Principle Behind Separation
The Founding Fathers and Revolutionary soldiers rebelled against the powerful monarchy of Great Britain. As a result, the Founding Fathers had concerns over creating a central government with too much strength. The framers of the Constitution created checks and balances within the federal government, but they also wanted balance outside the federal level and with the states.
The Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution 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." Essentially, this meant that states had sovereignty over internal matters, while the federal government maintained sovereignty over external matters.
Some debate exists over how this separation translates into law. The Founding Fathers fully intended for the states to have authority over many issues. Some matters, such as national defense and foreign commerce, create little debate, while other matters, such as the definition of marriage, cause considerably greater contention.