Struggle of the Branches in the Civil War


American federalism encompasses a series of political power relationships between the state and federal governments. Serious struggles among executive, legislative, and the judicial arms of government occurred after the civil war when dual federalism emerged. Dual federalism describes a political ideology whereby power is shared between national and state governments under legislated agreements such as a constitution. Therefore, states are given unique executive, legislative and judicial powers (Shelden, 2009).


Federal government has powers which regulate commerce between international and state trade relations; coining and valuing money; declaring war; establishing a navy, engage in treaties with foreign nations; creating the postal service communication system; designing laws that enforce constitutional recognition (Shelden, 2009).

Alternatively, states are responsible for regulating intrastate commerce; conduct municipal and state elections; ratify amendments to the US constitution and exercise such powers which were not delegated to federal government, but at the same time are not in violation of their right of governance at the state level as outlined in Amendment X of the US constitution (Shelden, 2009).

However, during reconstruction after the civil war dual federalism was a relatively new political concept in the administration of government and transition was very difficult, especially for states in the south. First a power struggle ensued between northern and southern states in controlling the democratic reconstruction process. It was perceived by northerners at that point in history that reconstruction favored the southern people who were targeted for socio-ecominc improvement. Importantly, northern republican manipulated states, which never favored abolition of slavery and blacks gaining any social status in the American society fought to have executive, legislative and judicial power over the reconstruction process itself (Valelly, 2004).

By 1877 white dominant federalism emerged. It can be argued that with the passage of Jim Crow laws in American history creating segregation of blacks and whites in every context of social justice that again reconstruction literately failed. The struggle really was against blacks gaining executive, legislative and judicial control in American politics whether it was through entry by a Republican or Democratic Party (Valelly, 2004).

Importantly, this black/white; slave/master struggle manifesting as gaining executive, legislative and judicial stronghold in the reconstruction process fueled the assassination of  President Abraham Lincoln. After President Lincoln’ s demise many subtle legislative acts forged a ratification of the reconstruction process removing its execution from the palms of radical republicans (Valelly, 2004).

For example, President Haynes who was subsequently elected used his executive dual federal powers to remove troops from cities of reconstruction states inclusive of Louisiana and South Carolina. Florida along many other southern states were removed prior to President Hayes’ inauguration. Consequently, he appointed a southern democrat, as Postmaster General. Later many African Americans left the northern states and travelled to Kansas (Valelly, 2004).


Therefore, in evaluating  impacts of the struggle between executive, legislative, and the judiciary branches of government regarding control of reconstruction, after the Civil War on American federalism; is to conclude by saying that dual federalism initially seemed a failure just like reconstruction. However, after the assassination of President Lincoln white America under republican political influence seemed to decline and true reconstruction elements became apparent in the society. Ultimately, by 1880 democrats took over the Senate and gained total executive, legislative and judicial powers over congress (Valelly, 2004).


Shelden, R.  (2009). Measures for a “speedy conclusion”: A reexamination of conscription and civil war federalism. Civil War History, 55(4), 440-498.

Valelly, M. (2004). The Two Reconstructions: The struggle for black enfranchisement. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.