Bill Flax | Unite A Divided Nation Around Federalism

Remember, the Federal Government did not create the states. Thirteen several and sovereign states united to craft a Constitution. When they established what ultimately became Washington the Founders maintained the states as the primary instruments of civil justice. Save a few outliers like the post office, Washington’s domestic duties were generally confined to preventing states from levying impediments to commerce or waging war on their neighbors.

State authorities surrendered to the federal apparatus only a few precisely enumerated responsibilities. James Madison, “Father” of the Constitution, explained, “The powers delegated … to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.”

Authority was left diffused because Americans have historically been suspicious of concentrated power whether political, financial or religious. Take the First Amendment. Historian David Hackett Fischer wrote it entailed a “Regional compromise of high complexity… to preserve religious freedom of Virginia and Pennsylvania, and at the same time to protect the religious establishments of New England from outside interference.”

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