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Center for the Study of Federalism

Federalism shapes the ways in which nearly half the world’s people govern themselves—from citizen activism and representation to public policy formation, innovation, and diffusion. Modern federalism, invented by the American founders, provides a political means to create unity and protect diversity, national identity and personal liberty.

Because federalism profoundly shapes American politics and policy making, understanding federalism equips students, teachers, and citizens with tools to more accurately perceive and interpret political life and policy outcomes. Here you will find curated resources on all facets of American federalism and the perennial problems of how a people best provide, divide, separate, share, and limit political power.

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The Future of Federalism in India

Louise Tillin considers why the fundamental ideas and values associated with India's federalism "have been unsettled over the last decade and the alternative visions that…

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Courts-First Federalism

Dylan L. Yingling and Daniel J. Mallinson assert that "courts-first federalism" has achieved significant results in shifting the balance of power away from the…

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Citizenship and Federalism

Betsy L. Fisher writes that U.S. citizenship "requires the concurrence of both state and federal governments" because state law affects whether individuals can document the…

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Texas and “Military Federalism”

Emily Berman and Chris Mirasola examine the increasing tensions between the federal government and Texas relating to the use of military force on the southern border.…

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Devolving the Justice System of Wales

The Welsh government has prepared a report on the progress of efforts to devolve aspects of the region's justice system. Read more here.

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Federalism and Apartheid

In an op-ed, Nicholas Woode-Smith writes that the African National Congress has long asserted that federalism contributed to apartheid in South Africa. Woode-Smith contends that…

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Lincoln Memorial at night

Federalism in America: An Encyclopedia

This encyclopedia provides a comprehensive reference explaining the major concepts, institutions, court cases, epochs, personalities, and policies that have shaped, or been shaped by, American federalism. It describes federalism’s creation and evolution, and its influence on local, state, and national governmental institutions, procedures, and policies. The models used to explain the various historical eras in the development of federalism are also included. Originally published by Greenwood Press in 2005, this encyclopedia contained over 400 entries relating to American federalism. In its current online form, entries are being added and old ones updated.

From Our Encyclopedia

President of the United States

The institution of U.S. President is shaped by federalism and individual presidents shape federalism.

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Chamber of Commerce of the United States v. Whiting (2011)

The federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) makes it unlawful “to hire, or to recruit or refer for a fee, for…

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Virginia v. Tennessee (1893)

See Interstate Compacts.

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United States v. Windsor (2013)

In United States v. Windsor, et al., (2013), the Supreme Court held that a federal law that excluded same-sex partners from the federal definition…

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United States Term Limits v. Thornton (1995)

A powerful movement for term limits developed during the 1980's. Most states adopted term limits for members of the state legislature (many governors were…

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U.S. Constitution (full document)

Contents 1THE U.S. CONSTITUTION AND AMENDMENTS 1.1ARTICLE I. 1.1.1Section 1. 1.1.2Section 2. 1.1.3Section 3. 1.1.4Section 4. 1.1.5Section 5. 1.1.6Section 6. 1.1.7Section 7. 1.1.8Section 8.…

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Law Enforcement

There is currently no text in this page. You can search for this page title in other pages, or search the related logs, but you do not…

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Federalism Timeline

1754

Albany Plan, proposed by Benjamin Franklin, called for creation of a confederation with a general government having a Grand Council with members appointed by the colonial assemblies and a president-general appointed by the British Crown. Britain and the colonial assemblies rejected the plan.

1776

Declaration of Independence, written mostly by Thomas Jefferson, was adopted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1776, to announce and explain the 13 colonies’ separation from Great Britain. The colonies then regarded themselves as independent sovereign states and adopted constitutions. As such, the 13 states invented modern written constitutions.

1777

Articles of Confederation, drafted by a committee of delegates from the 13 states and chaired by John Dickinson, was adopted by the Continental Congress on November 15 after a year-long debate on issues such as state sovereignty and exactly what powers would be delegated to the confederation.

1780

Massachusetts Constitution, the first to expressly provide for a separation of powers and ratification by the people, is the world’s oldest written constitution still in effect.

State and Local Firsts
That Changed America

The states and their local governments have performed time-honored roles as constitutional and policy innovators in the federal system. In the earliest years of the republic, Virginia was the first state to adopt a constitutional bill of rights, New York established the first popularly elected chief executive, and Maryland first constitutionalized the separation of powers.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of the Center for the Study of Federalism (CSF)?

The Center for the Study of Federalism (CSF) is a nonpartisan, interdisciplinary research and education institution dedicated to supporting and advancing scholarship and public understanding of federal theories, principles, institutions, and processes as practical means of organizing power in free societies.

Who are the Fellows at the Center for the Study of Federalism?

All of the CSF Fellows hold advanced degrees, are affiliated with academic institutions, and are scholarly experts in their fields. For more on each Fellow see CSF Fellows.

What is the purpose of the CSF website?

Most political and public issues in the United States are influenced to some extent by its federal system. Yet many do not understand that system. The CSF website seeks to foster a better understanding among the general public and scholars of federal governing systems generally and, specifically, of the federal system of government in the United States of America.

Are the materials on the Center for the Study of Federalism website copyright-protected?

The CSF materials are free to use for educational purposes. If published, please acknowledge CSF as the source. If you intend to use these materials for profit, please, contact the Center for the Study of Federalism for permission. Some materials on the website are not owned by CSF and permission to use those materials should be sought with those holding legal title to the material.

How do I sign-up for the CSF listserv?

Click here to sign-up to receive notifications about CSF materials and events. We will not share your email with any outside organizations or individuals.

Who do I contact for questions or comments about your programs and the information provided on this website?

Please direct all questions and comments related to this website, and inquiries about the research and teaching grants and awards, to us here. Remember CSF is a nonpartisan, interdisciplinary research and education institution.