The paper is part of a broader project that seeks to re-evaluate the idea of federalism from the perspective of constitutional theory. The project asks: what are the constitutional as opposed to political purposes that federalism serves? In undertaking this task, the five building blocks of the modern constitutional state are addressed from a federal perspective: foundations, subjects, purposes, design and dynamics.

This paper focuses upon the first of these elements, arguing that the federal foundational act is a specific category of constitutional beginning, and that understanding the nature of this ‘federal moment’, and its path-defining potential, is central to a broader conceptualisation of the discrete nature of federal constitutionalism.