Date of Award

Summer 1950

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science


In our modern world the problems or government are never simple. The tasks of coordinating, directing and promoting the political, social and economic affairs or a people usually present problems of the utmost complexity. Particularly is this true under the system or government embodied in our Federal constitution. Due to the system of power distribution peculiar to federalism many problems arise which are not ordinarily encountered by the so-called centralized or unitary norms of political organization.

It is not the purpose of this paper to examine in detail the characteristics of federalism. Sutfioe it to say that under such a system the powers or government are divided between at least two levels of authority, in our case between the national and state levels. The powers allotted to each sphere are characteristically defined by a constitution which receives its authority by virtue of voluntary adoption or acceptance by each of the participating units. Such an arrangement obviously lends a high degree of rigidity to the over-all political entity. It is pre­cisely this rigidity which multiplies the burdens and problems or government under the federal system . It is manifestly impossible for the makers or a constitution to envision all of the changes, new developments, and in­ creasing demands with which the government w ill be faced as the nation progresses from infancy, through periods of robust growth, into maturity. Inevitably, therefore, problems will arise which confound the previously con­ceived scheme of power distribution in one or the other of two ways : first, they may be problems which do not fall clearly in either the state or the national governments sphere of authority; or second, they may be problems which, though clearly under the authority of the state either by custom or statutory provision, are impossible of practical solution by the state because of financial impotence or limited territorial jurisdiction. Under such circumstances some method, or methods, must be found whereby the gap may be bridged if constitutional government is to survive.

Fortunately for the history of our government the American lawmakers and the American courts have, for the most part, been fairly ingenious in providing our federal system with the necessary degree of flexibility within the letter of the Constitution. Many devices have been contrived for this purpose; one of these is the grant-in-aid. Over the years the grant-in-aid system has gradually expanded until today it forms one of the primary sources of state and local revenue. Although specific grants have been made for a multitude of purposes the broad program has developed principally in the following fields: education, highway aid, unemployment relief and social security. In order to obtain a comprehensive history of the development of the grant-in-aid system each of these areas will be examined as a unit. The paper will conclude with a general summation or the fiscal effects or the grant device for the purpose of demonstrating the manner in which the funds have been distributed among the states.