On July 4th, 1776, fifty-seven men signed a document that changed the course of world history. This document outlined the necessity “for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,” and listed the causes which drove them to separate from the crown’s tyranny over the colonies.
A long train of abuses
The Declaration of Independence is unique among founding documents, declaring governments derive their powers from the consent of the governed and affirming the absolute right of the people to alter or abolish their government and form a new one.
The Declaration of Independence outlined the long line of abuses and injuries suffered at the authority of the British monarchy and announced for the world to see that the colonies would no longer suffer such abuse and would start afresh. More than nine years after the Declaration, the core founding document of our nation was ratified and put into effect.
Without the Declaration of Independence, we never would have gotten the Constitution.
In order to form a more perfect union
The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1787, is the blueprint of our Republic. There is centralized power in the three coequal branches of government: the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. Each branch acts as a check and balance to the others.
If Congress passes a bill the president doesn’t approve of, he can veto it. Congress, with a ? majority, can override that veto. If the law does get approved, but is challenged on whether the legislative and executive branches overreached their legitimate authority, the Supreme Court can rule that the law is unconstitutional. Checks and balances.
As our nation’s charter, the Constitution outlines the duties and requirements of the three branches, and the first ten amendments (known as the Bill of Rights) were added shortly after the Constitution was ratified and outlines things the U.S. government cannot do. Any and all powers not explicitly given to the federal government are reserved to the people and the States. This combination of a central government working with state governments is what we know as Federalism.
Reserved to the states...or to the people
The 10th Amendment states:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
In many ways, the concept of federalism also works within the states, too. Just as states are reserved the powers not expressly delegated to the federal government, smaller political subdivisions within the state are extended this same power structure.
Thus, the Constitution reserves to Arizona the right to enact laws and policies not in the delegated authority of the United State government, and within Arizona, counties, cities and towns retain powers not expressly delegated to the state via the Arizona constitution. This concept is also outlined in state constitutions.
At its core, our federalist form of government seeks to preserve individual liberty, especially once the Bill of Rights was added to the Constitution. The authority of our government rests on the consent of the governed. Without that, there is no liberty.
“When governments fear the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny.” -- John Basil Barnhill