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What is Federalism?

Federalism means that the national and state governments share power.

The 10th Amendment of the Constitution helps to define federalism:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."


A Brief History of Federalism in the United States

When the United States was first formed, the states wanted all the power. They essentially wanted to be independent nations. When the Articles of Confederation were created, a national government was formed. However, the national government had very few powers, which did not allow the new country to grow or pay debts. As a result, the Constitutional Convention was called and the Constitution was created.

external image 200px-Government_icon.svg.pngFor more detailed information, see AP Government & Politics 1A.

rotating gif.gifSee also:
Capitol_Building_3.jpg
The Capital Building in Washington, DC

National Powers vs. State Powers


National Government Powers:
  • Makes currency
  • Declare wars
  • Create military branches
  • Sign treaties with foreign nations
  • Regulate interstate and international commerce
  • Make post offices and stamps
  • Make laws to support the Constitution

State Government Powers:
  • Create local governments
  • Issue licenses for marriage, driving, hunting, etc...
  • Regulate commerce within the state
  • Hold elections
  • Ratify amendments
  • Support the public health of the citizens
  • Set laws for legal drinking and smoking ages
  • Creating state Constitutions
  • Any power not specifically given to the national government
    Massachusetts_State_House_6.JPG
    Massachusetts State House

Shared Powers:
  • Creating courts
  • Starting and collecting taxes
  • Making highways
  • Borrowing money
  • Creating banks
  • Spending money to better the people
  • Condemning private property with reason

lessonplan.jpgClick here for the lesson plan "Balancing Federal and State Authority" from PBS

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a debate lesson plan on federalism from iCivics.

lessonplan.jpgClick here for a lesson plan connecting federalism to current events.

game_icon.svg.pngClick here for the game "Power Play" from iCivics.

Sources:
1. PBS. "Federalism: Constitution USA" http://www.pbs.org/tpt/constitution-usa-peter-sagal/federalism/#.UhVaBz_Bxik
2. USGovAbout. "National vs. State Government" http://usgovinfo.about.com/od/rightsandfreedoms/a/federalism.htm