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The colonial period : Revolution for independence over the 17th and 18th centuries.

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Declaration of independence → July 4 1776

Paragraph 1 : « When, in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among Powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect of the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation. »

In this paragraph we have a reference to god which shows us that god is omnipresent in USA. There's also a reference to mankind (humanité) which evoke the declaration of human rights.

Paragraph 2 : « We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. »

This second paragraph shows us that the man becomes to be important, that all men were created equal by God (here is an other reference to god).

The US federal constitution

The US federal constitution entered in force in 1789 and contains: an executive, legislative and judicial branch of power. But, the main criticism concern the lack (l’absence) of reference to the fundamental rights of humans.

The 10 amendments were added to the Constitution in 1791: Bill of Rights. At first, they were added for one intention to ensure the rights of people and they were also meant to make sure (faire en sorte) that the states rights were not limited by the rights of the federal government, they aimed at insuring some limits and control over the federal government that's why at the beginning the 10 amendments were only limited to the federal government. In the second half of the 19th century, in 1868 with the fourteenth amendment, that these rights became to be applied to state governments.

The principles of the Constitution :

1-The idea that the government is based upon the representation of people.

2-Extension of the first one because the Constitution promised a Republic, that means the power reside in the people → elected leaders

3-Separation of powers: the executive, the legislative and the judiciary are detained by 3 different institutions : the President for the executive, the Congress for the legislative and the Federal courts for the judiciary.

4-The system of « Checks and balances » = balance of power between the 3 branches of power meant to ensure that any single branch of power would become over-powerful or oppressive. The constitution decide that many decisions must have the support of more that one branch.

5-The Constitution was to be based upon federalism : the powers of the government are divided between the national / federal government and the individual state governments. •

The preamble to the US Constitution :

« We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. »

The preamble of the constitution is like an introduction and it permits to identify the spirit of the Constitution, like the motto of the USA which is : « out of many, one ». This motto traduce the idea of an union which appears in this preamble, we can see that a nation emerged. It was adopted by an act of congress in 1782, but in 1956 the US congress passed an act adopting « In god we trust » as the new official motto, which is a new reference to god.

Democracy :

The constitution didn’t promise a democracy but a republic as it suggested in article 4 section 4. It's a Republic bc power resides on people and gvt is ruled by elected leaders. So the governing power is in the hands by people elected by citizens during elections : they are all elected (president, representatives, senators...)

But, we can say it's a democracy bc there is the separation of powers described by Montesquieu and also bc there's a system of « checks and balances » btw the 3 branches, no one can become oppressive or over powerful.

The horizontal allocation of powers :

The horizontal allocation of powers refers to this separation of powers btw the 3 branches at the national level : the executive branch, the legislative and the judicial. And this distribution of powers is found in the 3 firsts articles of the constitution. The art 1 defined the legislative power, art 2 the executive, and 3 the judicial. The powers attributed to each of the 3 branches of gvt are separated through the principle of enumerated powers → art 1 section 8. And in this section the constitution enumerates the different powers given to the different branches.

Checks and balances :

This is a system of balance between the 3 branches of government. So the framers built a syst of balance in which one branch could restrain or check an other branch. Checks and balances of legislative branch → the legislative branch can override or cancel presidential veto by a two third majority in both chambers; the legislative branch has also the power of the money: it can fund executive actions, make remove presidency from office through « impeachment » for treason or high crimes ; the senate approves treaties and the presidential appointments. The legislative branch has checks over the judicial branch bc can removes judges through impeachment for high crimes and it also have the power to create courts. Checks of the executive branch → the president has veto power: he can veto a law passed by congress, can recommend legislation, can appeal to the people concerning legislation and also call special sessions of congress. The executive branch has checks over the judicial branch: the president appoints the supreme court justices and other federal judges. Check and balances of judicial branch: the judges who are appointed for life by the executive, once they are appointed they are free from controls from the exec branch ; also courts can judge executive actions as unconstitutional through the judicial power/review, constitutional review ; Executive: courts can judge a law as unconstitutional through this power : judicial review, that means that


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