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The 4th of July in the year 1786 remains a special day in the history of the USA, being the day when the nations making up the USA come together into a confederation of states. This came as a result of the Declaration of Independence by the thirteen British colonies within that period, that joined up into the confederation. After granting them independence, the Great Britain facilitated the formation of the confederation of states as documented in the Treaty of Paris of the year 1783.
A lot of preparedness ensued, with the states gearing up to the formation of a stable government, complete with federal and state laws. This led to the drafting of the Articles of Confederation in 1781, which laid the ground for the formation of a Federal Government that would take precedence over the individual states, leading to a harmonious understanding among the states (Bates, 2001).
To date, it is recorded in the books of history that the individual states worked hard to pursue their interests during the formation of the Articles of Confederation, at a time when what the configuration needed was a stable union government.
For example, the states tried to prevent themselves from paying taxes to the Federal Government, owing to their pride in independence. However, this became a major stalemate, because the Federal Government required money to pay its debts, and a great deal of this money would only come from taxes collected within the states. Therefore, the formation of the umbrella of the state was characterized by tension and turbulence as each side tried to further pursue their interests.
With varied interests from each of the member states conflicting among themselves and with the federal government, the process of formation of the union as well as a constitution to run the union proved cumbersome, and then likely to come into a fruitful conclusion. However, despite the challenges, delegates assigned to this task were able to reach an agreement on the 17th of September 1787, ushering in the new Constitution of the USA. This constitution is still highly regarded today, often being termed as works of political geniuses, who made a constitution that was able to suffice during that day and still does to date. The constitution that was formed was able to strike a reasonable balance between the interests of the local people, the states and the federal government, thus making it an effective tool to govern the United States of America.
According to Bates, 2001, despite having a clearly outlined constitution, several questions are raised over important issues, sensitive to the union. One of the most critical issues was how the USA would deal with its huge debt that had been accrued during the war. Two groups emerged, led by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, with the latter disagreeing with the former’s stand to the government, should be vigorously involved with the economic affairs of the union. There were also concerns as to whether the Federal Government should involve itself in foreign policy, and if so what extent, and the side to support. This was quite evident when France got into a war with Britain and Spain in the year 1793, riding on the hope that the USA would offer support. Again, the two sides mentioned above disagreed on the cause of action, with Jefferson proposing that the USA back France in return for the latter support during the American Revolution, for the Hamilton group backed the Brits, bringing the federal government to a crossroads once again.
The extension of the USA territory across North America was arguably and largely inevitable. Among the factors, it was believed that the ‘ invasion’ of the USA had a spiritual aspect into it. In as much as the natives tried to fight back against the invasion, there was a common belief that settlement of the Americans into North America was God-given, a philosophy referred to as Manifest Destiny. This philosophy made it almost impossible to oppose the expansion of the U.S. territory into North America. According to Manifest Destiny, it was believed that the will of God was for America to spread equality and democracy to the whole of North America and possibly South America. Therefore, this invasion was forcibly seen as a blessing in disguise. This philosophy fueled the displacement of Native Americans and the attempt of the US territory to expand into Mexico, hence the war with Mexico (Chávez, 2007).
Manifest Destiny was used to justify the mistreatment of the Native Americans, and what’s the basis upon which cultures and traditions of the Native Americans were squashed. In addition, an increasing population of the U.S. led to the insatiable desire and need to find arable land for settlement. The vast untouched regions of the wider North America and Mexico, became unavoidable targets, in the expansion campaign. For a nation that had just come from war, the desire to get into a war, win and prove its prosperity was a real threat to the sovereignty of the territories surrounding the USA. Besides, having come from being a territory of another nation and come out successful, the USA was raring with the desire to protect its interests by solidifying its territory as a way of ensuring it would never be compromised as a nation again.
Besides, the newly formed required adequate resources to finance its development. Given that these resources were mostly found in the territory that had not joined up into the USA, there was enormous reason to pile pressure on these territories to join the confederation, in order to make it easier to grow together. For example, there was a need for land to settle the large population, carry out industry activities such as mining, fishing, and farming, as well as ensure easy access to sea transport. Had the territories remained outside of the confederation, the USA would have to pay in order to access resources within such territories. It was much easier, to engage in a forceful capture in the hope that the positive results would be manifest later. Additionally and quite sensitive, the confederation needed to ensure that it was able to defend itself from the land, air, and sea. This was one of the most important political reasons why the expansion from sea to sea had to be implemented. It was critical to ensure that no enemy would approach a sea that was not controlled by the USA. As a result, invading and capturing territories en route to the sea was critical to the sovereignty of the confederation (Miller, 2006).
Along with the expansion of the USA as a nation, different social groups are trying to pursue their interests as well. In fact, this is one of the reasons why it was difficult to stop the expansion since there were other interests hidden under the main cover of political interests. Religious groups are trying to conquer other groups, under the venturing into new regions and making who converts. Being at a time when there was a huge battle between the Roman Catholics and Protestants, there was a race to conquer as many regions as possible. There was also a great battle between the Christians and the Heathens, with the latter refusing conversion by the former, and therefore may be leaving the latter had no right in modern society. In addition, there was a racial aspect in the expansion, considering that the confederation was still coming to terms with striking a racial balance. Since the war happened at a time when there was a deep desire to manifest superiority, reasons why racing against each other to demonstrate who had an upper hand (Whitman, 1904).
Religion also played a major role in the expansion by assuring the average Americans that such an act was justified in the sight of God. The role of religion in the expansion can best be explained by the fact that religious leaders served in different capacities in the campaign, such as military chaplains, secretaries for committees, members of the legislature or active members of the army. The expansion campaign leading to the emergence of cracks within the society, built along the lines of sectionalism, race, gender, and even religion among others (Miller, 2006).
To date, the running of American politics, as well as social life, is largely influenced by the expansion of the USA into North American territories. A good example can be illustrated by the fact that laws often vary from state to state based to some extent on the belief of some indigenous people lived in that original. It is often possible to find a law that is legal in one state and illegal in another. In as much as the states enjoy the same federal laws, they are entitled to different state laws as well as local laws, and this is the point where the US domestic and foreign policy’s difference can be observed.
Just because the states are united under one union does not mean they cannot make laws that are applicable within their specific boundaries (Hart, 1954). Federal law has jurisdiction over all the states, but leave enough space to allow each individual state to design laws that are best applicable within their individual jurisdiction based on natural resources, geographical location, demographics, historical operations of business and commerce among other factors. This is intended to protect and uphold the interests of the people on the ground, since they are closer to the state government then they are to the Federal Government.
As a result, one may often experience conflict between the state and federal laws, which may lead to confusion over which law will suffice. To mitigate this issue a few guidelines are offered, such as understanding that when a state law allows more civil rights to a person in the federal law, then the state law takes precedence. Therefore, when we find that the state legalizes an act that is not illegal under the federal law. In this case, the state law will suffice and take precedence over the federal. A good example, why it is generally illegal to consume marijuana within the USA, several states have legalized the consumption of medical marijuana such as California, Massachusetts, Oregon, Vermont, and Illinois.
Because the United States of America is made up of a confederation of state, each of these states is considered unique with its own characteristics, primarily because of the factors mentioned above. If uniform rules were to be applied across all states in the USA, some of these laws may be rendered ineffective in some regions because of the same factors mentioned above. There is also contention over the fact that if a federal law requires a person to carry out a specific responsibility, but the state law does not require the same, then the requirement by the federal law will be overridden by the non-requirement of the state law. So generally, there is a defined boundary between the jurisdiction of the state, and that of the federal government.
While some actions are legal in some states, they are gravely criminalized in others. For example, a person with no previous criminal record can walk into any shop in Texas and purchase a gun, however, this is not the case in California where a special license required to possess a gun, whether or not one has a past criminal record. In addition, where gambling is allowed in states such as Nevada and Louisiana, it is mostly criminalized in other states. Therefore, laws do not just vary from state to federal jurisdictions, but also between the states themselves, again, for the same reasons as what has been mentioned above.
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