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American Democracy: Federal Government vs. States’ Rights Essay

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Updated: May 27th, 2020

The conflict that formed in the 1790s between the supporters of the federal government and the advocates of states’ rights, ostensibly triggered by varying standpoints under the Articles of Confederation, exercised profound ramifications on American history. The debate was characterized by two polarizing sides, with pro-federalists arguing their case for a strong central government that could act in the interests of commerce and industry, while anti-federalists argued for a decentralized agrarian republic that could not perpetuate tyranny or limit the freedoms enjoyed by states (The Formation, n.d.). Pro-federalists wanted a government developed by the people for the people in line with the American Constitution, while anti-federalists rooted for a government developed by the states for the states (Patterson, 2008).

While the anti-federalists thought it was unnecessary to have a strong federal government because of their conviction that states were better placed to serve the people than the national government, the pro-federalists were directed by the conviction of creating a government that will serve the people and the states. This conflict eventually led to a governing system that is based on federalist principles; that is, the state enjoys power on local issues while the national government enjoys power on national issues. However, certain powers do overlap (Patterson, 2008), as noted in Article III of the Constitution. In this schedule, it is noted that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction over all states to determine cases that transcend state boundaries.

Today, not so much conflict exists between the states and the national government, not only because the national government has more power over national policies but also due to the fact that states have stabilized due to the devolution of power (Patterson, 2008). For example, most states today have more say than the national government on such contemporary issues as gay marriages and smoking bans.

Reference List

Patterson, T.E. (2008). The American Democracy. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

. (n.d.). Web.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'American Democracy: Federal Government vs. States’ Rights'. 27 May.

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