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This module in the Structural Constitution course highlights key debates about federalism: at the time of the ratification of the Constitution, throughout our history with the expansion of the scope of the Federal government through the Commerce Clause and the weakening of the state governments in the Civil War and later Amendments, and the state it is today.
“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those that are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite.”
-Madison, Federalist No. 45
Questions to be explored included:
What did Federalism look like at the time of the Founding? How did the state governments and the Articles of Confederation shape the writing of the Constitution? In what ways was the text of the Constitution a compromise among representatives from different states?
What is the history of the Commerce Clause? (and other clauses such as the Necessary and Proper clause that have been used to justify the expansion of the power of the federal government) With the size and scope of the federal government today, do the states in any way exercise a meaningful check on its power?
What is “new federalism” and how is it different from the federalism in the early Republic leading to the Civil War? Why does Federalism matter today?
We explore answers to these questions below.
The Commerce Clause has frequently been litigated before the Supreme Court, perhaps more often than another provision of the Structural Constitution. Professor Michael McConnell gives an overview of some of the key cases that have determined the scop
The Commerce Clause has frequently been litigated before the Supreme Court, perhaps more often than another provision of the Structural Constitution. Professor Michael McConnell gives an overview of some of the key cases that have determined the scope of the power of the federal government under the Commerce Clause, including Gibbons v. Ogden, United States v. Darby, Wickard v. Filburn, United States v. Lopez, United States v. Morrison, and NFIB v. Sebelius.
Michael William McConnell is a constitutional law scholar who served as a United States Circuit Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit from 2002 until 2009. Since 2009, McConnell has served as Director of the Stanford Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School.
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As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.
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