Free Essay Sample «Interpretation of a Constitutional Issue»

«Interpretation of a Constitutional Issue»

I choose to look at the Relationship between state and federal governments according to the United States constitution. The American constitution is the longest lasting constitution in the world history. Federalism is the relationship between the federal government and the State where power is divided between the national and state government (Grant& Nixon, 1968). The federal government has grown and evolved as a response to the political and social events that had not been predicted in the original Constitution Convention. An analysis of this paper looks at the relationship between the State and federal governments.

Powers of the federal government have increased in scope and its relationship within the federal branches improved. The division of power between the state and federal government has shifted and this is attributed to the constitutional amendments. Many of the changes that have been witnessed in the federal system have been accomplished through informal ways such as the use of precedent and the way the constitution is interpreted. At present, the federal is divided into three branches namely: the judicial, the legislature and the executive. These branches have continued to perform the same roles that were set for them when the constitution was being written in 1787 (Fekumo, 2002).

The United States government has undergone many changes right from the time the country was born to the present times.Many eras and concepts have transpired where both the State and Federal governments have gone through transition form 1781(Brace, 1993). Relationships between the State and the federal governments have continued to change up to the present day.

Federalism is a type of government where powers are divided among the national government with the units in the government. The Constitution of America states the relationship between the federal and State governments where the people of America are always under multiple jurisdiction.People are required to federal income taxes and also state income tax. The powers of the federal government increased in the 20th Century when after its expansion through laws and decisions by the court (Brace, 1993).In terms of balance of powers between the State and federal government, the constitution favored the federal government. Richard Nixon had intentions of reversing the power flow to the federal government back to the States. This idea helped him win the elections in 1980. On the other hand, Ronald Reagan while attempting to improve the quality of life, the federal government was eroding the freedom of citizens in America.

Throughout the history of the United States of America, power division between the federal and State governments have resulted in legal and political battles. What led to the American Revolution was the suffering that the Americans had undergone from the British economic and political policies as colonies. As a result, most of the Americans did not trust the powers by the Central government. This is the reason why in 1781, the Congress came up with Articles of Confederation. Under the Confederation, the Central government was allocated few powers, little authority over commerce, it had no court system and there was no power to impose taxes (Brace, 1993). Essentially, the State was just a loose in terms of political independence.

Americans believed that a governmental structure that was fragmented would hold back on economic and political growth of the nation. It was in 1787 that the Constitutional Convention was restructured (Fekumo, 2002). There were debates among the federalists and anti-federalists. Finally, the great compromise was attained where federalism was agreed upon as the government structure. The federalism was to be a system of sovereignty where powers would be split between the central and state governments. The State and federal governments would be governing people directly through their own laws and officials. As such, any change to the constitution must be agreed by both the State and federal governments.

The new system of federalism that was proposed appeared to be controversial to the states. Federalists, nation leaders and advocates joined hands in convincing the state to ratify the constitution. The new government was based on principles of republicanism, federalism, free government and the separation of powers. Delegates at the Constitutional Convention expressed their fear on the possibility of there being formed a strong central government (Fekumo, 2002).

In an effort to ease the fear by the Americans and to gain acceptance, it was ratified and both the federalists and antifederalists agreed on a common compromise.Basics rights were written and included in the constitution (Fekumo, 2002).There were powers that were set out in the constitution in Article one through to six defining federal powers and the restrictions that existed on the state powers. It was only the federal government that had the powers to raise armies and navy, declare war and coin money. On the federal court system, it was only the United States Supreme Court that was named in the constitution. The Congress was given the authority to establish other federal courts.

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Currently, both the State and federal governments have similar powers on taxation and the borrowing of money.There are other important clauses in the constitution that have played an important role in determining boundaries between the state and federal powers. The commerce clause for instance, regulates trade between states and other foreign nations (Tocqueville& Winthrop, 2000).

As per the United States constitutional framework, the Congress is mandated to provide general welfare and make laws that are necessary. The constitution also states that the State cannot give them authority in some areas. For the last two centuries in America, the relationship between the federal and State has shifted towards national supremacy.

The constitution has been amended severally on matters related to the relationship between the State and Federal governments.As per the United States constitution, there is a direct link between the Federal and State governments. There is also a link established by the constitution between theState government and the Congress.The Congress is granted powers that enable it to create armies and also to declare war.

It is also stated in the constitution that a state shall not perform activities that undermine the federal government such as signing treaties and war against each other (Grant& Nixon, 1968). States governments can create or destroy governments at will. It is clear that both the State and local government interact with one another. There are levels of interaction of government in the United States of America. There are four formal interactions including national to state,concurrent power that is equal to nation or state, state to national and state to local.

The relationship between the State and federal government is governed by the United States of America constitution. According to the constitution, the federal government is granted some powers while those other powers that are not granted to it are reserved for the State government. For there to be a balance between the actions of the federal and State governments,there are governors who encourage the federal officials to adhere to the laid guidelines that govern the relationship (Grant& Nixon, 1968).

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The United States constitution was created on federalism where powers are shared between the state and the federal governments. The constitution has given the federal government powers while at the same time it has reserved power for the State government (Hart, 1954). In the American constitution it is stated that the federal government is supreme in relation to the powers that it is delegated while the state remains supreme in matters related to the State. Supremacy of the two governments in the United States is known called separate sovereigntyaccording to its own rights.

There are separate court systems both for the federal and the State government where these two systems apply and interpret their own laws separately. The jurisdiction of these courts is spelt out in the constitution. An example is where the Congress is given sole authority by the constitution in order to make laws that concern bankruptcy (Lutz & National Association of Manufacturers, 1950). In this case, the state lacks jurisdiction on this matter. It is worth noting that the constitution does not warrant the federal government powers in matters concerning the family. It is the responsibility of the federal court deal with matters thatare implicitly granted by the United States constitution while the State government deals withthose issues that the constitution did not give to the federal government or deny the State. Thus, the United State judiciary can be said to be unique since it is made up of two separate court systems with each court system charged with the mandate of hearing some certain types of cases.

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Due to the great intensity of the heated debate between state advocates and federalists,the constitution did not give a distinct difference between the state sovereignty and federal sovereignty. As a result there emerged the Civil Wars that lasted for two centuries. The war was centered onsettlingthe differences between those that advocated for state rights and those that were for a strong central government. Since then, the balance of power between the state and federal government has continued to change over time (Tocqueville& Winthrop, 2000).


Governors are aware of the federal system and the importance of developing close working relations with the other federal partners as well as the State.Federal governments address issues that affect the citizens and it is thus important that identify the challenges that can be addressed at the State and federal level.Due to the increased role by the federal government in its foreign and domestic affairs, its responsibilities and authority have tremendously increased.

Currently, in the United States, the topic of proper balance of power between the state and national governments is still controversial. Americans have varying opinions on the laws that are to be made federal laws and those that need to be reversed back to the State.An issue like the one on abortion remains controversial where some argue that abortion laws need to beregulated by individual states while others emphasize on the need a uniform policy by the federal governments.State powers have been limited via the fourteenth amendment to states, how the bills of rights are applied and the establishment of the Supreme Court judicial review.

At the end of the twentieth century, states were maintaining political and constitutional sovereignty. Even though supremacy of the federal government was well established, states remained free in governing their social, economic and political affairs particularly in those areas that the Congress had not established a consistent national mechanism (Hart, 1954).The decisions by the Supreme Court continue tosupport or limit the powers by the state depending on certain issues. The interpretation on federalism has continued to change from time.



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