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Distribution of Power Under The 1787 Constitution

The central government would be given the necessary powers to govern by granting it the powers it previously lacked to tax, raise armies, regulate interstate commerce and certain implied powers under the necessary and proper and the supremacy clauses of the Constitution; but its tyrannical tendencies would further be checked by federalism under which many powers would be reserved to the states. In Madison's memorable phrase in Federalist No. 51, "ambition must be made to counteract ambition" (Stewart et al Readings 15).

By adopting a federal structure, the framers departed from the British tradition of unitary government. In doing so, they provided a framework within which a society with a diversity of interests could develop peacefully and within a union strong enough to withstand foreign threats. Some proponents of the new Constitution, the Federalists led by Alexander Hamilton, argued in the 1790s that the new Federal Government had broad implied powers to encourage and protect manufactures, promote interstate and foreign commerce and protect law and order. They were opposed by the Jeffersonians who defended states' and individual rights. With British rule out of the way, it can be argued that the Federalists, consistent with their class interests, should have been in favor of a more oligarchic and centralized form of government. They were not, Wayne says, because "with an ocean for protection, a huge frontier, seemingly unlimited natural resources, this nation composed of largely self-sufficient farmers wasn't thought to need or desire a very strong national government" (64).

A republican, as opposed to a democratic or an oligarchic form of government, was visualized by Madison as the best way to ensure a proper balance among the various factions within the nation. He said in Federalist No. 51: "whilst all authority . . . will be derived from and dependent on society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, inte...

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