After the American colonies won their freedom from England, the thirteen colonies became thirteen states. The new states decided to work together. Their system of government was described in the Articles of Confederation. In this system, the state governments had most of the power. The Federal Government was very weak. This was very different from the government under the King of England.

The Founding Fathers thought that this system left the nation too weak. They decided to develop a new system of government. They wrote a new document called the Constitution, to replace the Articles of Confederation. The Constitution made a stronger Federal Government. It gave power to both the Federal Government and the state governments. This system is called federalism.

Here are some examples of how powers are shared between the Federal Government and state governments.

Federal GovernmentState Governments
  • Make money
  • Declare war
  • Manage foreign relations
  • Oversee trade between states and with other countries
  • Ratify amendments 
  • Manage public health and safety
  • Oversee trade in the state

In addition, the Federal Government and state governments share these powers:

  • Making and enforcing laws
  • Making taxes
  • Borrowing money