Free «Principles and Articles of the U.S Constitution» Essay Sample

Principles and Articles of the U.S Constitution

The constitution of the United States of America has three principles. These are self-government, separation of powers, and checks and balances. The chart below elaborates these principles.

Principles of the U.S Constitution

Basic Principles


Location in the Constitution


Republicanism: American voters hold the sovereign power. They elect representatives in order to exercise this power for them.

Preamble and Article I

Popular sovereignty: The authority of the government emanates from the people. The people rule through their representatives.

Amendment IX and Preamble

Limited government: Powers of the government are controlled by the Constitution.

Articles I, II, III

Federalism: Power is shared between the national and states government, a fact that leads to limiting the central power.

10th Amendment

Separation of Powers

There are three branches of the government namely legislative, executive and judicial. Each branch has its responsibilities and limitations.

Articles I, II, III

Checks and Balances

Each of the branches of the government exercises control over the others, a fact that leads to sharing power among the branches.

Articles I, II, III


Effectiveness of Checks and Balances in the Federal Government

There is no absolute separation of powers guaranteed in the constitution. Instead, the powers of the three branches of the government overlap in several crucial areas. This is meant to allow each branch to check and limit the power the other branches. This is in order to prevent any branch of the government from being too powerful (Bowen, 2010). Below is a discussion on how this is done.

First of all, the President is subject to checking by the Congress, which is the legislative branch. The Congress may impeach and remove the President. However, impeachment requires a majority of the House votes. Removal of the President calls for a two-thirds majority of the senate. In addition, the Congress may override a presidential veto. This requires a two-thirds majority of both the Congress and the senate. The senate may, as well, reject presidential nominations and treaties.

Besides, the Congress checks the courts. This is through proposing constitutional amendments and creating lower courts. The Congress may also impeach and remove judges. Just like in the case of the President, impeachment requires a majority of the House votes. Removal of judges calls for a two-thirds majority of the senate.

Moving on to the checks by the executive branch, the President checks the Congress in a variety of ways. First of all, the President vetoes legislation by the Congress. In addition, he/she has the authority to call for sessions of the Congress. The President may also propose legislations.

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The President checks the courts by nominating federal judges. He/she may also grant pardon to suspects or convicts.

The courts check the Congress and the President. For instance, the courts may declare laws unconstitutional. On the same note, the courts may check the excesses of the President by declaring presidential orders to be unconstitutional.

In my opinion, the checks and balances in the federal government are effective. The rationale for this claim is that, the three arms of the government, as illustrated above, indeed have the ability to limit the powers of each other.

The Three Branches of the Federal Government

The legislative, executive and judiciary are the three branches of the federal government. The basis of the separation of powers is to limit the possibility of a tyrannical rule (Maier, 2010).

The Legislative Branch

            This is the Congress. It is charged with making laws. Its duties include the following:

  • Regulating interstate and foreign commerce
  • Creating and maintaining armed forces
  • Printing money
  • Declaring war
  • Regulating immigration and naturalization
  • Establishing a post office
  • Establishing and maintaining the federal court system

The Executive Branch

This is the presidency. It is charged with enforcing the laws. Its duties are the following:

  • Executing federal laws and programs
  • Conducting foreign policy
  • Commanding the armed forces
  • Negotiating treaties
  • Nominating federal judges and ambassadors

The Judicial Branch

            These are the federal courts. They are meant to interpret the laws. Their duties are:

  • Ruling on cases that involve the violation of the federal law, Constitution, treaties, and maritime law.
  • Ruling on cases that involve federal officials, states, or representatives from foreign governments
  • Ruling on the constitutionality of executive orders and other laws.

How the Three Branches should Interact

The three branches should work in harmony with each other. At the same time, they should jealously guard the limited power granted to each branch. For example, the judicial system should stay out of making policies. It should limit its role to interpreting such policies.

How a Bill becomes Law

First of all, a Congressperson presents an idea as a bill to the Congress. Then, the bill is referred to the right committee for discussion and voting. If it is passed, the bill moves to the House of Congress. If the House passes it, the bill moves to a committee of the Senate. If it passes, it moves to the full Senate. If the senate approves it, the bill moves to the President for signing. If the President signs it, the bill becomes law.

The Effectiveness of the Process of Government

The three branches of the government are meant to act in a constructive way in order to promote the will of the people. However, this is a stalemate. This is because the three branches are always in a contest. Sometimes, the competition serves to the advantage of the country because productivity may increase. However, the risk is that, in most systems of the government, members on the outside want those in power to fail, so that they can replace them. This evil motive warrants the existence of powerful forces that wish any government to fail. This means that members of the legislative branch may want the decisions of the executive to fail so that the Congress gets cleavage in the public eye. For instance, President Bush’s decision to invade Iraq was resisted by some members of the senate. However, because the President had the final say on declaring war, he had his way. The many deaths from the war and other failures gave members of the senate, who had voted against the war, a platform to campaign for positions in the executive (Bowen, 2010). Thus, the separation of powers may bring sabotage and suspicion.

Besides, the representatives of the people are more concerned about their personal agenda than the people’s agenda. Politicians are interested in only their personal and party success. This is because the aim of politicians is to remain in power at all costs, for power is the goal of politics. There are only a few politicians who genuinely work to serve the interests of the people. Many politicians focus on personal aggrandizement and not the promises they make to people (Maier, 2010).

The U.S electorate shapes the attitude and opinion of the elected officials. For instance, a majority of the electorate does not know what goes on after elections (Maier, 2010). This makes the elected leaders relax in their duties for they realize that they are free from public scrutiny.  To realize true democracy in the United States, citizens should rethink the significance of the three branches of government. Citizens should ensure truthfulness in every endeavor.


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