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Why was a federal system of government created?

As discussed yesterday the Constitution created at the Second Constitutional Convention was built in the spirit of compromise. Today we examine another balancing act, the balance of powers between the state and federal government.

I. The Delegates Create a Federal Government

A. Federalism

1. A system of government that creates a central government and local state governments.

2. The powers of the national and state governments are divided and balanced.

 B. How did the Federalist and Anti Federalists differ in their opinions?

1. Federalists - James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay. Favored ratification of constitution, wanted strong but balanced federal govt.

2. Anti-federalists - Patrick Henry and Sam Adams, Thomas Jefferson. Feared strong central govt. Supported states rights. Proof was lack of Bill of Rights.

3. Federalists won but had to promise a Bill of rights would be their first order of business.

C. What are the powers designated to the Federal Government, reserved for the state governments and shared (concurrent) by both?

 1. Powers of the Federal Government - Delegated Powers

  • The federal government possesses all those powers that are delegated to it by the Constitution either expressly or by implication. These powers are enumerated principally as powers of Congress in Article I, Section 8. Included among these are the power to tax, borrow and coin money, maintain armies and navies, conduct foreign relations, and regulate interstate and foreign commerce. After the enumeration of powers in Article I, Section 8, the Constitution grants Congress further authority to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers and all other powers vested by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof." This general grant of implied powers in the "elastic" or "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution has raised numerous questions as to the actual scope of national authority. In many instances, such questions have been resolved by the Supreme Court.
  • Despite the fact that the states are supreme in their sphere of activities, the federal Constitution and national laws constitute the supreme law of the land when conflicts arise from attempts of both jurisdictions to govern the same subject matter. The supremacy of national authority is indicated by Article VI, clause 2, of the Constitution, which provides as follows:
  • This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any state to the contrary notwithstanding.
      2. The Powers of the States - Reserved Powers
      • The Tenth Amendment indicates that state governments possess those powers that are not given to the national government or prohibited to the states. Among others, the states have the power to establish schools and supervise education, regulate intrastate commerce, conduct elections, establish local government units, and borrow money. In addition, a broad and generally undefined "police power" enables the states to take action to protect and promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of their inhabitants. The states also exercise powers relating to wills and domestic relations.

      3. Powers shared by both - Concurrent Powers

      • Concurrent powers include the power to tax and borrow money, to take property for public purposes, to enact bankruptcy laws, and to establish laws and courts.

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