in the Federal System
WILLIAM G. COLMAN
The last half-century has been a turbulent one for mankind; it has been no less so for testing the fabric of the American governmental system. The post-World War I period was a time of crisis and change for the concept of federalism—the major unique contribution of this country to the art of government. Conceived and articulated in 1787 in an attempt to combine the twin goals of unity and diversity, the United States Constitution delegated power from the new states to the central government to provide it with the capacity for national leadership and interstate coordination domestically and for economic and military security from events beyond the seas. Legally, as well as philosophically, the new nation was a union of states.
The conception of American federalism has swung like a pendulum from decentralization to centralization and back again. Despite the prominent attention given to urban affairs, the crisis of the cities over the last decade, and the varying degrees of direct federal-local relationships since 1935, the structure of federalism in the United States has essentially been one of federal-state relations, and it is toward that arena of intergovernmental affairs that this paper is mainly directed.
The Founding Fathers intended important roles for the state governments in the federal system. They were to be repositories of most domestic governmental functions as well as political laboratories in which new theories and initiatives of government could be tested in the crucible of practical experience, with failures noted and successes adopted in other states and, after further improvement, adopted by the nation as a whole. The states were to be sturdy buffers in a represen