Separation of Powers
Checks and Balances
The checks and balances system was placed in addition to the separation of powers to limit the amount of authority a certain group has. The system claims that each of the three branches have the ability to “check” the powers of the others. For example, while the president can check the congress, the Congress can also check the President. This also goes for the Judicial Branch; Congress can check the Judicial Branch (and vice versa) while the Judicial Branch can check the President. This was used to avoid what the founders feared - dictatorship.
A limited government is a government that is bound to certain rules and principles of a constitution. Many limitations were put in place, such as the Bill of Rights, free elections, and more. The anti-federalists, people who feared a strong national government and control in the hands of the elite, stressed the need for the Bill of Rights. This document limited the power of the national government through amendments. Furthermore, free elections were created so that the people would have the ability to vote out those who abused their power.
Because of the founders’ fear of absolute control in one person’s hands, they created the concept of judicial review; this means that the courts have the power to rule on the constitutionality of any action of the Congress or the President. We needed a way to determine whether a lawsuit was constitutional or not. This was established by the court cases of Marbury vs. Madison in 1803, when Adams appointed the Midnight Judges.
Changing the Constitution
There are two ways of changing the Constitution- informally and formally. Informal amendments mean that the Constitution doesn’t necessarily change the actual language of the document; we merely modify the meaning. We are able to do this through court decisions. For example, Plessy vs. Ferguson ruled that African Americans were not considered people and that separate facilities were equal. However, in the Brown vs. Board case, it was said that separate facilities were indeed unequal. When the government formally changes the Constitution, it means that they revise the written language. The federalist system was created to balance the states and the national government. In addition, it was said that ⅔ of Congress needs to propose on an amendment and that ¾ of the states must agree for it to pass.
These cartoons represent the different topics I learned in this lesson. Under every picture, I explain the principles of the constitution.
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