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a representative at a town meeting to make laws because every person could go himself. Now we vote to elect our representatives to make our laws. We help to choose others to be judges and interpret the laws, and still others to enforce the laws and put them into effect.


After our representatives have been chosen, they take office and represent us in doing the things we have given them authority to do. For example, the people cannot sit down in a great group and make their own laws; so through the Constitution they have delegated this authority to representatives especially chosen to act as lawmakers. We call this body of national lawmakers the Congress of the United States. The people cannot go out in a great group to enforce the laws; so through the Constitution they have delegated this authority to the President and his helpers, whom we call the Executive Branch of our National Government. The people also need someone to interpret or explain our national laws for them, to settle disagreements between citizens of different States, and to decide on the punishment for lawbreaking against the National Government. Certainly the people cannot meet together in one body to do these things. So they have delegated this power to the judges of our national courts of justice-whom we call the Federal Judiciary.

All of this makes it easy to understand why people speak of having a government of delegated powers, or a representative form of government. (See Figure 27.)

In much the same way our Constitution speaks for the people in delegating certain powers to the National Government but reserving other powers to be delegated to the State governments. Study Figure 28, which shows this division of authority. It also shows that the Constitution permits both the National Government and the State governments to do certain very necessary things, such as collecting taxes, borrowing money, and setting up law courts. These powers are known as the “concurrent powers.” You

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(those DELEGATED to it)

EXAMPLES To control relations with foreign nations. To punish crimes against the United States. To establish post offices and post roads. To coin money and regulate its value. To keep up an army and a navy. To declare war and make peace. To set standards for weights and measures. To regulate commerce between the States and with foreign countries. To make uniform laws about naturalization and bankruptcy. To protect authors and inventors by giving copyrights and patents. To admit new States and to control the territory of the United States. To make all laws necessary and proper for carrying into effect the expressly

stated powers and all other powers granted by the United States Constitution.


EXAMPLES To borrow money.

To deny civil rights (such as freedom To collect taxes.

of speech, press, religion, and asTo build public works.

sembly). To charter banks.

To pass laws which make illegal someTo establish courts.

thing which has already been done To help agriculture and industry. legally and honestly. To protect the public health. To pass a law which finds any person

guilty without trial. D. POWERS OF THE STATES (called RESERVED powers)

EXAMPLES To authorize the establishment of local governments. To establish and keep up schools. To regulate city government groups. To provide for a State militia. To regulate commerce within the borders of the State. To regulate labor, industry, and business within the State. To provide care for orphans and paupers, and for blind, crippled, insane,

and other helpless persons. To make laws on all other subjects not prohibited to the States by the

National or State Constitution, and not delegated to the National Government.

Figure 28

Delegated Powers in the Federal System

will also learn from Figure 28 that there are certain powers that all our government groups are forbidden to exercise. The people could make use of all these powers if they wished to, but the majority have always felt that the people would get on better without them.


The people have the right to add to, or take away from, the authority which they have delegated. If a large enough number of voters wanted to change the amount of authority given to the President and his helpers, they could do so by insisting on an amendment to the Constitution. In the same way they could give more power or less power to the courts or to the Congress. And when the people wish to take away the authority from any particular group of officials whom they have elected, they can simply "vote them out of office" at the next election.


The State constitutions provide that the final authority within each State belongs to the people of that State. The people have the “last wordabout their State government, so long as they do nothing to interfere with the National Constitution, which is the highest law in the land.

Each of the 48 State constitutions gives its people three branches of government, the legislative, executive, and judicial. To the legislative branch the people, through the State constitution, delegate authority to make the laws. To the executive branch they delegate authority to enforce the laws. To the judicial branch they delegate authority to explain the laws.

If the people of any State feel that it is wise to make changes in their State government, they can amend their constitution, although they cannot change the representative form of their government, which is guaranteed to them by the Constitution of the United States. Each State constitution provides a method by which it can be amended.

A very interesting example of how the people of a State


can make important changes in their government happened in the State of Nebraska in 1935. Nebraska's constitution provided for a legislature divided into two houses," a Senate and a House of Representatives, just as the Constitution of the United States does. But the people of Nebraska decided that a single lawmaking body could represent their interests better. Therefore they amended their State constitution to provide that after January 1937 the legislature should consist of only one house. In other words, the people of Nebraska decided to have their laws made by a smaller number of representatives, all meeting together. They made a very great change in the organization of their State government but did not change its representative form.


A city's charter is given to it by the State in which it is located. In the charter can be found a statement of the authority given to the city government by the State. State laws may be passed from time to time to change the charter and give more authority to the city government, or to take away some of the authority which it already has.

As long as the city government stays inside the limits of the authority given to it by the State, the people of the city have the final word. They select their own officers to make their local laws-often called ordinances-and to carry on the other business of the city. If the people who make up the city's population wish to change their charter, they have to petition the State government for the changes which they want. The State assembly of lawmakers then decides whether or not to grant the petition.



Counties and towns depend on the State constitution and State laws to tell them what authority they may exercise. So long as the people within the counties and towns do not go beyond the authority given them by the State, they have the last word in their local affairs.

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