Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2013

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. Michael A. Fotos III


American government is an experiment. It is theory in application based on a design principle which specifies the terms and conditions of the experiment’s proper extent and structure. Federalism in American government is the original design principle specifying representation, divisions of power, checks and balances, and the capacity for self-government as the terms and conditions of the experiment of the American Republic. Federalism in this sense is the “republican remedy for the “diseases most intrinsic to a republican government.” (Publius 1787-1788 [2003], 46) The experiment has continued for over 200 years although the terms and conditions have not always been met. In such instances, the extent and structure of government changes resulting in sub-experiments or operational forms of federalism. Modern government is increasingly characterized by the centralization of authority to the national government, especially to the president. By observing modern presidential administrations it appears that each fits into one of four categories of operational federalism: functional, legislative, managerial or constitutional. These four sub-experiments, and the associated administrations reveal operational realities of federalism that Hamilton and Madison could not have accounted for when they wrote The Federalist Papers in 1787 and 1788. Operational federalism as it relates to the modern presidency and government as a whole seems to present a pessimistic future for the great American experiment. But to dwell on the diseases of republican government is to let them fester. the American experiment is by principle of design equipped with the republican remedies for these governmental ailments. By reflection and choice we must remember the terms and conditions of federalism if we wish to reestablish good government.


Senior thesis completed for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Trinity College, Hartford, CT