Essay by brdnowel February 2003

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Federalism has been defined as the sharing of power between the states and the national government. It has been a major historical and political issue throughout U.S. history and has played a major role in the development of our great republic.

Prior to the establishment of the federal government by the U.S. Constitution, there existed two political factions. Hamilton and his colleagues, the original Federalists, believed only a strong central government could provide the new nation with the economic, political and military cohesiveness it would need to maintain its independence. The Anti-federalists saw such a government as the greatest threat to that new-found liberty, and feared that by creating a strong central government they were replacing one tyranny with another. In addition, the Antifederalists believed a government of daily life was best carried out by groups that were closely bound by ties of kinship, belief and history, the state and local governments.

When the federal government was established by the U.S. Constitution in 1787, it only exercised limited or enumerated powers, such as making treaties and printing money. The Tenth Amendment of the Bill of Rights, clarified that all other powers belonged to the states: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."