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This is the constitutional recognition of the legal origins of the United States as a union of independent states. America started, of course, with 13 colonies, which became 13 states, and gradually added 37 additional states.
Though the federal government is a behemoth today, it was created when each of those states ceded some of their sovereignty to the federal government. They did this in writing. The writing is the Constitution, and it explicitly states that the governmental powers not ceded are retained by the states.
President Reagan reminded us of the origins of the country in his first inaugural address when he stated, “All of us need to be reminded that the federal government did not create the states; the states created the federal government.” He also said that the beauty of the retention of powers by the states is that they are likely to exercise those powers differently and become laboratories of democracy — hence, Reagan’s famous quip that one of the benefits of living in the U.S. is federalism, because “you can vote with your feet.”
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