Principles and Articles of the United States Constitution

Part I: Principles of the Constitution

The Constitution of the USA is the supreme law of the country, which was adopted in 1878 by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The document is based on several principles, which are very important for governing the country. Among the most general and primary ones are the principles of self-government, separation of power and checks and balances (Levy et al., 2000).

Table 1

The Primary Principles of the Constitution


Separation of powers

Checks and balances

It is the most important principle, according to which people govern themselves. Thus, the government is performed by the nation independently. People have the right to vote and delegate their authority to their representatives in the government. Besides, people have the right to elect representatives and change the laws.

According to this principle, each branch of the government (there are legislative, executive and judicial branches) has different powers, which interact with each other. It was invented to prevent the situation, when one person or group of people controls the government alone. The separation of powers is based on the careful plan of checks and balances.

Despite the fact that each branch of government has particular powers, they can check and balance each other. For instance, Congress approves presidential nominations and controls the budget. The President, in his turn, can veto congressional legislation. The Court has the right to declare presidential acts and laws passed by Congress unconstitutional. Congress can impeach judges and the President.

The system of checks and balances is considered very important for the Constitution as it limits the powers of the branches of government, and, thus, each of them has certain rights and powers over the other ones. This system keeps the legislative, judicial and executive powers balanced and prevents one of them to become more powerful that the others. Although all three branches have their own tasks, their main task is to work together and interact effectively. In general, the aim of the government is to keep the country running smoothly and maintain order.

Here are some examples of how the principle of checks and balanced works in reality. For instance, Congress passes a law, but the President vetoes it. However, Congress can override the veto and agree on a law. When the law is agreed either by the President or by Congress, the Supreme Court can declare it unconstitutional. Another example concerns the appointments. While the task of the President is to appoint Judges and some other government officials, the task of Senate is to approve them. Although the Supreme Court judges have life terms, the legislative branch of government can impeach them (Levy et al., 2000).

In sum, the Constitution, namely the principle of separation of powers, balances the government in many ways. The effectiveness of the system has been tested on real life events and conflicts in the country throughout its history. After the Civil War, Andrew Johnson vetoed more than 20 bills, the majority of which was eventually overridden by Congress. In 1918, Congress did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles proposed by President Wilson. There are hundreds of suchlike examples. In my personal point of view, this principle is crucial in present-day governing, as according to it all people, who relate to governing, are responsible for it. Besides, checks and balances guarantee that one person or small group of people will not be allowed to have absolute power. As the idea of checks and balances has been experienced for more than 200 years, it can be claimed to be effective due to the successful passing the test of time and maintaining the harmonious work of different branches of government.

Part II: The Three Branches of the Federal Government

The federal government of the USA has three parts. They are the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, and each of them has its own duties and responsibilities. However, they all interact, and this interaction is based on the principles of separation of powers and checks, and balances.

The President administrates the executive branch and enforces the laws made by Congress (the legislative branch). Among the main President’s responsibilities are making treaties with other countries, carrying out laws, vetoing bills if he considers them to be wrong, appointment of judges for a life term and writing the budget. The President is elected for a term of four years (Levy et al., 2000).

The legislative branch of the government, Congress, consists of two houses – the Senate and the House of Representatives. Generally, there are 100 Senators and 435 Representatives. The eligible voters in their states elect all the members of Congress. Congress is responsible for making laws, overriding the President’s veto of a bill, impeaching the President, approving presidential appointments for justices and judges, and approving the budget spending. Moreover, Congress can impeach judges for misconduct.

The judicial branch includes the Supreme Court and nine justices. Their main task is to control the government and interpret laws in accordance with the Constitution. This Court hears cases pertaining to the Constitutional issues. It is considered the highest court in the USA. Besides, the federal judicial system includes lower courts, which are situated in every state and hear cases regarding federal issues.

The steps of legislative procedure:

  1. The idea comes from the public.
  2. A Congressman sponsors the bill.
  3. The bill is introduced to the floor of the Senate.
  4. Committee action (the bill is referred to the committee by the Speaker of the House).
  5. Floor action (placing legislation on the calendar, debating and voting).
  6. Conference Committee.
  7. The review of the President.
  8. The bill becomes law.

The work of the national government is based on the Constitution and thus on the main principles of it. These principles include popular sovereignty, separation of powers, limited government, checks and balances, and individual rights. At first sight, it may seem that the system of check and balances resembles a stalemate that can lead to many conflicts and contradictions. However, the fact that this system has been working for many years successfully proves that the three branches act in a constructive way. In American history, there were many examples of how this system was used in reality, and, in fact, all of the problems were solved without any negative consequences for the nation (Mason, 2005).

Taking into account the current state of development of the county, its economical and social life, it needs to be mentioned that the representatives of the people in Congress are deeply concerned about the citizens of the USA and their agendas. At the same time, there are numerous examples in governing, which can make people doubt it. More often, officials seem to think about reelection but not about the happiness of the nation in general. Nevertheless, these problems, as well as the other drawbacks of American government, are typical not only for the USA but for the all democracies with free elections.

The electorate plays a very important role in the attitudes and actions of elected officials as the latter’s main aim is to become reelected and stay in power. Thus, the public opinion is of great importance for politicians. At the same time, those who are in power try to control the attitudes of people through mass media, including television, radio and press. However, the government of the USA, the Constitution and its main principles are not going to be changed as they have been successfully working for many years. Accordingly, they may be considered effective because of this fact.

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