This country was shaped by many great men, with one simple idea of being able to live free lives and make their own choices. One of these men was Alexander Hamilton, who helped create a new political idea that he, and his colleagues, called Federalism. This system was one of the shaping forces of the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, which proved to be the roots of America’s political system. The purpose of this paper is to explain Hamilton’s idea of Federalism, and how it is still in affect today.
Alexander Hamilton grew up in what was called the “new world”. He arrived here an “impoverished immigrant” and by the age of 17, he was already taking orders from General George Washington in the Continental Army as a Lieutenant Colonel. After the defeat of the British and the winning of freedom in America, Hamilton joined Washington, and other great political thinkers in drawing up a government. They did so by drawing up a loosely interpreted Articles of Confederation which only held out as long as possible until the Constitutional Convention when Congress finally agreed that a new Constitution was needed for the country. Around October 1787, The Federalist appeared in the New York Post. The Federalist was a series of papers about the government written under the penname Publius. The true authors of these publications were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay. Hamilton wrote over 50 however, which was two-thirds of the papers published (Brookhiser, 63) . The papers also talked about a form of government where the central government would be very powerful, and the states just part of the
government. Federalism was only a state of mind at this point, pretty much just a set of beliefs and ideas that were followed and a belief in a strong central government. Not all of the states were conscious of this political structure because it did not exist, and was only talked about in political philosophy writings. There were about 85 publications that discussed the whole idea of Federalism, at least Hamilton’s and Madison’s view. They talked about dangers from foreign influence, dangers of war between the states, defects of the Articles of Confederation, the necessity of government, and the powers of the president and central government. For the most part, Hamilton made up much of what he believed the system should include.
Federalism as we know it today, is a form of government in which a constitution divides powers between a central government and sub-divisional governments. In America the central government is the Federal government and the subdivision is the states. Just to have a central government and local governments does not make it federalism you must have division of powers between these two and neither the central or the sub governments receives its powers from the other, their power is derived from one source which is the constitution. Hamilton made it clear by this point in his “political theory” The purpose of federalism was to provide further protection against tyranny, which threatened peoples, liberties. Also it was formed to prevent the formation of a concentrated power in one area of government, so the development of federalism came about. It was created for this purpose but in today’s society does it still serve this purpose? Federalism does still serve its same purpose it was meant to serve. To look to the states is to prove they still exist and still hold power in government. After all America has endured over the past couple of decades, such as depression, war, which served to reduce domestic freedom necessary to prevent the formation of a centralized government, this shows their vitality as political institutions.
Each day states actively contribute to the achievement of American goals and continue to show effort in defining these goals. Many can say that the states have lost power over the federal government, because of some rights taken away over the years. They actually haven’t loss power but gained some. Over the years there has been an extensive and continuing reorganization of state governments leading to increased executive responsibility greater central budgetary control and growing expertise of state personnel.With states having their own governments and constitutions they give people more freedom that the regular constitution may limit. There are limits that the state encounters such as making private treaties with foreign governments, coining money, anything that might effect the entire government system as a whole. This does not mean the federal government has more power they are limited to what they can do to the states as well.
The national government must not interfere with states in such a way that it effects the states ability to perform their responsibilities, example would be interstate commerce. The states role in the federal system has grown faster than that of the federal government. The states supervision has been increased through the provision of aid to their localities, through financial grants, and through control of the power to raise revenue for all subdivisions. Federal grants have served to the development of state capabilities and have helped enhance their strength. They have helped by broadening the programs they can offer their citizens and strengthening state administration of those programs. Now do states serve in the main purpose to prevent the formation of tyranny? In the general sense they do, with the division of power among the federal and state government, no one power may come into formation and become the central government. Each states have representatives
which come together to make decisions for the people, although one majority may rule in certain areas of the government, this is not tyranny because they cannot take complete
control over state and federal actions. All the power is derived from the one source, which is the constitution, and the constitution was created with federalism in mind. It was made so that power may be divided evenly. With the states allowed to have their own government, they are able to make their own decisions with some restrictions. With the states making their own decisions it makes it less likely that formation of any kind of tyranny could take place.
The system of government is too complex now, without states’ taking their own problems into their own hands it puts relief on the federal government. The federal government would not be able to withstand all the factors that effect America today, that’s why local governments are formed helping this situation and stopping any central power from forming. The states remain viable entities in a federal system that has every tendency toward centralization; they remain viable because they exist as civil societies with political systems of their own. They maintain that existence because the American political tradition and the Constitution embodying it give the states an important place in the overall fabric of American society. The states provide ways to increase governmental activity while maintaining non-centralized government.
With the system of federalism the division of money must take place between the federal government and the states. Most of the money the states receive for city issues may come from federal funds. Federal grants are designed to supply state and local governments with revenue. To establish minimum natural standards for such things as highways and clean air bills. Also money is to equalize resources among states by taking through federal taxes money from the people with high incomes and spending it, through
grants in states where the poor live. Also money is now used to attack national problems yet minimize the growth of federal agencies.
The federal government is able to decide whether or not certain money should be spent on things. In such cases recently as the states having to pay for disable pupils in schools, as long it is not considered medical. They had to clarify what was medical and what was not and every child deserves an education and the state should pay for it. Also it has been decided that states have to right to equal welfare, that people establishing residency in a new state must be allowed to receive the same welfare as in there past state. Many of these decisions come from the Supreme Court which was decided the ultimate interpreters of the Constitution which is the basis for federalism. The Supreme Court makes the decisions that may cause conflict between the states and federal government. Almost every action by states and local officials can be challenged before a federal judge as a violation of the constitution or of federal law. The federal government recently with the Supreme Court support has favored national government.
The states also though have had some explosive political issues that deal with the Supreme Court. With the Supreme Court’s decision on many issues it also has helped the states in their own development of the constitution and courts. Supreme Court ultimately decides on state issue for taxes, and national treatment and undue burden on interstate commerce. Supreme Court has backed up he states by striking down actions of the national government because they interfere with state sovereignty. The Supreme Court has taken both sides in dealing with the federal and state governments, and its main purpose it to be the supreme decider in all-lawful situations. It must decide what is right for the states and for the federal government without favoring either side.Federalism in today’s world has changed over time. With the development of new states, it has proven to work in dividing
the powers between the federal and state governments. With the states being stronger than ever, and gaining more power, this country could not survive without them. With the country being so large now, federalism comes into play perfectly, because without division of powers, no direct power could handle the needs of the people without states and their own governments to regulate things. Federalism is essential in running a proper democracy without having a centralized government with complete power.
This theory worked, for the most part, in the U.S. for about 100 years, until the states started to gain more power, and the theory failed. The Constitution is a Federalist document in many ways, but by powers of the Amendments, the power has shifted quite evenly to the states and the government now. Alexander Hamilton received influence from many political philosophers, including Locke, and Rousseau, using their teachings in his idea. By doing this, he became a political philosopher in his own respect.
Brookhiser, Richard. Alexander Hamilton- American. Free Press, New York. 1999
Miller, John C. The Federalist Era. Harper, New York. 1960
Schachner, Nathan. Alexander Hamilton. Barnes, New York. 1946