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The Evolution of Federalism

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The Evolution of Federalism

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The Evolution of the Constitution

American federalism has changed drastically since its genesis. In 1776 the thirteen colonies adopted the Articles of Confederation in order to coordinate their efforts in the war for independence. The Articles of Confederation bound the states together in two main aspects; foreign and military affairs. The Articles of Confederation worked well while all the states had a common cause. However, as soon as the war ended and interests began to change, it became obvious that the Articles were not enough. This brings on the creation of Federalism (Reinventing American Federalism).

In May of 1787, in the city of Philadelphia, delegates from all thirteen states met in order to "create a more perfect union". The result was the Constitution of the United States. Delegates debated over which form of government would best suit both the security, and the freedom that many sought in this new government. The delegates rejected both confederal and unitary models of government for a new form of government called federalism. Federalism differs from the former two in that, unlike the unitary form of government, which is ruled by a central government, federalism is not based on a hierarchy in which the state levels of government perform the duties and tasks handed down by the central governmental system. Also, unlike the confederal system which gave all power to the states, only some of the power would be granted to the states. The federal government would handle foreign affairs, trade, military, and the economy (Reinventing American Federalism).

Throughout the first half century of federalism, many argued over the roles that the federal and the state systems should play. By the time of the civil war, slavery was at the top of the debate. Should slavery be a national or a state issue? The end of the civil war brought an answer to this debate with the addition of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments (Hyde). These amendments ended slavery, and...