Federalism vs. Federalists

Introduction

Key Concepts:

Federalism, Federalists, Anti-Federalists,

Federalist Papers, Enumerated Powers, Tenth Amendment

Federalist Papers - more details

Enumerated Powers - more details

 

Also see:

Federalist Papers (analysis and quotes)

State Law as Extention of Federal Law

Concurrent Jurisdiction over illegal immigrants


Introduction

There is a difference between Federalists and Federalism. (Federalists are not in favor of Federalism).

There can also be confusion among the terms "Federalist" and "Anti-Federalist."

It took me a while before I understood all these concepts completely. Now I will share my understanding with you.

So, here I will cover concepts such as: Federalism, Federalists, Anti-Federalists, Federalist Papers, Enumerated Powers, and the Tenth Amendment.

 


Key Concepts

 

Federalism

• Federalism is the basic principal of State Governments and National governments co-existing.

Federalism is the concept of government where there are two co-equal areas of Government: The State Governements and the National Government.

Both have equal power. Both operate somewhat independently of the other.

 

Federalists (want strong central government)

• Federalists should be called "Nationalists".

• Federalists favor a strong, National government.

 

Federalists believe that a strong national government is the best form.

Federalists believe that the national government should have more power than the state governments.

Federalists believe that the jurisdiction and powers of the national government should be reaching into the areas of the state governments.

 

Anti-Federalists (want rights for States and the People)

• The Anti-Federalists are really the ones who believe in Federalism.

• The Anti-Federalists believed that State governments should have equal power to the National government.

 

It was the Anti-Federalists who pushed for a Bill of Rights. This is perhaps the greatest achievement of the Anti-Federalists.

The Anti-Federalists were always fighting for State governments to have most of the power and most of the rights, rather than the national government.

The Anti-Federalists understood the need for a stronger national government (for common defense, and for improvement of trade), but believed that States should have ultimate rights to make laws.

Thomas Jefferson was an Anti-Federalist.

 

 

Federalist Papers

• The Federalist Papers were persuasive papers written by some of the Founders for the purpose of convincing the people to approve of the Constitution.

 

The Federalist Papers were written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.

Hamilton was one of the main authors, and he was indeed a "federalist." Hamilton always believed in a strong central government.

Madison was somewhat different. I wouldn't classify him as either a federalist or an anti-federalist. (His postion depended on the particular issue, and the circumstances at the time).

Jay is not someone I have studied, so I cannot write about his beliefs.

 

Enumerated Powers

• "Enumerated" means "listed" or "specifically stated"

• The "Enumerated Powers" are those powers specifically given to an area of the government by the Constitution.

 

Regarding Federalism, the key points of Enumerated Powers are:

• The national government can only do the things specifically authorized for them to do in the Constitution.

• The powers not specifically granted to the national government will belong to the state governments.

 

These concepts were further stamped into our system by the Ninth and Tenth Amendments. (Number 9 and 10 of the Bill of Rights).

 

 

Ninth and Tenth Amendments

• Both of the last two Amendments in the Bill of Rights are very powerful.

• The Ninth Amendment essentially says:

All powers and rights belong to the people. Just because we didn't think to write something down now, that doesn't mean that we intended for the government to take away that item from the people later on.

 

• The Tenth Amendment essentially says:

States have more power in most issues than the central government. Almost every issue is an issue for each state to decide. The only things which the national government can do are those things specifically stated in the Constitution.

 

Thus, both of these Amendments are very, very powerful.


 

Federalist Papers - more details

• The Federalist Papers were persuasive papers written by some of the Founders to sell the Constitution.

 

The Federalist Papers were written by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay.

 

Hamilton

Hamilton was one of the main authors, and he was indeed a "federalist." Hamilton always believed in a strong central government. (Hamilton and Jefferson would often have arguments about this.)

Thus, when you read anything written by Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, know that Hamilton did favor a strong central government.

 

Madison

Madison was somewhat different. I wouldn't classify him as either a federalist or an anti-federalist. (His postion depended on the particular issue, and the circumstances at the time.)

Regarding the Federalist Papers: Madison was the primary author of the Constitution. As such, he knew what each phrase of the Constitution was intented to mean for the new systems of government.

Also, Madison was trying to sell the Constitution. He believed it was a good document, that it would be good for the nation, and his writings (collected in the Federalist Papers) were designed to put down any fears the people had regarding the new government.

Furthermore, Madison did not believe that a Bill of Rights was necessary. (The Bill of Rights was the main thing the Anti-Federalists were pushing for). This view placed him in the Federalist camp on the issue of the Bill of Rights; but that did not mean he was a Federalist overall. Madison simply did not believe the Rights were necessary.

Note that Madison had a very close friendship with Jefferson (who believed in a Bill of Rights, and believed in State's Rights). And, after the Constitution was ratified, Madison was one of the people who proposed a list of Amendments.

 

 


Enumerated Powers - more details

• "Enumerated" means "listed" or "specifically stated"

• The "Enumerated Powers" are those specifically given to an area of the government by the Constitution.

 

• There are two views on the Enumerated Powers, depending on whether you believe power should be primarily with the local governments, or you favor a strong national government.

(These two distinct views have existed since the days of Hamilton and Jefferson, and continue to today).

 

A. If you believe power should be primarily with the local governments

(Jefferson's view; the Anti-Federalist view; the State Rights view)

 

• The national government can only do the things specifically authorized for them to do in the Constitution.

• The powers not specifically granted to the national government will belong to the state governments. (This means everything else, on all other issues, are for each State to decide).

• A branch of government (Congress, President, Courts) can only do the things specifically authorized by the Constitution.

 

B. If you believe in a strong central government

(Hamilton's view; the Federalist view; the National Government view)

 

• The list of powers enumarated by the Constitution is just a guideline, not an absolute.

• The "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution allows the federal government to do just about anything it wants.

• The "interstate commerce" clause of the Constitution allows the federal government to regulate a vast area of issues.

• The Ninth and Tenth Amendments do not need to be followed.

 

I believe it is clear (as Jefferson would say: "self-evident") that the concept of Enumerated Powers means only those powers specifically stated in the Constitution.

The Constitution itself is basically clear on this. In addition, if there is any doubt, refer to the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.

 

M.F.

July 2007