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Thought Leadership

History of the Constitution of America

The founding fathers of America sought to frame a constitution which would be strong enough to promote commerce and protect individual property. This was the basis for the establishment in the constitution of national control over commerce and finance, as well as the establishment of national judicial supremacy and a strong presidency Second, the framers wished to prevent what they perceived as ‘excessive democracy’ of the state and national governments under the Articles of Confederation. Therefore, this led to bicameralism (that is, a division of the Congress into two chambers). Third, they hoped to secure support from the states or the public-at-large for the new form of government they proposed. The framers provided for direct popular election of representatives and therefore, for the addition of the bill of rights.

Finally, in order to prevent the government from misusing its powers the framers included provisions wherein there would be a separation of powers and federalism. The founding fathers created three supreme bodies--the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary.

The Legislative Branch

The first seven sections of Article 1 provide for a Congress comprising two chambers—a House of Representatives and a Senate. Members of the House of Representatives were given two years in office and were subject to direct popular election.

State legislatures were to appoint members of the Senate. However, this was changed in 1913 by the 17th amendment wherein a provision for direct election of the senators for a period of 6 years was created.

The Constitution assigned different tasks to the House and the Senate. However, the approval of each body was required in order to make a law. The Senate alone was given the power to ratify treaties and approve presidential appointments. On the other hand the House was given the power to originate revenue bills.

The Legislative Branch…

·            Passes federal laws

·            Controls federal appropriations

·            Approves treaties and presidential appointments

·            Regulates interstate commerce

·            Establishes lower court system

The Executive Branch

The President was granted unconditional power to accept ambassadors from other countries. This meant he / she had the authority to ‘recognize’ other countries. He / she was also given the power to negotiate treaties. But this needed the approval of the Senate. The President was given the unconditional right to pardon convicts of the federal court, except in cases of impeachment. He / she was also provided special powers to appoint major departmental personnel in order to convene Congress in special session and to veto congressional enactments.

The Executive Branch…

·         Enforces laws

·         Commander in chief of armed forces

·         Makes foreign treaties

·         Proposes laws

·         Appoint Supreme Court justices and federal court judges

·         Pardon those convicted in federal court

Powers of Congress

The subject of the powers of Congress was important throughout the Constitution. The Congress has been given the authority to collect taxes, borrow money, regulate commerce, declare war and to maintain an army and a navy.

Judicial Branch

Article 3 established the Judicial Branch. The experts who founded the constitution sought to check radical democratic impulses by ensuring that there would be no abuse of liberty and property by the government. The framers created a court that was literally to be a Supreme Court of the United States. 

The Supreme Court was given the power to resolve any conflicts that may emerge between federal and state laws. It was also granted the judicial power over controversies between citizens of different states.

Judges were given lifetime appointments in order to keep them protected from politics and interference from other branches. However, they would not be completely immune to politics since the President was to appoint the Justices and the Senate would approve them. Congress would have the power to create ‘inferior courts’ as they deemed necessary. They would also have the power to change the size of the Supreme Court.

The courts later on acquired the power of Judicial Review wherein they could render the final decision when there is a conflict of interpretation of the Constitution of Laws.

The Judicial Branch…

·         Reviews lower court decisions

·         Decides constitutionality of laws

·         Decides cases involving disputes between states