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Federalism was part of the compromise devised by the Founding Fathers, the system was devised as a practical accommodation between those wanting a strong national government and those seeking to defend the powers of the state authorities and the conflicting interests of the large and small states. Under the federal system the national and state governments each had their own responsibilities.

Federalism was a half-way house between the concept of a centralized unitary state that was unacceptable to the thirteen states, and that of a confederation which was a weak association of autonomous states of the kind that had proved unsatisfactory between 1776 and 1787. Federalism arose out of the desire to bolster national unity whilst at the same time accommodate regional diversity.

Under the federal system powers were divided between the national (federal or general) government which in certain matters was to be independent of the governments of the associated states, and the state governments, which in certain matters were to be independent of the federal government. Both national and state governments operated directly upon the people, therefore American citizens had to obey two governments - their state government and the federal government. Each state is like a smaller model of the federal government as each state has an executive branch (headed by a governor), a Legislative branch to pass state laws and a judicial branch to uphold and interpret state laws.
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The American federal system was not intended by the Framers to have a pyramid structure with the federal government at the apex because, in constitutional terms at least, the federal and state governments were to be of equal status within their own areas of authority.

As the Founding Fathers assumed that the states would continue to perform the major domestic roles such as the maintenance of law and order, the constitution does not deal in any detail with the functions of the states. The document is more specific on what the states could not do, that is, ...

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