The Federal Government of the United States has seen its power and influence continue to grow since its beginning in 1787. When the country was established, the first plan of government was established by the Articles of Confederation. When that document created a system that gave little power to a central authority, a convention of states was called and the document we know as the Constitution was born.
Initially, the Constitution was seen as a document to protect the rights of individual citizens. Increasingly the Federal Government has seen itself as an institution to provide economic security for a section of the population and has taken measures to increase its powers to achieve this and many other objectives.
The government of the United States expanded dramatically during the Civil War. Abraham Lincoln, faced with the incredible challenge of keeping the Union together, expanded the reach of the central authority in Washington, D.C. The size of the Federal Army was enlarged through the draft, some newspapers were censored, and disloyal citizens were imprisoned by Federal authorities.
"Must I shoot a simple soldier boy who deserts, while I must not touch a hair of a wily agitator who induces him to desert?" Abraham Lincoln
By the turn of the 20th century, the Progressive Era became a springboard for a significant increase in the reach of the Federal Government. The government began to regulate food after Upton Sinclair's The Jungle exposed the filth that had permeated that industry. The creation of the FDA in 1906 would ensure accountability and protect the interests of the public at large.
This era of progressive legislation led to the creation of the Federal income tax with the ratification of the 16th amendment, the nationalization of the railroads, and the creation of the Federal Reserve to name a few.
The government also made an attempt to legislate morality with the passage of the 18th amendment and the subsequent Prohibition Era. This expansion of government into all facets of life would continue in the 1920s. When the the Great Depression struck, FDR used the power of the federal government to push the nation toward economic recovery.
The New Deal of the 1930s expanded the government, making it an economic stabilizer for the poor and destitute. Federal monies poured into the individual states to create jobs through public works. The Social Security Act of 1935 provided an income supplement for those in old age and to assist those faced with unemployment.
By the 1950s, the government continued to be involved in social issues, specifically the Civil Rights Movement. The desegregation of schools and other aspects of life would culminate with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which legally ended discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.
The government has increased its role in America dramatically since its conception in 1787. Once power has been granted to the central government, it is unlikely to be relinquished. Look for this trend to continue.