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States' Rights Research Papers

Political science and government research papers often examine the organization of our political system in the United States. It is the purpose of a states' rights research paper to discuss the constitutional issue usually denoted by the phrase “states’ rights,” i.e. the power relationship between state governments and the federal government. Paper Masters suggests that you approach your project on states rights in the following way:

  1. Begin by discussing the way in which this issue was dealt with by the Constitutional Convention of 1787
  2. Proceed to a discussion of the Tenth Amendment
  3. Discuss the evolution of the case law dealing with this issue. States' Rights
  4. Conclude by noting that with respect to the strength of their powers, time has eroded the position of the states versus those of the federal government and this erosion has been a function of the decisions of the courts.

In Federalist Nr. 46 James Madison gave what proved to be an over-optimistic view of the ability of the states to cope with the tendency of the federal government to encroach on their powers. Inter alia he argued that the persons in the legislatures—both state and federal--would be more attuned to particularistic concerns than national ones, and that the states would be able to act with more celerity than could the federal government and that these factors would allow the states to hold their own against the central authority.

States Rights research papers have shown that the Articles of Confederation were in part the creation of a shifting balance between states’ rights republicans and nationalists during and directly after the Revolution. He has further pointed out that, with respect to states’ rights, the Articles provided for a form of government in which all the powers of Congress were expressly named. These powers included the ability to conduct foreign wars--but not to raise taxes or coerce individuals, two things necessary to the effective conduct of such wars--and to adjudicate boundary disputes between states. All amendments made to the Articles would have required a unanimous vote by all the states. This cumbersome document was more of a compact between sovereign states than it was an instrument by which a true national government might function and its defects soon became apparent.

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