Sample History Essay Paper on States’ Rights vs. Federal Supremacy

The United States Constitution provides for the Constitutional Representative Republic and not the pure democracy myth. Therefore, the constitution underlines the specifically enumerated authorities that are held by each of the three branches of the Federal Government as well as their assigned duties. The ‘Supremacy Clause’ has been a topic discussed for the entire civilization in the United States. Found under Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, it states that the federal law is the “supreme law of the land”. This, therefore, means that the judiciary in all states is expected to respect the decisions supported by the constitution, laws, and treaties presented by the federal government regarding issues that are openly and circuitously within the government’s control. The doctrine of preemption is centered on the Supremacy Clause; meaning federal law supersede state law particularly when the legislation conflicts. Subsequently, a federal court might need a state to stop particular actions in the belief it interferes with or conflicts with federal law. For example, the federal anti-discrimination legislation does not identify the LGBTQ community as a protected minority. An openly lesbian employee in the state of Kansas can be legally dismissed from her job due to her lifestyle choice. Nevertheless, in Illinois, an employee in a similar position may sue her employer for wrongful termination if she can (with undoubted proof) show that her sexual orientation was a major aspect of losing her job. The different outcomes in the above cases trace their roots back to the 1780s.

According to Chapter 9 of Jefferson and Madison’s “Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions”, the most significant example of the nullification crisis was highlighted during the narration of “The Constitution and Commerce” subtopic. The section of the paper states that urban merchants and commercial farmers, as well as planters, two groups that supported the constitution, dominated the commerce. The two groups favored a more cosmopolitan view of America’s future in which various individuals from different racial backgrounds would need a tool for equality (Conlin 162). This led them to find the idea of a powerful doctrine more appealing than a powerful government. On the other hand, the other Americans who remained a part of the semi-subsistence barter economy did not support the constitution. They feared any system that centered power and had clear issues with commercial institutes that they felt would sell the country out. In 1789, the nation embarked on a new journey that would see the two rivals fight for supremacy trying to gain power in a fledgling republic, increasingly dividing the generation of leaders in the early republic. Over the years, both groups fought hard for their positions; however, it was Alexander Hamilton, a brilliant thinker and an ambitious politician, who finally used federal power to inspire manufacturing and commerce in the United States, forming an economically strong and independent nation, free from the grasps of Europe.

     In 1791, the Congress also approved a 20-year charter for the first bank of the United States soon after Hamilton and Jefferson, as well as James Madison of Virginia, agreed to support this proposal. However, this agreement came to become on condition that, after a decade in Philadelphia, the permanent seat of government would be located in the South, on the Potomac River between Virginia and Maryland. The bank would hold government deposits and issue banknotes (Ochenkowski 122). At this point, a separation of the alliance was seen again after Hamilton convinced a hesitant Washington to sign the approval of distributed bank bills against the advice of Jefferson. The two had stressed that the Constitution did not specifically authorize Congress to charter a bank, thus it was illegal to do so. Hamilton countered that the Constitution contained implied as well as enumerated powers. Finally, Washington accepted Hamilton’s arguments giving the judiciary power over federal law.

The other manuscript “South Carolina Ordinance of Nullification”, does not share the same narrative. To the author, the nullification crisis was a consequence of equality. As it reads, however, some similarity is drawn from both copies. The federal government has a wide view or perspective of the powers under the Supremacy Clause to formulate, regulate, and enforce the laws of America. The perception of federalism has a tumultuous history dating as far back as the late 1700s, an era when the nation’s founding fathers wrote as well as amended the U.S. Constitution. Among those powers, the federal government holds particular express unopposed authorities over the state, which are specifically elaborated in the constitution. For instance, the right to regulate commerce, levy taxes, establish immigration, and call for war. Whether express or implied, federal legislation will usually take precedence over state law, unless in conditions in which the federal law is deemed unlawful or where the Supremacy Clause is inapplicable. Conversely, there exist numerous examples where conflicts between state and federal law continue to be unresolved. It should be noted that the constitution serves several purposes; nevertheless, its prime purpose was to solve the issues of 1787 which it did by 1791. On the other hand, it is a guideline that is used to protect the rights of the people; in this instance, the U.S forefathers lived in a different era and to keep the country as one, there is need to change the precedence of federal law superseding state law. 

Works Cited

Conlin, Joseph R. The American past: A survey of American history. Cengage Learning, 2013..

Ochenkowski, J. P. “The origins of nullification in South Carolina.” The South Carolina Historical Magazine 83.2 (1982): 121-153.