Why was federalism chosen by the Framers of the Constitution?

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The discourse surrounding the American Revolution and the early years of the Republic was greatly concerned with the question of how a functioning government ought to be set up without it collapsing into tyranny. Remember, one of the critical claims in the Declaration of Independence was that the British government...

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The discourse surrounding the American Revolution and the early years of the Republic was greatly concerned with the question of how a functioning government ought to be set up without it collapsing into tyranny. Remember, one of the critical claims in the Declaration of Independence was that the British government itself had become a tyrannical actor, as far as the colonies were concerned. Thus, the great problem that faced the framers of the Constitution was how to create a government that could function effectively without becoming a threat to the people.

Keep in mind, the US Constitution was actually not the first attempt at creating a working structure of government for the United States. It was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, which placed political supremacy with the individual states. However, this form of government ultimately proved insufficient to tackle the problems facing the former colonies after achieving independence from Britain, and the framers of the Constitution determined it was best to scrap that system of government and instead create a new one entirely. However, if that original solution to the problem of tyranny was to place power with the individual states, thus ensuring that the Federal Government would be too weak to become an oppressive force, that solution proved to be a non-starter in practical terms. A new answer had to be found.

Thus, the Constitution had its foundations in the system of checks and balances (by which the different powers and responsibilities of government would be divided into different branches which served to counterweight one another), as well as in the system of Federalism (which divided power between state and federal levels).

In addition, however, you should recognize that the individual states (and before them, the individual colonies) actually preceded the United States as a singular entity. Indeed, during this time in US history, most people still associated primarily with their states, rather than with the country as a whole. With these factors in mind, it is difficult to imagine it being particularly realistic for the Framers to have created a centralized Nation State at all.

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A federalist system was chosen because it dispersed power between the center and the periphery, between the government in Washington and the states. To a considerable extent, this was a reaction against what the American colonists perceived as the tyranny of British rule.

From now on, they determined that, in the American system of government, power would not be concentrated too much in one institution. It would be spread among various governmental bodies, each one acting as check on all the others. It was believed that such a system was the best way to give expression to the desire for liberty and limited government that had inspired the American people to rebel against their colonial British overlords and which had contributed significantly to the great victory secured by the colonists in the War of Independence.

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The form of government through which governmental power is shared across more than one entity within a geographic region is defined as federalism. The United States government is operated under a federalist system in which local, state, and federal governments are granted specific power and responsibilities over assigned jurisdictions. This distribution of power facilitates a system of checks and balances.

The Framers of the Constitution were chosen to help write the Constitution of the United States. They incorporated federalism as a form of government for three primary reasons: to prevent one ruler from taking over and forming a dictatorship; to generate new program ideas at the state and local levels; and to increase opportunities for political involvement. After successfully breaking away from British rule, the Framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure that power would not be abused and that all Americans could contribute to the governing of their country.

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The Framers of the Constitution chose federalism because it was an intermediate form of government that was not as centralized as the British government but more centralized than the government under the Articles of Confederation.

When the British ruled the American colonies, they had a unified system.  The government in London ruled the colonies and could veto any laws that colonial assemblies created.  The colonists felt that the government was too centralized.  They felt that the government in London was too far away, did not understand them, and did not care about them the way their local governments did.  Therefore, when they became independent, they wanted the exact opposite form of government.

The opposite of the British system was the confederal system that the US had when it first became independent.  This system of government gave essentially all the power to the states.  This meant that the national government had practically no power.  This soon proved to be a real problem because the national government was so weak that it was essentially not a government at all.

Because of this, the Framers went to an intermediate form of government.  They created a federal system where the states had some powers and the national government had other powers.  That way, the government was “just right” after having been too centralized and then too decentralized.

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