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We the People: Federalism and the Constitution
When the delegates in Philadelphia attempted to create a new form of government, the first, and most important problem they faced was how to balance the interests of states that had large populations with those of states that had fewer citizens. The theory of the relationship between the national (or federal) government and the states is known as federalism. Delegates from states with many citizens, such as Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, understandably believed that smaller states should not be able to control the new government. On the other hand, delegates from smaller states did not want states with large populations to ignore their interests. Two rival plans for the new government were introduced: the Virginia plan favored states with large populations, while the New Jersey plan protected the interests of smaller states. Finally, the delegates settled on the Great Compromise (sometimes called the Connecticut Compromise). Under this compromise, the new government would have a bicameral (two house) legislature. The upper house, the Senate, represented the states equally: each state, no matter how large or small its population, would have two senators. The lower house, the House of Representatives, would represent states based on their population: each state would receive at least one representative, but states with larger populations would receive more. The Constitution also established the powers of the federal government and the powers of the state governments. Under the Constitution, Congress gained the important power to raise revenue (by taxation) and to regulate commerce (trade) between the states.
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