The Federal Government Was Created By The States

The federal government was created by the states. Simple enough, right? In the era of massive federal government expansion, simple facts are easily lost. Lest we lose hold of our plumb line, even the simplest, most basic tenets of our founding principles bear repeating. 

Central to this story are the often forgotten Articles of Confederation; America’s first Constitution. For everything the Articles were, or weren’t, depending on the argument, “the Articles of Confederation were the constitutional expression of this movement [Revolutionary] and the embodiment in governmental form of the philosphy of the Declaration of Independence,” wrote Merrill Jensen. “With all the imperfections of our present government,” Thomas Jefferson observed, “it is without comparison the best existing or that ever did exist.” 

The short-lived Articles created a loose confederation of states. No president, no supreme court, no federal agencies — just a Congress in charge of a brand new nation of mostly independent states.  Increasing interstate conflict, inability to protect from insurgencies, and financial struggles contributed to calls for a more efficient form of governance. The end result would be our Constitution. It is worth noting that the entire discussion regarding the Constitution focused on more efficient government that fostered the principles of the Revolution, not more government.

The Constitution required states to share their authority with a centralized government in exchange for certain protections.  The most obvious protection of state powers was enumerated in the form of the tenth amendment. Madison wrote in Federalist 45, the powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined.  Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.” But even before the Constitution could become law, it needed the consent of the states via ratification.  It was this negotiation that gave us the Bill of Rights. Leery of a soft tyranny masked as a central government, Anti-Federalists insisted a Bill of Rights limiting the power of the federal government be included in the Constitution.  Only when a Bill of Rights was included would Anti-Federalist pledge support and ratification of the document. 

Fast forward to present day America. Rather than maintaining the power to govern as their constituency prefers, states are bullied, maligned and sued by the federal government for refusing to walk lock-step with harmful federal policy.  Policies that are usually back-doored through government agencies rather than processed through the Constitutional remedy of legislation. Moving into the second term of the Obama presidency, remembering that the federal government exists as a means to maximize the efficiency of state powers is crucial to future of our republic – if we can keep it.


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