states' rights, in U.S. history, doctrine based on the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution, which states, “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.” The term embraces both the doctrine of absolute state sovereignty that was espoused by John C. Calhoun and that of the so-called strict constructionist interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, which reserves to the state governments all powers not specifically granted by that document to the federal government. A states' rights controversy is probably inherent in the federal structure of the United States government.
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