The U.S. Constitution: Checks & Balances

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The U.S. Constitution is the foundation of American governance. Since its creation in 1878, the Constitution remains as the foundation of governance for the Republic and stands as the oldest living Constitution in the world. To prevent a tyranny of the majority will – or of one part of governance – it became necessary to ensure the several branches of government remained separate. To ensure that one of these branches did not trump the other branches, the Founders crafted – within the Constitution – a set of checks and balances. Separating powers, with checks and balances, made the U.S. government unique when it emerged in 1787. The Constitution describes a system of checks and balances and sets up a separation of powers.

The Constitution separates the three branches of governance through the first three articles. Article I applies to the Legislative Branch of government, Article II refers to the Executive Branch of government, and Article III concerns the Judicial Branch of government (Unit 1A, 14). The Constitution enumerates the duties and responsibilities of the respective branches of government in the relevant Constitutional articles. Article I states, “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States” (Constitution, Article I Section 1). This separates the legislative power from the other two branches as Congress – alone – holds all legislative powers. Article II states, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” (Constitution, Article II Section 1). Thus, the Executive branch – previously denied legislative powers – finds itself vested with the executive power exclusively. As “the” is a definite article, only the Executive bran...

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...he Supreme Court proved these points. After passing through the preceding paragraphs, it is clear the Constitution describes a system of checks and balances and sets up a separation of powers.


American Military University Faculty. Course Materials Unit 1A: The Foundations of American Government. [the rest of the URL is deleted as it contains information tied to my student ID number, etc. in the URL and this piece of html code presents a security risk] (accessed November 22, 2010).

Mount, Steve. Constitutional Topic: Checks and Balances. (accessed November 22, 2010).

U.S. Constitution. (accessed November 22, 2010).
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