amendment was written to ensure states would retain their sovereignty and to prevent the government from denying the people their individual freedoms. James Madison, who would later go on to become the nation's fourth President, introduced the 10th Amendment to Congress.