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Learning objectives

By the end of this section, you will be able to:

  • Explain how the balance of power between national and state governments shifted with the drafting and ratification of the Constitution
  • Identify parts of the Constitution that grant power to the national government and parts that support states’ rights
  • Identify two fiscal policies by which the federal government exerts control over state policy decisions

When the framers met at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, they had many competing tensions to resolve. For instance, they had to consider how citizens would be represented in the national government, given population differences between the states. In addition, they had to iron out differences of opinion about where to concentrate political power. Would the legislative branch have more authority than the executive branch, and would state governments retain as many rights as they had enjoyed under the Articles of Confederation?

Here we look at the manner in which power was divided between the national and state governments, first under the Articles of Confederation and then under the U.S. Constitution. As you read, observe the shifting power dynamic between the national government and subnational governments at the state and local level.

State power at the founding

Before the ratification of the Constitution, the state governments’ power far exceeded that held by the national government. This distribution of authority was the result of a conscious decision and was reflected in the structure and framework of the Articles of Confederation    . The national government was limited, lacking both a president to oversee domestic and foreign policy and a system of federal courts to settle disputes between the states.

Restricting power at the national level gave the states a great deal of authority over and independence from the federal government. Each state legislature appointed its own Congressional representatives, subject to recall by the states, and each state was given the authority to collect taxes from its citizens. But limiting national government power was not the delegates’ only priority. They also wanted to prevent any given state from exceeding the authority and independence of the others. The delegates ultimately worked to create a level playing field between the individual states that formed the confederation. For instance, the Articles of Confederation could not be amended without the approval of each state, and each state received one vote in Congress, regardless of population.

“Articles of Confederation,” https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/SMAN-107/pdf/SMAN-107-pg935.pdf (March 14, 2016).

It wasn’t long after the Articles of Confederation were established that cracks began to appear in their foundation. Congress struggled to conduct business and to ensure the financial credibility of the new country’s government. One difficulty was its inability to compel the individual states to cover their portion of Revolutionary War debt. Attempts to recoup these funds through the imposition of tariffs were vetoed by states with a vested financial interest in their failure.

“Tax History Museum: The Revolutionary War to the War of 1812 (1777–1815),” http://www.taxhistory.org/www/website.nsf/Web/THM1777?OpenDocument (March 14, 2016).

Questions & Answers

what's the difference between a Senate house and the parliament
Irene Reply
wat is decentralization
Irene Reply
Good question? its another way of emphasizing locality as a first principle value. assumed is self suffiency, sustainability, redundancy in critical systems but most of all it represents an individual citizens liberty; our rights, a dependence from and freedom from centralized power.
Lance
tnx
Irene
it's also assumed that this freedom is critical to our ability and advantages to be resilient. our full capacity to adapt w out any headwinds or yoke from an over reaching central world power as found in empires and dynasties or for example global neoliberalism virus.
Lance
Is it possible for a serious third party to emerge in the United States, positioned ideologically between the Democrats on the left and the Republicans on the right? Why or why not?
Richard Reply
meaning of civil service
Omohowho Reply
create the most between the competing value of indivualism and limited government
Dora Reply
civil liberties basic freedoms while civil rights are basic right to free from discrimination based on characteristics of race, disability, color national origin, gender, and other..
Sexy Reply
yes I think so
Omohowho
what is the categories of federalism
Official Reply
hi
Austin
yh
Irene
what is racism
Favour Reply
international political economy
Diana Reply
I'm not sure what this app is again, I'm over worked, tired, alone and I have a slight cold. my neighbor jumped me and sucker punched me yesterday, and today I'm trying to keep the tooth that took the hit. My exwife is in jail, her trailer impounded, and the dogs are @ The City Pound. 😢😥😴
Shannon
you sure it's a cold 😷 not covid 19
Don
well I think the Real Truth About COVID-19 Is... Alchohol, the info and numbers all line up. AA has infiltrated the US Government. And Since I'm Getting into Recovery for Drugs and I'm No longer an Alcoholic, it's a conspiracy to keep me from using Alchohol to aid in my Drug Recovery. But ....
Shannon
let's just keep this between us. ;) No Ask No Tell, OK?
Shannon
I know nothing but here's a little secret from a recovering alcoholic/addict once an alcoholic always an alcoholic you can treat the symptoms but never be cured I wish you the best of luck tho my friend if you ever need someone to help you through a rough spot let me know
Don
Ya shuts this is coming to me from an government app you'll help me right dawn on to my face and then laugh at me and say you bring it all on your self I'll be sure to call on you when I need help like to 200.00 a month and can't work the help you already give me shure thing
Luretta
what's are the features,merits and demerits of power
Emmanuela Reply
the most loyal supporters of democrats are
Paulina Reply
the intent to push polls is to
Ivan Reply
I cannot seem to find a clear answer to why the house is stronger than the senate, and every guess I make the check answer says is wrong.
girunit Reply
What is foreign policy
WONDERS Reply
What is government
WONDERS
What is a supreme court
WONDERS
Who is a solicitor
WONDERS
Three majors the National Liberation council adopted to transfer powers to the civilian government
Boateng
What is bureaucracy
WONDERS Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, American government. OpenStax CNX. Dec 05, 2016 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col11995/1.15
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