Study Notes

Dual Federalism 1790-1920

AQA, Edexcel

Last updated 2 Jun 2017

Dual Federalism refers to the period of time from around 1780s, after the founding the US Republic to just prior to the Great Depression during the 1920s

The period was presided over by a collection of ‘unknown presidents’. Presidents are given this title as many people would fail to identify many from this time period except maybe for those who had became tangled up in historically significant events such as Abraham Lincoln. In most cases the names of Van Buren, Fillmore and Polk will be unknown to many.


The main focus of dual federalism is that of states rights, it sees the country as a collection of states rather than a single entity. Therefore the responsibilities of the federal government are narrow in scope but crealy defined. There are clear policy areas in which the state’s decide on the policy, but there are clear areas which the federal government takes responsibility for. During this period the federal government took responsibility for war, peace and money. It did not have the huge scope that is seen from the New Deal onwards. Dual federalism has been known as ‘layer cake’ federalism due to the clearly defined layers with which political power is dispersed.

© 2002-2024 Tutor2u Limited. Company Reg no: 04489574. VAT reg no 816865400.