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The 10th Amendment, Slavery & The Civil War

The 10th Amendment, Slavery & The Civil War
Years before and during the Civil War times, several Southern slave states challenged the authority of the Washington, D.C. – federal government to regulate or control any activity (particularly the existence of or spread of slavery) within their borders that was under the 10th constitutional amendment. The 10th Amendment states that “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” (U.S. Constitution, 2010, para 24). This Amendment had been ratified in 1791 and allowed states to exercise powers that that were not constitutionally granted to the federal government. As such, the Southern-slave states had the power to regulate the activities happening within the states which included continuation of slave trade. The states were logical in demanding sovereignty even in the matter of slavery hence the federal government could not limit slavery in these states. It was unconstitutional for the federal government to seek to regulate states’ affairs as the 10th Amendment gave the states the right and power to trade in slaves or any other form of trade as long as it was not prohibited constitutionally. The argument by the Southern-slave states that they were entitled to conduct commerce including slavery without interference from the federal government was valid since the 14th Amendment was not in place then. States had their bills of rights and not until the Civil War did it become important to introduce the 14th amendment and this disempowered the 10th Amendment. The 14th Amendment provides that “no state shall make or enforce any law which abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States… and The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article” (U.S. Constitution, 2010, para 39). It is therefore evident that as far as the 10th Amendment remained with no further constitutional restrictions such as the 14th Amendment, the Southern states had powers of conducting slavery without federal restriction (legislature, judiciary or the presidency).

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