States' Rights (West's Encyclopedia of American Law)
A doctrine and strategy in which the rights of the individual states are protected by the U.S. Constitution from interference by the federal government.
The history of the United States has been marked by conflict over the proper allocation of power between the states and the federal government. The federal system of government established by the U.S. Constitution recognized the sovereignty of both the state governments and the federal government by giving them mutually exclusive powers as well as concurrent powers. In the first half of the nineteenth century, arguments over states' rights arose in the context of SLAVERY. From the 1870s to the 1930s, economic issues shaped the debate. In the 1950s racial SEGREGATION and the CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT renewed the issue of state power. By the 1970s economic and political conservatives had begun to call for a reduction in the power and control of the federal government and for the redistribution of responsibilities to the states.
At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegates represented state governments that had become autonomous centers of power. The Constitution avoided a precise definition of the locus of sovereignty, leaving people to infer that the new charter created a divided structure in which powers were allocated between the central government and the states in such a way that each would be supreme in certain...
(The entire section is 1617 words.)
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