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
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
B. How did the Federalist and Anti Federalists differ in
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 –
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
2. The Powers of the States – Reserved Powers
3. Powers shared by both – Concurrent Powers