The Beginning of the United States Government
The United States government is comprised of three branches created in the Articles of the Constitution. The three branches are the legislative branch, the executive branch and the judicial branch. They are allowed to check and balance each other because the system allows for a separation of powers. The framers instituted the separation of powers to curb any possibility of a branch abusing its power and to keep its power within the government. Each branch has its own authority, but that authority may be overridden by the other branches.
Examples of checks and balances are, the President can veto a law, Congress can override the presidential veto and the judicial branch can declare executive actions unconstitutional (Clayton, Perry, Reed, Winkler, 2000, p. 136). The framers also supported a separation of power to ensure that the new government would be a just government and to protect it citizens from any problems internally or externally. The Articles of the Constitution gave the power to the three branches of government we have now (The Constitution Explained 2008).
The first article, created the legislative branch which is bicameral because it includes the House of Representatives and the Senate. (The Constitution Explained, 2008). Article 1 is the lawmaking branch (Clayton, Perry, Reed, Winkler, 2000, p. 124). It sets limits on Congress and the House regarding terms, age, etc. and also details what they are permitted to do (The Constitution Explained, 2008). The non-legislative part of Article 1 allows Congress and the House to perform constitutional amendments, perform electoral duties and impeachment proceedings (Powers of Congress).
The second article created the executive branch. The executive branch holds the office of the President of the United States. The president executes the laws that are passed by the legislature (Clayton, Perry, Reed, Winkler, 2000, p. 124). Article 2 also establishes the office of the Vice President of the United States. Article 2 creates the President’s and Vice President’s term limits in addition to making the President the head of the armed forces and militia, establishes the President’s duties, and the prerequisites to becoming the President of the United States (The Constitution Explained, 2008).
The third and final branch of the government is created in Article 3. Article 3 is the judicial branch which includes the courts and judges who interpret and apply the laws in the cases that are brought before them (Clayton, Perry, Reed, Winkler, 2000, p. 124). The article created the Supreme Court and places term limits on its judges of the higher and lower court, outlines what cases are allowed to be heard by the Supreme Court and defines treason (The Constitution Explained, 2008).
A popular misconception is that the President and Vice President are elected by the people. Instead they are elected by the Electoral College. The citizens cast their vote for who they want the members of their Electoral College to vote for. The winner of the majority of each district will in turn receive a certain number of votes from the Electoral College. The candidate with the highest number of votes from the Electoral College, wins the election. The Electoral College is not required vote for the winner, but this rarely happens because the Electoral College typically votes according to what the people want (The White House EXECUTIVE BRANCH).
Judicial and Legislative Elections
Federal judges are not elected but appointed to their post. The President appoints the judge, which then must be confirmed by the Senate. It is to allow judges to focus solely on judging. Federal judges are elected for life and they serve until death, retirement or a conviction or impeachment prevents them from serving (The White House JUDICIAL BRANCH). Even though federal judges do not have to worry about elections, congressmen do. There are congressional elections every two years. Congressmen are elected by the constituents in the areas they represent. Congressional elections are also known as mid-term elections because they occur midway through the President’s term (Trueman).
The United States government has come a long way from its beginnings. The Constitution implemented our current system of checks and balances which was advocated by the Framers of the Constitution. The Constitution had multiple articles which created the three branches of government, judicial, executive and legislative, which are allowed to prevent an overreaching of power that may have occurred if there was not a system set up to stop it before it happened. The framers had enough foresight to know what could happen if there were no checks and balances and as a result we have the government of the United States of America.
Cayton, A., Perry, E. I., Reed, L., & Winkler, A. M. (2000). America Pathways to the Present.
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Powers of Congress. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from
The Constitution Explained. (2008). Retrieved July 24, 2009 from
Trueman, C. Congressional Elections. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from History Learning Site at
The White House. THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from
The White House. THE JUDICIAL BRANCH. Retrieved July 24, 2009 from