HGov: Chapter 3 Federalism – Forging a Nation


The chapter focuses on the issue of federalism: its creation through the Constitution, its evolution during the nation’s history, and its current status. The main points presented in the chapter are these:

  • The power of government must be equal to its responsibilities. The Constitution was needed because the nation’s preceding system (under the Articles of Confederation) was too weak to accomplish its expected goals, particularly those of a strong defense and an integrated economy.
  • Federalism—the Constitution’s division of governing authority between two levels, nation and states—was the result of political bargaining. Federalism was not a theoretical principle, but a compromise made necessary in 1787 by the prior existence of the states.
  • Federalism is not a fixed principle for allocating power between the national and state governments, but a principle that has changed over time in response to political needs and partisan ideology. Federalism has passed through several distinct stages in the course of the nation’s history.
  • Contemporary federalism tilts toward national authority, reflecting the increased interdependence of American society.


Having read Chapter 3, you should be able to do each of the following:

  1. Define federalism and describe the bargaining process at the Philadelphia Convention resulting in its inception.
  2. Specify the difference between enumerated, implied, and reserved powers. Explain the purpose underlying this distribution of power.
  3. Distinguish among the “necessary and proper,” supremacy, and commerce clauses, explaining how their constitutional interpretations have affected the division of powers in American government.
  4. Outline the different stages in the Supreme Court’s interpretation of federalism, referring to its major decisions and their significance.
  5. Describe the causes behind the rise in nationalism, such as the nature of interdependency and the cooperative federalism that has resulted.
  6. Outline the aspects of fiscal federalism, including the types of grants-in-aid and the influence they can bear on behalf of the federal government.
  7. Explain the causes behind the devolution movement of the latter decades of the twentieth century, and describe the recent developments that have brought about an end to the devolution trend.

Chapters 2 & 3 Quiz I on Wednesday Sept. 16



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