The Founders Interpret the Constitution: The Division of Federal and State Powers

19 Federalist Soc. Rev. 60

7 Pages Posted: 24 Jun 2018

See all articles by Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Independence & Montana Policy Institutes

Date Written: June 7, 2018


Few students of the U.S. Constitution are aware that leading founders clarified the meaning of the Constitution's grants of power to the federal government by enumerating during the ratification debates specific powers the federal government would not have. These were to be reserved exclusively to the states and people.

This article discusses the representations thus made and the qualifications of those who made them. It concludes that because of those qualifications and the surrounding circumstances these explanations of federal limits have far more probative force than cases and commentaries issued decades or centuries later.

Keywords: federalism, constitutional law, originalism, original meaning, original public meaning, original intent, original understanding, states rights

JEL Classification: K1, K10, K19

Suggested Citation

Natelson, Robert G., The Founders Interpret the Constitution: The Division of Federal and State Powers (June 7, 2018). 19 Federalist Soc. Rev. 60. Available at SSRN:

Robert G. Natelson (Contact Author)

Independence & Montana Policy Institutes ( email )

727 E. 16th Ave.
Denver, CO 80203
United States
303-279-6536 (Phone)


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