Checks and Balances, Federalism, and Republicanism

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The Founding Fathers and the Pillars of the United States

The Founding Fathers of the United States of America viewed federalism, republicanism, and checks and balances as the fundamental pillars that would secure the country's success in the years ahead. Republicanism is a political doctrine that emerged immediately following the American Revolution. Republicanism is a form of government in which the people have sovereignty, unalienable liberty rights, the right to vote, and the government derives its power from the people. Federalism, on the other hand, refers to the constitutional relationship between two tiers of government: state and federal. Checks and balances relate to the legal mechanisms that ensure that there is the separation of power between the different levels of government to ensure there is no abuse of power. The study is going to look at how federalism, republicanism, and checks and balances were intended to work. In doing so, the research will provide a relevant example that demonstrates the assertion concerning how federalism, republicanism, and checks and balances were intended to work.

The Concept of Federalism

Federalism is the division of power between two levels of government that are both supreme within their jurisdictions or authorities (Elazar, 1972). The federal principle is enshrined in the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1791. It was intended to retain local pride, traditions, and power, while at the same time accommodating the central government that handles common problems. The law was designed to promote political significance and state autonomy in making laws and regulations affecting them; a good example is the independence states have in making laws concerning murder. States have the discretion to enact legislation that gives death penalty or not to convicted murderers. Also, states spend immensely in health and hospitals, social welfare, and the education sector. However, some factors affect federalism-supremacy of the constitution- any law enacted that is inconsistent with the Constitution will be declared as null and void by the Supreme Court. Also, lack of financial muscle compared to the federal government affects the operations of state governments; this leads to financial aids in terms of grants from the federal government and thus keeps it in check. The federal government has been giving significant assistance in the stemming of forest fires in Florida and earthquakes in Los Angeles. All these impede federalism. In Garcia v San Francisco Metropolitan Authority, the court affirmed the supremacy of the federal government over state government by declaring that the only limit on the power of the federal government is political; any endeavor to place constitutional limits is unrealistic (Gibson, 2000). Most civil and criminal laws are federal laws. Despite this growth, recent history indicates that federalism is still strong and taking root. Both President Nixon and Bush promised to continue with the Republican principle-making federal government smaller and decentralizing activities and functions to state governments.

The Ideology of Republicanism

Republicanism is an ideology where there is the sovereignty of the people, unalienable individual rights, corruption is viewed as a terrible vice, people have the civic right of voting, and the government derives their power from the people (Bellamy, 2010). All the factors above are hallmarks of constitutionalism. On top of that, republicanism has the element of political and individual liberty and separate powers of government. Separation of power among the levels of government is to ensure that one branch of government does not possess too much power. Examples are the three distinct branches of government with separate powers; the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. Instances that demonstrate the intention of republicanism include the civic duty and participation in voting, and the free market economies build on republican ideologies that require that the government should not be able to control market forces. Briefly, republicanism favors strong federal government and a rule that would safeguard the rights and liberties of the people from political tyranny.

The Significance of Checks and Balances

Checks and balances emanate from the separation of powers that whose aim is to prevent abuse of power by authorities. The checks and balances concept was mooted by a French scholar, Montesquieu. In the United States of America, checks and balances among the different organs of government exist. There are three branches; the executive branch, the legislature, and the judicial branch. In the case U.S. v Alvarez, the court noted that the Constitution establishes three separate but equal branches of government; the legislature-makes laws, the executive-enforces the law, and the judiciary-interprets the law (Haines, 1932). This is to prevent one organ from becoming too powerful and provide a system of checks and balances. To illustrate further on checks and balances, the legislative branch-passed the Stolen Valor Act in 2005 to punish those who misrepresent they misrepresent they have been awarded high military honors. The judicial branch-Supreme Court ruled that the Act was unconstitutional because it infringed on the right of free speech has contained in the First Amendment. The executive branch-took action in line with the Supreme Court's decision and established a national database that ensures there is verification of military honor.

The Connection of Federalism, Republicanism, and Checks and Balances

From the research, it is evident that federalism, republicanism, and checks and balances have a clear connection. They all have an element of autonomy; be it independence among the different organs of government or sovereignty between the state and federal governments. Those who came up with these ideologies intended to have a free society where anyone or anything can have freedom to engage in any legal endeavor without fear that a superior force can stop them. Federalism, Republicanism and checks and balances created equity in the United States.


Bellamy, R. (2010). Republicanism: Non Domination and the Free State.

Elazar, D. (1972). American federalism: A view from the states. Crowell.

Gibson, A. (2000). Ancients, moderns and Americans: the republicanism-liberalism debate revisited. History of Political Thought, 21(2), 261-307.

Haines, C. (1932). The American doctrine of judicial supremacy (Vol. 1). University of California Press.

May 02, 2023

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