Activist – Only cares about current and correct result. Precedent is irrelevant

Incrementalist (moderate)- mid-range

Deferentialist (Sandemeyer Term) – will not vote to overturn precedent as a general rule

Madison’s veto of the internal improvement act

Would have given congress money to construct internal improvements (roads and canals)

The roads and canals would be located in states and would cross state lines

Madison argues that building r & c is not an enumerated power

Congress claims authority under commerce clause, and it is not valid.

Regulate trade among the several states

Improvement – it is different from regulation

Inserted because of problems under articles of confederation

"if congress has the power to reach into a state and build a road, than congress has the power to reach into a state and control other forms of economic activities [read: slavery]"

Hammer v. Dagenhart, 1918

Law will prevent the interstate transportation of items which are produced by children under various conditions

Supreme court relies on precedent

The power to "regulate trade" does not include manufacturing but does include transportation of products or regulation of harmful products.

New goal: possibly bind the union with trade to lower the chance of interstate war. . .

Wickard V. Filburn (1942)

Filburn had filed for a subsidy, which was based upon a field size. He was asked to refund the subsidy, because he had grown too much wheat.

Quota amount was 11.1 acres, Filburn produced 23. Sold 11.1, keeps the remaining for his own use.

Filburn argues that it is about production, and Hammer v. Dagenhart said you can’t regulate production. In effect, commerce is essentially regulating what he does by himself.

Interpretation: Anything which has a substantial effect on interstate commerce may be regulated as though the thing were interstate commerce.

"What I produce for myself is in competition with interstate commerce."

Heart of Atlanta Motel v. United States

Hotel discriminates against blacks; law prohibits discrimination by businesses engaged in "interstate commerce"

Hotel claims that it will hurt hotel business.

Opinion: as long as congress is rational in its findings. . .

Parez v. US

Organize crime has a substantial effect on organized crime.

Wechsler – Democracy will limit congress’s power, because they can raise their objection. Yet Madison would argue that government must control itself.

The main check on power in the united states is the set of limited powers that have been delegated to it; government only has what it is given.


Printz v. United States

Law passed by congress required local law enforcement officers to conduct background checks on all handgun purchases.

Supreme court ruled that congress couldn’t force states to perform background check. Stands out as a case where States actually, gasp, have sovereignty.



Student brought a gun to school and Congress had a law making this a federal crime. Federal court rules that handguns in school do not demonstrate substantial effect on commerce, and therefor, congress cannot pass the law.

Southern Pacific v. Arizona

Arazona looked at train length, and decided to limit train length to promote safety. Surrounding states didn’t have length limiting law. Federal laws didn’t address the topic. Sothern Pacific went to Supreme Court saying arizona couldn’t have said law. Supreme court claimed that federal law preempted state law. Justice Johnston cliamed State action is preempted in congress.


Dual Federalsim

Strongest opposition: Does this go beyond congressional authority?

Grants in aid


Who wants Grants?

What are mandates


Sending control back to the states

Contract with America – the Devolution Revolution


Eric Jonas's 1998-1999 AP American Government Notes
This material copyright Eric Jonas, 1999.
These notes have been taken from American Government, 7th edition, by Wilson and DiIulio, and from in-class lecture by Mr. Greg Sandmeyer at Timberline High School.


e-mail web@ericjonas.com