Editor’s note: The following is an essay written by Brian Scott for the Federated of Republic Women of Los Alamos in recognition of Constitution Day. Scott was awarded $100 for his essay in the Grades 4-6 division. “Seeking to balance order with liberty, the Founding Fathers chose a federal system of government. Their goal were to avoid tyranny, to allow more participation in politics, and to allow the states to pass their own laws that could test new ideas and programs. Discuss how the system of federalism has been successful in promoting one of the goals. Support your ideas.”
BY BRIAN SCOTT
Elementary School Student
After the Framers’ experience with the Articles of Confederation, they knew that they needed a stronger federal government, but they wanted the states to remain powerful and not be controlled by an overpowering federal government. The Framers came up with a system known as federalism which would share powers between state and national governments. The constitution gave specific powers to the states and different powers to the national government in an attempt to maintain balance between them.
There are many benefits to federalism. For example, it allows states some autonomy while still providing a strong and effective national government. The Constitution gave states the power to create their own laws. Some of these laws test new ideas that can eventually spread throughout the nation.
For example, Wyoming passed a law in 1869 that allowed all women over 21 to vote. After that, several other western states passed similar laws allowing women to vote. Their experiment showed that women’s suffrage was a good thing. Eventually, the ideas from these local laws were added to the constitution in 1919 in the 19th amendment. This shows that federalism is good because it allows states to influence the federal government with their laws.
Another example of why federalism is good is because sometimes the federal government can intervene and fix bad state laws. For example, in the early 1900s, some southern states passed “Jim Crow” laws like poll taxes, literacy tests, and racial segregation. This limited black people’s right to vote which had been given to them in the 13th amendment. In this case, the state law experiments went wrong. Eventually the national government stepped in to stop discrimination against black citizens by passing the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
These examples show why Federalism is such a great system of government. The first example showed how Wyoming’s experiment influenced the national government in a positive way. The next example showed how the Federal government prevented the states from passing laws that took away Black people’s rights. The balance the Framers created between the states and the federal government has helped our nation thrive.