From the Tenth Amendment Center on Sam Adam’s Birthday
by Samuel Adams
Editor’s Note: Samuel Adams, American Patriot and Revolutionary Leader, was born on September 27, 1722. In celebration of his birth, we present the following letter, sent by him to Elbridge Gerry, on August 22, 1789.
I wrote to you hastily two days ago, and as hastily ventured an Opinion concerning the Right of Congress to control a Light-house erected on Land belonging to this sovereign and independent State for its own Use and at its own Expense.
I say sovereign and independent, because I think the State retains all the Rights of Sovereignty which it has not expressly parted with to the Congress of the United States–a federal Power instituted solely for the Support of the federal Union.
The Sovereignty of the State extends over every part of its Territory. The federal Constitution expresses the same Idea in Sec. 8, Art. 1.
A Power is therein given to Congress “to exercise like Authority,” that is to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, “over all places purchased by the Consent of the Legislature in which the same shall be, for the Erection of Forts, Magazines, and other needful Buildings,” among which Light-houses may be included.
Is it not the plain Conclusion from this Clause in the Compact, that Congress have not the Right to exercise exclusive Legislation in all Cases whatsoever, nor even to purchase or control any part of the Territory within a State for the Erection of needful Buildings unless it has the Consent of its Legislature.