Date of Graduation


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Political Science

Committee Chair

Shauna Fisher

Committee Co-Chair


Committee Member



Since the drafting of the United States Constitution, the power of both the federal government and the individual state governments has been a topic of controversy. The Constitution's strong focus on federal powers ultimately threatened to derail ratification. To secure the ratification of the Constitution, a Bill of Rights was added to the document. Comprised of ten amendments, the Bill of Rights generally elaborated on individual rights. The Tenth Amendment, however, dealt more specifically with the federal-state relationship. Several early federal court cases established the federal judiciary's power to answer important Constitutional questions. This power thus granted the federal judiciary the authority to determine the constitutionality of issues concerning the relationship between states and the federal government. By the early nineteenth century, concerns of federalism began to involve the interpretation and application of the Commerce Clause. An examination of federal court cases (most at the Supreme Court level) dealing specifically with both commerce powers, federalism, and the meaning of the Tenth Amendment provides valuable insight into the large-scale political climate and attitudes of the United States. Through a chronological breakdown of these most pertinent court cases, a pattern emerges: the federal judiciary's historical stances on the Tenth Amendment-commerce connection tend to reflect the broader state of America politics and attitudes during the time of their ruling.