National versus State Government

After the American colonies won their independence from England, the thirteen colonies became thirteen states. The new states formed a league so they could work together. Their system of government was described in a document called the Articles of Confederation. In this system, the state governments had most of the power. The national government was very weak. This was very different from the government under the King.

The Founding Fathers saw that this system left the nation too weak. They decided to develop a new system of government. They wrote a new document, the Constitution, to replace the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution made a stronger national government. It divided power between the national government and the state governments. This system is called federalism.

What is Federalism?

Since the signing of the Constitution, the division of power in the United States has been based on sharing power between the national government and individual state governments. This is known as federalism.

Let's take a look at how power is distributed in the United States:

National Government State Government
  • Coin money.
  • Declare war.
  • Conduct foreign relations.
  • Oversee foreign and interstate trade.
  • Ratify amendments.
  • Manage public health and safety.
  • Oversee trade within the state.
  • Education

In addition, the national government and state governments share the following powers:

  • Make and enforce laws.
  • Tax.
  • Borrow money.

In order to carry out these duties, the national government and individual state goverments are divided into areas. Each area is given a duty to perform.

Next: State Government

Reprinted from Ben's Guide to U.S. Government for Kids

National vs State Government
Branches of Government
Lawmaking
Election Process
Government Websites
Explore USA Jump Back in Time! Meet the Americans The Government Let's Celebrate Life in U.S. For Teachers
Home