The Federal-state relationship

The Federal-state relationship

The American Constitution

  • The US Constitution is the supreme law of the United States, written in 1787.
  • It was created to provide a governing framework, following independence from Britain.
  • Constitutes seven articles outlining the national frame of government.
  • The Constitution initiates the three-tiered system of federalism: federal, state, and local.

The Amendment Process

  • Amendments provide a way to update or change the Constitution.
  • To date, there are 27 Amendments.
  • Most famous are the first ten amendments, known as the Bill of Rights.
  • The 14th Amendment is key, as it ensures equal rights for all citizens.

Separation of Powers

  • A central tenet in the Constitution: no one branch of government should hold too much power.
  • Including, Executive (President and cabinet), Legislative (Congress), and Judicial (Supreme Court).

Checks and Balances

  • The Principle is laid out in the Constitution to prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.
  • For example, the President can veto laws passed by Congress, and the Supreme Court can declare laws unconstitutional.


  • Refers to the relationship between state and federal government.
  • Powers of the state government include control over local affairs, while the federal government has control over national defence and foreign policy.
  • Since the 1930s, federal government’s power has expanded due to the increase in federal programmes and legislation.

Civil Liberties and Civil Rights

  • Civil Liberties: First Amendment protects freedoms such as speech, assembly, and religion.
  • Civil Rights: Fourteenth Amendment prevents states from denying equal protection under the law.

Roles and Powers of Branches

  • The Constitution outlines specific roles and powers for each branch of government.
  • Legislative Branch: Writes laws, confirms presidential appointments, approves treaties.
  • Executive Branch: Writes and executes federal laws, proposes legislation, conducts foreign policy, commander in chief of armed forces.
  • Judicial Branch: Evaluates laws, resolves disputes, interprets the Constitution.

Remember that the Constitution is the foundational document that details the rights of individuals, governs all U.S. territories, and defines the roles and powers of the government. Understanding the contents and interpretation of this document is vital for any exam on U.S. Politics.