Ratification of the Constitution State vs Federal Government Powers





Ratification of the Constitution: State vs Federal Government Powers

When United States got its independence, trying to come up with a way on how they could now exercise their self-rule proved difficult. The delegates had issues they could not agree including the division of power between the branches of the government and the powers of the state. According to the article of confederation, the states seemed to have more power and constitutional amendments were quite difficult to undertake as a unanimous vote was needed. The states had been granted powers including collection of revenue, this proved a problem as the congress lacked the revenue needed in running the government (The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution). In creation of the constitution delegates were divided on creation of the executive and position of presidents as representative from some state saw this as a monarch kind of system. In ratification of the constitution the issues that were key included creation of strong central government and representation of the states in congress.

Patrick Henry was among the founding fathers of our nation who participated in the ratification of the constitution. He was opposed to the ratification of the constitution as he thought that central government had been handed too much power and states should be more powerful. In his speech, Henry pointed out the uneasiness that came with ratification of the constitution. According to henry, the new constitution would create “a great and mighty president with…the powers of a king” (Henry, pg. 8). He was also worried that the congress would give powers which they would have “unlimited…direct taxation” as well as powers to suspend state laws. According to henry, it is these powers that actually resulted in the revolutionary war. Henry had the support of anti-federalist who believed majority of the Americans did not want a central government. Although eventually Henry lost as the constitution was ratified, the anti-federalist papers were vital in creating the Bill of Rights which were amendments that protected people’s liberties and also placed limits on powers of the government (The Constitutional Convention and Federal Constitution).

Edmund Pendleton also had an impact in the ratification of the constitution. Unlike Henry who was anti-federalist, Pendleton was a federalist and was in support of the ratification of the new constitution. He had served as a member of the first and the second continental congress and was also the president of the Virginia Ratifying Convention. According to Pendleton, the creation of a strong national government “is necessary to protect liberty” (Pendleton, pg. 9) Edmond did not see national government as a threat on state government as there were laws that would ensure powers are not misused and the Judiciary as well as legislature would keep check the national government. Edmund supported the idea of government levying taxes directly as opposed to letting the state government do so, “Government must be supported this cannot be done without a revenue…. Recurrence must be had to direct taxation” (Pendleton, pg. 10). Pendleton believed that constitution would put in place check and balances to ensure that the three branches do not become too powerful thus threatening freedom.

The type of federalism that exist gives the states its power while still recognizing that national government have their highest power. States seem to have grown more powerful, and under the idea of devolution, certain responsibilities were granted to the states. For example, the issue of healthcare, state seems to be trying to provide affordable and better healthcare for their residents. For example, Hawaii and Massachusetts have enacted laws mandating employers to offer medical insurance to their employees. There are laws that differ between states and at times it requires intervention by federal judges or government for changes to occur. A good example is ban of same sex marriage. While some states allowed for same sex marriage, others were against it. The land mark ruling of 2015 in the case Obergefell v. Hodges, the supreme court ruled that all states had to accept same sex marriage. Some states saw this ruling as overstepping by the federal government on state issues. It is for a fact even in the 21st century there is still a tug of war between States and the federal government in regards to powers most of the time the state accusing the government of processing more powers while the aim of federalism was to create a balance.

In conclusion, creation of the constitution was a long process that involved a lot of compromise and agreement. The federalist and anti-federalist all wanted to create a document that would preserve both the liberty and freedom of a young nation. There have been issues that have often created standoff between the national and federal government for example the death penalty. This is an indication that the debate that existed during the ratification of the constitution still exist. How can a balance of power between the federal and state governments ever be established without one felling the other is overstepping?

Works Cited

Foner, Eric, and Give Me Liberty. “An American History.” Seagull Edition), New York and London: WW Norton and Company (2006). Pg. 7-10

Learning, Lumen. “HIST 1301: US to 1877.” Lumen, https://courses.lumenlearning.com/sanjacinto-atdcoursereview-ushistory1-1/chapter/the-constitutional-convention-and-federal-constitution/.