A Guide to Finding Government and Legal Information
Web version of this guide includes links to web resources.
Mix and match these terms in searching the library catalog, WestCat , or use them to search journal articles and law reviews via the library's Databases page. You can also use them to search government information sites listed on our Starting Points page - click the tab and pay particular attention to the Top Six.
- federal government
- United States
- state governments
- politics and government
- constitutional history
- intergovernmental fiscal relations
- Articles of Confederation
An important source for many research topics is Congress. Congressional committees and subcommittees hold hearings on a wide variety of controversial and timely subjects. Simply add the word "hearing?" to a search string in WestCat .
- site:gov "federalist papers"
- site:mil federalism
Law Review Articles and Annotations
Law reviews are an important resource for legal topics like this one. They can lead you to laws and cases as well as discuss legal theory. A few law journals are indexed in multidisciplinary databases, but the best bang for your buck will be to search LexisNexis Academic for full-text access to many hundreds of law reviews.
Federal Government Information
This website links to the essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay which advocated ratification of the Constitution and argued against both confederate and nationalist visions. There are no government sources, but opponents of the constitution (Anti-Federalists), also wrote essays during the ratification process. Although the Anti-Federalists failed, they were instrumental in getting the Bill of Rights added by 1791. The "Anti-Federalist Papers" can be found at WIU via
From the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), this 1776 document explains why American colonists took up arms and established their own government. A paper version is available at the 4th floor desk.
After eight years, America's government under the Articles of Confederation faltered. In 1787 delegates met to revise the articles, but instead suggested a new governmental structure through the constitution: federalism.
This State Department site provides a summary of the changing characteristics of American Federalism throughout our history. Two basic questions have continued to dominate our politics: what is the nature of the union and what role does the federal, state, and local governments, as well as individual citizens, play in it?
From the 1798 Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions to New England's Hartford Convention in 1815 and beyond, disagreements on the federal/state relationship persisted well after 1787. The argument came to a head in 1860-61 when seven states declared their independence. After the call for state militias to suppress the rebellion, four more states and Native Americans in modern Oklahoma joined the new Confederacy. This National Park Service page offers a few quotes by President Lincoln on secession's unacceptability.
Federalism and Disaster Response : Examining the Roles and Responsibilities of Local, State, and Federal Agencies
This hearings focuses on the role federalism can play in response to natural disasters in light of the failure of an adequate federal response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in September 2005. 2005/2007
Y 4.H 75:109-46
This hearing, held 5 March 1996, presented the "Williamsburg Resolve" grievances of state and local governments to the federal government. Their main complaint was centralization: the U.S. is too diverse to enforce pat solutions, no matter how enlightened. Contrary views claim returning power to state and local governments would be a mixed blessing at best and more expensive, whatever the intangible benefits of returning autonomy.
Illinois Government Information
Journal of the Constitutional Convention: State of Illinois 1862
This is one of the few Illinois documents dealing with Federalism. During the Civil War, the General Assembly attempted to rewrite the state constitution in keeping with the state motto ("State Sovereignty, National Union"). The assembly and resulting document were not looked on with favor, as the convention's attitude essentially put a pox on both houses (nationalist and secessionist), and at times tempers flared.
ILLINOIS. 342.773 I29j3 1862
"The New Federalism Context of the New Judicial Federalism"
This well-balanced article surveys the "New Judicial Federalism" from Presidents Johnson to Clinton. In the past thirty years, states reorganized and became more efficient, but many citizens still fear state micromanagement as much as federal. The federal/state argument continues but is blunted by the fact that the party in power tends to favor federal authority, be they Democrat or Republican; the minority party then picks up the states' rights argument.
26 Rutgers Law Journal 913, via LexisNexis
"State Sovereignty and Subordinacy: May Congress Commandeer State Officers to Implement Federal Law?"
Congress, while not dictating citizen behavior directly, often orders states to do so. With limited resources for their own needs, state officials are often angered at being treated as provincials. This essay explains New York's mid-1990s effort to defy federal authority.
Columbia Law Review: vol. 95, pp. 1001-1089
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