Volume 100 - Issue 1 Georgetown Law Journal

Comparing Apples to Apples: A Federalism-Based Theory for the Use of Founding-Era State Constitutions to Interpret the Constitution

Defining the relationship between the national government and the individual states formed one of the major debates among the delegates of the Constitutional Convention of 1787. All agreed that the relationship as it existed under the Articles of Confederation required revision. Notwithstanding the problems created under the Articles’ decentralized power structure, the Framers—with the stench of King George still lingering in their  nostrils—remained wary of centralized national governments. Consequently, they entered historically uncharted territory and adopted the middle road—a federalist balance of power that vested supremacy in the national  government but retained for the states an independent sphere of sovereignty insulated from excessive intrusion by the national government. Where the Articles seemed more like a treaty or compact between independent sovereignties, the Constitution truly transferred power toa new governing entity, creating another layer of sovereignty.

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