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Congress may not commandeer the States' legislative processes by directly compelling them to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program, but must exercise legislative authority directly upon individuals.


In 1788, in the course of explaining to the citizens of New York why the recently drafted Constitution provided for federal courts, Alexander Hamilton observed: 'The erection of a new government, whatever care or wisdom may distinguish the work, cannot fail to originate questions of intricacy and nicety; and these may, in a particular manner, be expected to flow from the establishment of a constitution founded upon the total or partial incorporation of a number of distinct sovereignties.' The Federalist No. 82, p. 491 (C. Rossiter ed. 1961). Hamilton's prediction has proved quite accurate. While no one disputes the proposition that '[t]he Constitution created a Federal Government of limited powers,' Gregory v. Ashcroft, 501 U. S. 452, 457 (1991); and while the Tenth Amendment makes explicit that '[t]he 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 task of ascertaining the constitutional line between federal and state power has given ...

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