The Founding Fathers were seeking to create a system of government with more liberty than almost any other form of government known at the time. This paper
- Describes the aspects of a federalist system that appealed to the founding fathers to assist them in creating a just form of government (Note: Madison’s “double protection” argument in Federalist 51).
- Explains if federalism in fact lend itself to creating and protecting such liberty.
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Federalism is a system of government characterized by a clear delineation of power between the national government and constituents elements. The system of government currently in use in modern-day United States is grounded in this system and the result of the application of centuries-old principles as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Their main objective was to develop a robust system of government capable of providing liberty to the citizenry in a fashion rarely seen at the time. A federalist government was particularly preferred since it prevented autocracy, fostered political participation, and created a unique opportunity for political leaders to develop workable schemes crucial when governing constituent states
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Aspects of a federalist system that appealed to the Founding Fathers
One of the most ostensible distinguishing aspects of the federalist system that captured the attention of the Founding Fathers was areal division of power. A true test of a country’s level of democracy and liberty is in its ability to equitably divide legal authority; sharing it between state and national governments (Kozlowski & Weber, 2010, p. 54). This was particularly important for the fledgling state as a way of creating spheres of government characterized by clear legal distinctions to avert future conflict. This type of division of power was also invaluable to liberty since it provided a level of territorial democracy to each jurisdiction and its citizens. The application of this particular system guaranteed citizens of parity and neutrality within the United States which was crucial when clamoring for territorial democracy (Berger, 2015). By so doing, it was now possible to assure each group within union of fair representation within the political structure of the country. Furthermore, the division of power introduced by a federalist system created ideal conditions for specific jurisdictions to enjoy local autonomy. The federalist system, therefore, introduced liberty by allowing autonomous regions to vote in equal territorial units. Inherent difference among diverse groups would then be accommodated as opposed to viewing them as transient elements.
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The federalist system was also popular among the Founding Fathers in the United States since it gave the state an unchallenged constitutional authority. This was particularly important in the context of liberty for it contrasted the limited latitude for political participation witnessed in a confederation. This, thus, accorded a sovereign state elected by the people with a high level of discretion and constitutional authority which remained unchallenged within this particular framework. The state would then serve as a representative of the majority’s views using its constitutional authority to make declarations on their behalf and make important decisions affecting the entire population (Holdstedt, 2014). This was particularly important in the case of foreign relations when a nation’s dealings with foreign governments had far-reaching consequences for its exercise. It is noteworthy to acknowledge that the Founding Fathers preferred federalism over confederation since regional political communities were not regarded as sovereign states. This semi-autonomy was deemed imperative for liberty since citizens were now capable of participating in self-government.
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The federalist system also represented non-centralization which was critical in the quest for liberty. It was a clear reflection of the constitutional and each of the tenets outlined therein with the purpose of safeguarding the rights and freedoms of each American citizen. Federalism represented a diffusion of power which emboldened citizens who ultimately became cognizant of the central role of the entire system in clamoring for liberty. Non-centralization, therefore, creates ideal conditions for the diffusion of power within an administrative framework. To the Founding Fathers, this bolstered participation among citizens which ultimately permitted them to participate in the political process while checking the excesses of the government. As noted by President James Madison in his “double protection” argument, the federalist system created a system of checks and balances supported by citizen’s cognizance of their duty towards its realization (Chevrier, 2017, p. 45).
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The federalist system allows citizens to cede a level of control to the government which then exercises sovereignty as the government of an autonomous political community wielding a degree of absolute power, especially within the context of international relations. This made certain that populations living in the fringes of societies were represented appropriately while wielding a considerable level of influence.