The United States of America has remained a successful and industrious nation ruled by the principles of federalism for the past 200 years. The Framers of the Constitution proposed the federal system in an attempt to guarantee democracy and liberty throughout a sparsely populated nation. By granting enumerated powers to the national government and reserving all other rights to the states, a balance of power was obtained and continues to rule this great country.
The relations between the national and state governments have been a central feature of American politics. With the adoption of the Constitution in 1787, America encountered a persistent controversy that has been the source of political disagreement. Ever since the framers of the Constitution were busy working on this important document, they found themselves torn between two views of what federalism meant.
A famous American statesman known as Alexander Hamilton argued for a powerful national government. He believed that because people had created the national government, and since the most pressing needs were the development of a national economy and the conduct of foreign affairs, the superiority of a central authority had to be recognized. However, defending the states’ rights was Thomas Jefferson who believed that although the people were the ultimate sovereigns, the principal threat to their liberties was likely to come from the national government. Consequently, Jefferson felt the powers of the federal government needed to be strictly limited.
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As a result of geography and populace distribution, representative democracy was established. This system corresponded with a federal republic. Through Federalism, localities across America are all capable of responding adequately to the desires of their citizens. Governments are more flexible and therefore respond appropriately to people’s needs. The division of powers between states and the federal government was a beneficial decision that protected the Constitutional way of life. This separation prevents any form of utilitarianism and allows efficient responses by the government to the people. With the absence of an explicit definition for each power bestowed to the national and state government, the vagueness of this governmental partition continues to prosper in society.
The Framers of the Constitution were determined to create a strong national government, however, they also wanted to preserve the decision-making powers of the states. As a result of this substantial conflict, they chose to create a system of government where the individual units, states, and central authority distribute power. The Framers believed that placing final political authority in any set of hands, even in those of people popularly elected, would concentrate power and risk tyranny. This magnificent decision to separate the state and federal governments is a device that has protected personal liberty for hundreds of years.
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