What were the reasons that our Founding Fathers, at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, divided the federal government into the legislative, judicial, and executive branches. 2. How are the three branches of the our federal government supposed to interact? 3. Summarize the 1 & 2.
During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, our Founding Fathers deliberated on how the government should be organized. After elaborate consideration they came to a consensus that the Federal government will be divided into three – the legislative, judicial and executive branches. The rationale behind this division of power is that no one institution should have monopoly power over the affairs of the nation. They realized that concentration of power as it existed in British monarchy led to autocratic and authoritarian rule by the king. As a way of preventing this from happening in the newly founded nation, the Founding Fathers decided to divide authority between the three establishments. The founders had to balance between separating powers while also creating a strong centralized government.
The Legislative branch is represented by the Congress, which in turn is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives. Together the two establishments make laws for the country. The Senate has a total of 100 members, two from each state. Their tenure runs for 6 years. The House of Representatives, on the other hand are a total of 435 members. A populous state will have more elected representatives than a less populous one. They first debate and discuss the pros and cons of each bill on the floor of the house and later vote in favor or against it. Successful bills are thus enacted into laws by congresspersons and senators. Congress and the Courts can counteract one another. For example, while the former makes laws, the latter interprets them in the spirit of the Constitution. The Supreme Court can decide if a particular law fits within the Constitutional framework or not. In other words,
“Congress can pass “necessary and proper laws.” But what is necessary? What is proper? The Supreme Court may need to decide in special situations. Congress cannot interfere with the freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights. Any citizen can go to a court to protect his civil liberties. The citizen may even go to the Supreme Court to get a final verdict. Sometimes, the Constitution does not cover a law that the people want. The people can then vote directly by states to add a special section to the Constitution. This is called an amendment.” (trumanlibrary.org, 2011)
The Executive Branch of our government is headed by the President, who is elected every 4 years and can serve a maximum of 2 terms. The Electoral College system is employed for electing the President, where each state has a fixed number of electoral votes that equal the number of Congressperson that they have. While a President has several powers at his disposal, Congress maintains a keen watch on the President’s decisions. The Congress can annul a Presidential decision if it can gather a 2/3rd majority. In turn, the President can exercise his Veto power to reverse a decision arrived by the Congress. Similarly, the President can make a budgetary proposal to be deployed across various government agencies, but it is the Congress that controls outflow of money from the Treasury by voting on the proposals. Furthermore, the President’s foreign policy initiatives too can be checked by the Congress. For example,
“When a President makes a treaty (bargain) with another country, it doesn’t really start until 2/3 of the Senate (67 members) approve it. If the President feels Congress is being too big of a problem so that he can’t get things done, he can call a news conference or go on television and talk directly to the people. Truman (a Democrat) had problems with the 80th Congress (which had mainly Republican members). He rode all over the nation by train telling the people how little this Congress had done. The people listened and voted some new congressmen into office.” (trumanlibrary.org, 2011)
Hence, in conclusion, some of the key principles upon which the structure of our government is designed are “separation of powers”, “checks and balances”, “strong centralized government”, etc. Each branch has its own exclusive responsibilities toward the people of the country but they also co-operate and counteract each other to make sure that the “rights of citizens are not ignored or disallowed. This is done through checks and balances. A branch may use its powers to check the powers of the other two in order to maintain a balance of power among the three branches of government.” (bensguide.gpo.gov, 2011)
Branches of Government, Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government, published on 24th August 2011, retrieved from
The Three Branches of Government, retrieved from
Congress/Courts – Keeping the Balance, Truman Library, retrieved from