Constitutional Republic Essay, Research Paper
Between 1787 and 1791 the Framers of the US Constitution established a system of government upon principles that had been discussed and partially implemented in many countries over the course of several centuries, but never before in such a pure and complete design, which we call a constitutional republic. Since then, the design has often been imitated, but important principles have often been ignored in those imitations, with the result that their governments fall short of being true republics or truly constitutional. The Framers of the Constitution tried very hard to design a system that would not allow any one person or group within the government to gain too much power. Personally, I think they succeeded. In order to guard against what one of the Founding Fathers called an “excess of democracy,” the Constitution was built with many ways to limit the government’s power. Among these methods were separating the three branches, splitting the legislature so laws are carefully considered, and requiring members of Congress to meet certain criteria to qualify for office. The Founders did leave a few problems along with their system.
Separation of power was very effective. The three branches of government (executive, legislative, and judicial) are kept separate, and each has different powers. Congress has legislative, or law making, powers. Legislative powers are further divided between two legislative bodies. The President has the power to carry out, or execute, the laws. Lastly, the Judicial branch had the judging power, used to interpret the laws. Some powers were delegated to the central national government, while others are reserved to the component states or the people. In addition, each branch is able to restrain or balance the powers of the other two branches upon abuse of their power.
If the President is suspected of unlawful acts, he can be impeached, or tried by the Senate for misusing his power. The Senate has the sole power to try all impeachments. If he is found guilty, he can be punished but his sentence can be no more than being thrown out of office and being forbidden to hold any government office. Furthermore, if the President wants to spend money, his request must pass through Congress, since it has control over spending. Lastly, Congress can re-pass a bill that was vetoed by the President. Congress also has checks and balances against itself. The President can veto a bill from Congress, and although Congress can override a veto, obtaining a two-thirds vote to do so is very difficult. Public speeches by the President may also concern the public with an issue, putting pressure on Congress to act upon it. The Judicial branch exerts control over the other two by deciding whether or not actions made by the President or Congress, i.e., laws are constitutional.
The limitations on and difficulties of passing laws are very, very important. The split legislature creates a more complicated maze through which laws must find their way before being passed. First, a law must be introduced in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, the former having sole power to introduce laws concerning revenue. After the law is introduced, it must be approved by the other house, who may agree with, amend, or discard the law. Once both houses have agreed on the law, however, the President must approve it. If he does not, he may also amend it and return it to its originating house for reconsideration. If both houses then agree on the amended bill by a two third majority vote, it can be passed. The bill also becomes a law if the President does not return it to Congress within ten days (except Sundays) of his receiving of it. The labyrinth of Clerks, which is not even mentioned in the Constitution, makes law passing far more difficult, resulting in only the passing of laws that have been extremely carefully considered. The reason that Congress is careful is because they are responsible for deciding matters that will have a great impact on the country. The President is able to make decisions quickly in order to react to urgent matters in a timely fashion, for example, not too long ago, Bill Clinton ordered an attack on Afghanistan, it was a matter that needed to be dealt with quickly. The President is given the power to think on his feet and make moves as he goes. Congress must make it’s moves in a much more calculated manner, which is why we have this convoluted version of Congress.
Only allowing qualifying Congressmen and Senators to run for office allows for a more mature Congress, which will be more careful about its actions. A Representative must be at least 25 years old and a US Citizen for 7 years. That he must be a resident of the state in which he is elected means that he will be more attuned to the needs of the state he represents. A Senator must be at least 30 years old and a citizen for 9 years. He must also be a citizen of the state that he represents. This is a very important feature that our forefathers worked into the Constitution, if a Senator from the Midwest moves to Long Island, for instance, and tries to be elected to office, he will be completely unknowing of policies and problems facing his constituents.
Our forefathers, unfortunately, were unable to foresee the fact that government and the nation would have grown far beyond their wildest dreams, and therefore many of their ideas and systems fall short in the present day. The main problem with the system that our forefathers created is that sometimes, checks and balances are too slow, cumbersome and intertwined. It can hinder processes that should go quickly and easily. Separation of powers worked very well, but again, occasionally matters can become too separated and cause more problems and strife than the Founders could have realized. This is by no way their fault, adapting the government to its changing situation is our responsibility, not the Founders.
The Founding Fathers limit the power of government in the Constitution utilizing many different tactics, many more than even the aforementioned. Their main intent was to make the nation less democratic and to keep the government small. The Constitution has accomplished the Founding Fathers’ goal until now, and will hopefully continue doing so in the future.