How did the power of the federal government increase during the period from 1865 to 1940?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The power of the federal government increased during this period due to crises like wars and depressions.  In almost every case, major crises in American life led to more power being taken by the federal government.

When crises strike, people tend to look for strong leadership.  The most visible place for that leadership to come from is the government. Therefore, when crises happen, we look to the government.  We allow it to take more power.  We let President Lincoln suspend the writ of habeas corpus.  We let the government pass laws like the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 making criticism of the war illegal. We allow the government to implement New Deal programs that make the federal government responsible for things like our pensions and for bringing electrical power to people in rural areas.  All of these things are things that would not have been accepted before the crises but were accepted once it started.

While the federal government does keep all the power given to it during a crisis, it does retain more and more power as more crises occur.  This gradual accumulation of power is how the power of the federal government increased during this time period.

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