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American Federation Nature and Characteristics INTRODUCTION In the contemporary world federalism as a political idea has become increasingly

important as a way of peacefully reconciling unity and diversity within a political system. However, there is neither an accepted theory of federalism nor any agreement as to its nature. The term is shrouded in controversy. Yet, since the first experiment in federalism was launched by the American constitution in 1789, there has been a remarkable proliferation of federal systems in the world. Twenty-one of hundred and eighty-five states of the world have adopted some kind of federal system. This has created considerable interest in the academic study of federalism in political science today. A federal system is one in which governmental power is divided between central government on the one hand and individual regional or state government on the other in such a way that each level is autonomous in its assigned area and neither can change the division of power unilaterally. In other words, when a state is divided for the convenience of administration or for some other reason into several federated states with a union/central government at the centre and separate governments are created for the units, it is called a federation. According to Finer, a federal state is one in which part of the authority and power is vested in a central institution deliberately constituted by an association of local areas. Dicey defies federation as by federal principle I mean the method of dividing powers so that the central and regional governments are within a sphere, coordinate and independent. A federation may be formed by two or more states previously independent with a view to protecting themselves from foreign aggression or in order to maintain financial stability among themselves. In a federation, the state government exercises certain powers while the remaining powers belong to the federal government (i.e. central government) consisting of the representatives of the states. The constituent states surrender their sovereignty when they form a federation. But they retain their autonomy and independence. In a perfect federation, the central government and the state governments are co-ordinate. Neither is subordinate to the other. NATURE AND CHARACTERISTICS OF THE AMERICAN FEDERATION 1. Two Sets of Governments: In a federal system of government there is the existence of two sets of Government-- the Federal Government at the Centre and the State or Regional or Provincial Government at the level of the federating units. Both sets of government are coordinate to each other and each unit acts within its own jurisdiction. The American federal system has a Federal Government for the entire of the United States of America. The federating units are called the States. The American federation consists of 50 States. Each State has its own State government. The States enjoy some form of autonomy. The States enjoy the right to establish their proper governmental system, to decide on the scope of autonomy of their municipalities, and to organize their own judiciary. 2. Division and Distribution of Powers: The most essential feature of a federation is the division and distribution of powers. The written constitution divides and distributes the powers between the federal (central) government and the state governments. The central government is authorized to make laws on subjects of national importance. And the state governments exercise powers over matters of local interest. Art I, section 8 of

the U.S.A. constitution clearly defines the powers of the federal government. According to this article, the central government can make laws on eighteen topics only. The important powers of the central government are as follows: foreign affairs, foreign trade, inter-state commerce, taxation, borrowing of money, currency and coinage, posts and telegraphs, defence, parents, and copy-rights, admission of new states, war and peace, conclusion of treaties, weights and measures, creation of inferior federal courts under the supreme court of the U.S.A. on the other hand, the constituent states of America enjoy the residuary powers. The Tenth Amendment Act (1789) provides that the powers not delegated to the central government, nor prohibited by it to the state, are reserved to the states. But the state governments do not enjoy absolute and unlimited powers. Like the central government, the states also enjoy limited powers. The state governments obey the federal laws in respect of powers conferred upon the federal government. Moreover, in the U.S.A. constitution prohibits the states from exercising certain powers, viz, conclusion of treaties or agreements, regulation of coinage, military formation in normal times. The federal government also cannot make any law which takes away the freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom of religion of the citizens of the U.S.A. Besides, the federal government cannot levy tax on the inter-state commerce. 3. Supremacy of the Constitution: The Constitution of the U.S.A. is written because it has been framed at the Philadelphia convention in1789.The Constitution of the U.S.A. is the supreme law of the land. The Constitution stands above the center and the states. It is the duty of the Supreme Court to protect the supremacy of the constitution. The American Constitution is also rigid. A special procedure is required to amend the constitution. Neither the federal government nor the state governments alone can amend the Constitution. According to Article V of the U.S.Constitution, Congress may propose an amendment of the constitution. But it must be ratified by the legislatures of threefourths of states. Thus the constitution is written, rigid, and supreme. 4. Supremacy of the Judiciary: It is also an important feature of a federation. The supremacy of the judiciary prevails in the U.S.A. The Supreme Court of the U.S.A. has the power of interpreting the Constitution; it can also protect the rights and liberties of citizens. The Supreme Court can nullify the in constitutional legislation. In other words, the federal Judiciary has the power of Judicial Review, by virtue of which it can review the laws made by the Congress and the executive actions of the President. It acts as the sole interpreter, protector and guardian of the Constitution. 5. Bi-cameralism: For the equitable representation of the federated states the existence of the second chamber in the legislature is considered necessary in a federal system. Bicameralism can guarantee the representation of the federated states or units to the federal legislature. American federal system upholds this principle and the Senate is composed of representatives sent by the States following the principle of equality of representation. Each State sends two representatives to the senate, irrespective of its geographical or demographic size. Hence, the Second Chamber of the American Congress, the Senate consists of 100 representatives, representing the interests of the federating units of the American federation. 6. Dual Citizenship: Like the Constitution of the Swiss Federation, the American Federal Constitution also provides for dual citizenship. A person first becomes the citizen of the State to which (s)he belongs, and then the Citizen of the United States.

7. Two Sets of Constitutions: In the American federation, the units of the federation are entitled to make their own constitutions. Therefore, each American State has a constitution of its own. However, the provisions of the State constitutions cannot contravene the provisions in the federal constitution. This protects the autonomy and independence of the Statesthe federating units of the American federation. Conclusion: It is said that the U.S.A is being transformed into a Unitary State. The states do not enjoy autonomy and independence. Sooner or latter, the states will be converted into the local governments of a unitary state. In the U.S.A. the power and authority of the federal government has increased due to the following reasons: (a) the sixteenth amendment (1913) act authorizes the central government to levy taxes on incomes. (b) The Supreme Court has also enlarged the powers of the central government by its power if interpretation of the constitution. (c) The central government controls the affairs of the state through the grants in-aid, leading towards the development of what is called Cooperative Federalism. The states receive their financial assistance from the centre. (d) The party system and the press have also largely increased the powers of the central government. Besides, the civil war in America, the two world wars, world wide economic crisis, concept of welfare state, and rapid development in communication technology have also helped the federal government to exercise its supremacy over the states.