Federalism is a system of government that divides power between a national government and a regional government with the use of a constitution. Throughout the United States history, federalism has played a significant role in the constitution and the system of government adopted by the United States of America. Federalism has also changed throughout the course of America’s history to fit the constitution and the government.
Montesquieu was a French philosopher who was very important in the American constitutional thought. He was a man who was referred to more that any other theoretical writer and wrote, “The Spirit of the Laws.” Some of Montesquie’s theories or views were that the Republic form of government was only possible in small societies, a federal republic is where several societies, form to make a more new and enlarged society, and he believed the cure for internal strife within a country is commerce because it cures destructive prejudices and keeps people aware of their interdependence for comfort and security. Montesquieu’s greatest influence on the American constitution is his doctrines of separation of powers.
In Montesquieu’s doctrines, he discusses the three distinctive branches of government. The actual people in each of the branches should develop distinct ways of governing which will provide groups in society some form of accomodation in the government’s decision making roles. Checks and Balances is another theory of Montisquieu. Which is a system where one branch of government has some form of power over the other two branches. “Montisquieu was one of the most important theorists and was referred to by James Madison as the “oracle who is always consulted and cited.”
David Hume was another philosopher and historian who is very important in government. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and wrote “Idea of the Perfect Commonwealth.” Hume believed that opinion is divided into two kinds which are interest and right. He also believed that a right is of two kinds– power and property. Hume was a man that was lead by the influence of John Locke and George Berkeley. Hume also believed that we should just keep and improve our ancient governments; hence, we prevent any new radical forms of government.
Federalism was incorporated in the constitution for many different reasons. One of the main reasons federalism was added was to prevent the new form of government in the United States after the Articles of Confederation of abusing its powers. Under federalism, state governments and the national governments would have specific limit, and rights. Some of the limits and rights on the national government were the right of habeus corpus, and control of interstate commerce. States could not tax imports and exports, could not impair obligation of contracts. Federalism was created to ensure both separate governments certain privileges. The Framers of the Constitution believed that the competition between both of the governments would create an effective limitation on each governments power.
The Federalist Papers, numbers forty-five and forty-six, were written by James Madison and supported some of the ideas of federalism in them. In Federalist Papers 45, Madison wrote about “The Alleged Danger from the Powers of the Union to the State Governments.” In Federalist Papers 46, Madison wrote about “The Influence of the state and federal governments.”
Madison’s Federalist Papers 45 cited federalism in a few areas. One big area was the power to tax. Madison said that if federal government had tax collectors, than the state governments will have theirs also. Madison believed that the national and state governments should both have their own powers. The national government has powers on war, peace, foreign commerce, and negotiation. He then stated that the state government has the powers concerning the lives and liberties of the people such as improvement and prosperity of the states.
The Federalist Papers 46 also had federalism incorporated in it. Madison believed that the state governments should silently and cautiously build up an army, just in case the federal government was to invade the states. Therefore, the states could be ready just in case something like that happened. He also believed that the federal government powers are as little as those of the states in recollection to the Union.
The “necessary and proper clause” is the significance of enumerated powers are a source of strength to the national government, not a limitation on it. This clause is also known as the elastic clause and was settled by the Supreme Court under the Chief Justice John Marshall. Marshall basically nationalized or expanded the “necessary and proper clause” throughout the United States. Marshall declared that the states did not have power to tax and national agency. Marshall believed that Congress had the power to set up a bank even if it was not clearly in the constitution. He argued that as long as Congress was abiding by the enumerated powers that there would be no problem with a national bank. Marshall expanded the interpretation of the “necessary and proper clause” because after that ruling, the national government could become more powerful without taking powers that were already enumerated. Marshall’s interpretation of the clause clearly gave more power to the national government and more or less limited the power of the state governments.
McCullogh vs. Maryland was a court case during the time of Chief Justice Marshall’s Supreme Court. Maryland wanted to sue the bank that was in Baltimore because they would not give them the taxes given to them by the state of Maryland. John Marshall ruled that the states could not place a tax on any federal agency including the bank, under the “necessary and proper” clause. This gave the national power more power because it directly was stated that the states could not tax federal agencies according to the Marshall court.
Gibbons vs. Ogden was also a Supreme Court case during the time of the Marshall Court. Ogden had rights from the state of New York which declared that he could navigate the Hudson River. The National government later authorized Gibbons rights to trade between New York and New Jersey using a steamboat in the Hudson River. The Supreme Court favored on the side of the national government because Article one, section eight stated that the national government could regulate commerce between states. The national government gained power because the Court allowed them to trade and navigate the Hudson River in New York even though the state of New York gave Ogden the rights to trade on the Hudson River. The Court declared that Article six was apparent in this case by stating the Constitution was the supreme authority in the land or in the United States of America.
Amendment XIII said, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Amendment 13 made slavery illegal which gave more power to the national government over the states because the original constitution never made slavery illegal. The Supreme Court ruled in favor to abolish slavery before it was immoral and cruel, but this ruling took away the states power and civil rights to own slaves. Section two of the 13th amendment said Congress has the power to enforce this article which basically said that no matter what slavery would be made illegal even if it is all right in the states Bill of Rights.
The Fourteenth Amendment was a very critical addition to the Constitution for the states. The amendmenct declared that no state could deprive a citizen “life ,liberty or property without the due process of law.” The statement basically overruled the Barron vs. Baltimore case and dual citizenship. Dual citizenship still exists, but according to the 14th amendment all national rights applied to every citizen even if it was not included in the states bill of rights. This took power away from the states because now the states had to follow the national bill of rights which was basically the 14th amendment
The Fifteenth Amendment was much like the thirteenth amendment, because it was to has to do with the rights of former slaves. The 15th amendment says that the right to vote can not be taken away from any person based on “race, color of previous condition of servitude.” The 15th amendment expanded national power over states because every state had to abide by this condition which was prevented by the national government.
The New Deal had a large impact on Federalism. In 1937, the Supreme Court case National Labor Relations Board(NLRB) vs. Jones & Laughlin Steel Company greatly expanded the federal governments power over the states. In this case the NLRB ordered the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company to reinstate workers that had been fired due to union activity. The Jones & Laughlin Steel Company argued that the national government had no authority to do this because this was not an issue of interstate commerce. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the NLRB stating that the Jones & Laughlin Steel Company was a large company with suppliers in many states and that constitutes interstate commerce. This case was the first step in allowing the federal government to intervene into the economy and society.
The New Deal also gave the president more power. Before the 1930s presidential power was limited. But during the New Deal era, the presidency began to take on roles normally assumed to Congress. For the first time the executive branch adopted new programs with complete presidential control, that were carried out through the executive branch.
Competitive Federalism was a major component of Lyndon B. Johnson’s “Great Society”. President Johnson expanded the power of the national government’s ability to function in domestic policy. Under Johnson’s policies the Civil Rights Act of 1964was passed. This eventually extended into Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972. These acts imposed civil penalties on those who violated them. The Clean Air Act of 1970 is also another form of competitive federalism.
Fiscal Federalism was set up in order to stabilize the national government by taxation and the actual level of spending. Ronald Reagan started to use the fiscal federalism policy to reduce the size of government and cut back on medicare and social security. This method was used to increase government spending and reduce taxes in order to bring about consumer spending and business investments. Fiscal Federalism has been used during the 1990s and it creates more inflation by increasing the national debt that is already huge.
For the first time since the early 20th century the Supreme Court has taken steps that have halted the expansion of the federal government’s power. In the Supreme Court case the United States v. Lopez, the question at hand was whether or not the federal government had the authority to make carrying a firearm on school property a federal offense. Chief Justice Rehnquist declared that this offense was in no way a federal one. Since the student was a local student at a local level, the federal government could not impose any interstate regulations. In another recent case, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a local government restricting a federal right. In the case Bethel School District No. 403 v. Fraser(1986), a high school student used profane language and sexual comments to describe another student at an assembly, the student was reprimanded by the school for the comments he made. The student claimed that by reprimanding him, the school violated his 1st amendment rights to freedom of speech. The Court however ruled that no where in the constitution is it stated that states can not require certain modes of conduct that are inappropriate. The court also stated that the decision whether or not to reprimand the student lies solely in the school board and is not power of the federal government.
Federalism is demonstrated in the New Welfare Reform Act and is a basic element to the actual existence of the plan of the act. Cuts in some basic programs will be made to gain 55 billion dollars. The Aid to Families with Dependent Children(AFDC) will not have any reductions taken from it, but the people will be affected by it due to the changes in the structure to the program. The AFDC is converted to a block grant where states will receive a certain amount of resources for programs. The states are required to do this procedure which this new mandate affects the states because state funding will be reduced as long as the federal funding is diverted to other uses. This causes the benefits for families who are needy to become less.
In conclusion, since its adoption the American system of federalism as gone through many different changes and interpretations. The Supreme Court’s decisions tend to point the concept of American federalism in its different directions.