Federal Government

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The Role of Federal Government

The Role of Federal Government

Initially, a citizen of the United States would be more likely to interact with and be impacted by state or local government than the federal government. Possibly the first major expansion of federal power came during the Civil War, when the federal government refused to allow the secession of what came to be known as the Confederate States of America. Not only did the federal government not allow for the secession of states from the union, but immediately after the war, the Reconstruction Era saw many plans to impose radical changes upon defeated Southern states. For the first time, the federal government moved to guarantee civil rights for people of all races, rather than leaving such decisions to state and local authorities. The next era that saw an attempt to expand the role of the federal government in the lives of citizens was the Progressive Era. Beginning as a social movement to help improve the lives and general conditions of Americans throughout various reforms, the movement also began to see government as a vehicle to implement such changes. With the election of Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency in 1901, many new regulations inspired by progressive philosophy began to be implemented. In 1906, the Hepburn Act authorized the federal government to regulate railroad rates, the Pure Food and Drug Act regulated the content of material placed in food, and the Meat Inspection Act mandated sanitary conditions in meat processing and packing businesses. Other well-known progressive legislative victories included the 19th Amendment, which granted suffrage to women and the 16th Amendment, which authorized the federal government to implement a federal income tax. Perhaps the greatest expansion of the role of the federal government came after the stock market crash of 1929, which ushered in the era now known as the Great Depression. The long period of economic stagnation, retraction, and slow...
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