2.2 Defining Federal - State Relations
Three main factors within the governmental system itself, as well as outside it, increased federal authority, at the expense of the states. Firstly, the federal judiciary played a major role in establishing the supremacy of the central government. Secondly, the express powers of Congress were expanded owing to the legislative, judicial and administrative interpretation. Thirdly, certain funding policies of the Congress also led to centralizing tendencies.
2.2a The Role of the Courts
John Marshall of Virginia, a staunch Federalist and chief justice of the Supreme Court, was responsible for the entrenchment of a strong federal government. Of all the powers of the Congress, those regarding the regulation of commerce, exercised a great centralizing effect on the national government. The Gibbons versus Ogden cases, the Cooley case, and the Shreveport case, were outstanding ones enabling the Congress to regulate interstate commerce to a great extent.
Of the several clauses in the Constitution, that form a source of national powers, the commerce clause and the clause authorizing Congress to raise taxes for the general welfare, are very important. The significant clauses that served as a basis of judicial restraint upon state powers consisted of the due process and equal protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.
For some time, the expansion of national powers was blocked
because the Supreme Court failed to recognize the changes brought
about by the Industrial Revolution, in interstate commerce. However,
after the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment, the nature of the
federal union was greatly altered. Thus, under the due process
clause, the justice of the Supreme Court struck down state regulations
of business, such as regulations of wages and hours of work. The
basic concept of American Constitutional law was the protection
of vested property rights.
During the administration of Franklin D. Roosevelt, the Court accepted equal protection as the dominant note in the law, by shifting its emphasis from property rights to human rights. The states were recognized to have greater powers over taxation and control over trade.
However, the authority of the states regarding voting qualifications and the casting of the ballots, was restricted by the Fifteenth and Twenty- Fourth amendments.
2.2b The Role of Congress
Congress has been able to change the constitutional pattern by enacting regulatory legislation based on the commerce clause. It was brought about by changing the tax system and regulating on the basis of the authority of expenditure.