The Constitution is a contract between the People, the States, and the general (Federal) government. Abiding by the Constitution, like abiding with any contract, requires knowing the intent of the original parties.
The provisions of the Constitution clearly show the intent was to restrict the jurisdiction and obstruct the exercise of powers delegated to the general government. Through careful design, the Constitution provided for separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, and ingenious restraints on taxation.
But the principle parties to this social contract still wanted more protections against the general government. Thus, they granted to it only specific and limited powers.
Under Article I, Section 8, Congress was granted only power to make all laws reasonable and necessary to:
levy uniform taxes; borrow money; regulate trade with foreign nations and Indian Tribes; regulate interstate commerce, immigration, bankruptcies; coin money and regulate its value; fix standard weights and measures; punish counterfeiters; establish Post Offices and post roads; protect inventors; create courts inferior to the supreme Court; punish piracy; declare war, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal; raise, support and make the rules for military forces; call forth and employing the Militia; legislating over D.C.
Regardless of these powers, Article I, Section 9, states the government could not:
stop importation of slaves until 1808; enact laws aimed at individuals; apply laws retroactively; tax the people directly; tax exports from States; pass commerce laws preferring one State over another; draw money from the Treasury without authority of law; grant title of nobility.
Under Article II, the President is the Commander in Chief, and signs Treaties; nominates judges, ambassadors and other public officers; fills vacancies; informs Congress of the State of the Union; and faithfully executes the law.
Under Article III, the Supreme Court had power to adjudicate cases involving Ambassadors, the Constitution, federal statutes, Treaties, disputes where the general government is a party, disputes between States, disputes between citizens of different States, disputes between a State and a citizen of another State.
The intent to limit the power of the general government was also made clear during passage of the Constitution. To win approval of the People and the States, promoters of the Constitution explained its meaning through a series of published papers known as the Federalist Papers.
According to Federalist Paper No. 45 -
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, such as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce . . . The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”
According to Federalist Paper No. 78 –
“The Judiciary is beyond comparison the weakest of the three departments of power . . . the general liberty of the people can never be endangered from that quarter.”
These promises of limited government were later crystalized by the 10th Amendment –
“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.”