The Changing Relationship of the Federal Government and the States

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The Changing Relationship of the Federal Government and the States

One of the biggest issues that divided the framers of the constitution

was the role of Federal government in relation to the states.

Eventually federal and state government were given separate powers,

and the responsibility of checking on each other.

The doctrine of nullification saw power to the states with a limited

federal government. Since then different powers have swayed between

state and federal governments, on balance the federal government has

come out on top.

A case example in 1816 where Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, saw that the

judges of the Supreme Court of Virginia asserted that they had the

power to decide whether a federal law was valid. This case involved

the interpretation of a federal treaty; the judges felt that the

federal Supreme Court was no more authoritative than they were in

interpreting federal law. The Marshall court rejected that argument

and established that when a federal law is ambiguous the US Supreme

court (rather that any other state court) has the power to give an

authoritive interpretation.

Around the start of the 20th century a period of dual federalism came

into play, where the Federal government and states work in partnership

with separate and well defined responsibilities it was thought that

the federal government could avoid conflict and co-operation with

state and local governments, as J Bryce quoted; "It is like a great

factory wherein two sets of machinery are at work, their revolving

wheels apparently intermixed, their bands crossing one another, yet

each doing it own work without touching or hampering the other."


... middle of paper ...

...o the needs of

national government.

Today State power is an significant force, with the power to control

elections and law enforcement, they are responsible for public

education and transport, and they set their own tax rates, as shown in

the 6th Amendment.

To conclude the influence of Federal Government has been strengthened

throughout, through its increase in budget, personnel and military;

becoming vitally important to the well being of the people. The

Supreme court being the arbiter of disputes between State/Federal, has

often permitted a considerable increase in the size of national

intervention, by emphasising the broad and permissive character of the

clauses in the constitution, however the Federal relationship has

always avoided becoming unitary, so allowing acceptable degrees of

state independency.

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