The U.S. Constitution was constructed with Six (6) Basic Principles in Mind. It is these basic guides that kept the authors of the Constitution on track and guided the content of the world’s greatest document of real freedom.
Popular Sovereignty means “peoples’ rule” or that only the people empower the state or nation.
“We the People”–the words at the beginning of The Constitution of the United States of America introduces popular sovereignty in the Constitution’s Preamble or introduction.
The government of the United States was established by The People and the U. S. government derives its power solely from The People, the citizens of the United States.
The U. S. government can only govern with the consent of its citizens. All government leaders exist solely to serve the people.
The U. S. Constitution was written to limit the power of government to protect the freedom of America’s citizens.
The U. S. government only has as much authority as the people allow it to have.
The Constitution restricts that power, but it is up to the citizens to hold government accountable to keep the government power limited to protect their freedom.
Limited government means that neither the government or any government official is above the law and these entities cannot overstep the bounds of the Constitution.
Initially, America was governed by the Articles of Confederation. A Confederacy is a type of government in which several States combine under one central government with the State governments being strong and the central government being weak. This form of government did not serve the new nation well. This Confederate form of government did not serve the new nation well for many reasons. The Articles of Confederation left the new nation unable to handle its needs for defense, diplomacy, trade or unity between states.
But, the Founders still had considerable fear of a federal government becoming too strong and destroying the rights of individuals and states’ rights.
For this reason, the Constitution was carefully crafted to protect the rights of individuals and states’ rights, while forming a federal government able to unify the states and protect all of its citizens and states.
As an added assurance, the Bill of Rights was added to the U. S. Constitution as a further safeguard to prevent the federal government from becoming too strong, from taking unalienable rights from citizens, and from taking State’s rights.
Separation of Powers:
To help keep the federal government from becoming too strong, the powers granted to it by the people were also carefully divided into three branches:
~ Legislative (Congress…Makes Laws)
~ Executive (President and Staff…Executes or Administers Laws) and
~ Judicial (Federal Court System…Interprets Laws based on the Constitution).
This separation of powers was intended to prevent misuse of power by any of the three branches of the federal government.
Checks and Balances:
Further steps were taken by the Founders to assure the federal government would be limited in its power by establishing a system of “checks and balances”. With “checks and balances”, each branch of government has the authority to restrain the actions of either of the other two branches.
This may seem to add to some degree of inefficiency or seem to slow down the forward movement of government, but the intent is to protect citizens from the greater threat of any one branch of government from becoming too strong, which is a threat to the freedom of citizens.
The system of “checks and balances” is a safeguard from tyranny by any one branch of government, making any loss of speed worthwhile when looking at the overall picture and the end result.
The principle of Judicial Review was established early in America’s history. This power allows federal courts to take action against government actions seen as being unconstitutional.
Judicial Review refers to the power the federal courts have to cancel any government action that is determined to violate some provision of the Constitution.
A federal system of government is one that divides government power between a central government and several other regional or more local governments.
Sharing of this power is intended to protect cities and assure the central government is effective, but not so powerful that it could threaten the rights of citizens or regional governments (state, county, township, city).
This aspect of the establishment of the form of government of the United States as a republic assures individual States have the power to deal with local issues as they choose, as long as their actions are in compliance with The Constitution of the United States of America.
The careful construction of the Constitution of the U. S. was done with the intent of protecting freedom and assuring unalienable rights would not be hindered by a government or government officials attempting to seek too much power.
Every effort was made to allow for a federal government strong enough to protect citizens and conduct the limited business tasked to the federal government without threatening the rights of citizens or the States united under the U.S. Constitution.
The Framers of the Constitution were also careful to give power behind the government solely to citizens and to task citizens with the duty of making government and all elected officials accountable to citizens and to make citizens responsible for guarding against government becoming too powerful.
This is why the Founders put such a high priority on Civics education, because citizens must understand their Constitution and how their government works to be able to hold their elected officials accountable.
– The Founding Project Administrative Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: The use of the word, state, without a capital ‘S’ always refers to the entire United States of America as an entire country. The use of the word, State, with a capital ‘S’ always refers to one of the States united in the United States of America.
Source: The Foundations of American Government Civics Series by Prentice Hall publishers
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