The US Constitution | Period 3: 1754-1800 | AP US History | Khan Academy
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The US Constitution | Period 3: 1754-1800 | AP US History | Khan Academy


– [Teacher] In the last
video we discussed the great compromise made at the
Constitutional Convention in 1787, where delegates who were
trying to craft a new governmental system for the
United States agreed on how the legislative branch of the
government would be set up, and the agreement they made was
that it would be a two house or bicameral legislature with
a House of Representatives, where the representatives
would be apportioned based on state population,
and then a Senate where every state would get two
senators regardless of its size. This is just one example
of how the framers of the constitution tried to
introduce a notion of balance. In this video, I wanna zoom
out a little bit and look at the broader constitution,
because the legislative branch was really only one part of it. In fact, there are seven more
articles of the constitution. So here, I’d like to spend
some time taking a closer look at some of the other articles,
paying special attention to the executive branch
and the judicial branch, but before we do that, I
just want to take a moment to marvel at the size of the constitution. Not because it’s so big,
but because it’s so small. This is the first page
of the constitution, famously starting with, “We
the people,” but the entire original constitution
could fit on four pages. Compare that to the constitutions
of many other nations which are hundreds of pages long, and I think the idea here
in having a constitution that’s really only seven articles long was that it was gonna set down principles. This wasn’t going to be a
whole set of laws that outlined everything that a state
should do in any situation but rather a set of
broad ideas around which lawmaking decisions could happen. In a way, you could
think of the constitution as being kind of broad
enough to be flexible. They spoke in larger
generalities that could be applied to many different situations, and I think the proof that
this was a good way to think about putting together a
constitution is just in the fact that we’d still have
this constitution today, more than 200 years after
it was written in 1787. The US Constitution is the
oldest constitution in the world that is still in effect
at the national level. I think that’s a pretty big deal. How did this constitution work? Well, let’s look a little bit
more closely at these first three articles and the branches
of government they created. One of the ways that the
framers of the constitution attempted to remedy the problems
caused by the single branch government under the
Articles of Confederation was creating a three branch government. One branch, established in Article 1, would be the Congress
and within this building is the House of
Representatives and the Senate. And this would be in
the eyes of the framers, really the most powerful of the branches. They gave Congress the power to make law, to tax, to raise an army, to coin money. They really envisioned
that most of the day to day operations and most of
the power of government would fall under the duties of Congress, but one thing that the
Articles of Confederation had lacked was a powerful executive, so the second branch of government, established in Article 2
is the executive branch, the head of which is the president. The job of the executive
would be to enforce or carry out the laws made by Congress, and that would include doing
things like waging war. Remember that the first
president was George Washington, who had been the General of
the Revolutionary Armies, but the president could also
kind of have the front lines on dealing with foreign nations,
so negotiating treaties, and would also have the power of appointing many government officials. And lastly, the third branch
would be the judicial branch of government, established in Article 3. The head of the judicial branch
would be the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land. Of course, there are
many other smaller courts below it at the state and district level. The Supreme Court’s job,
along with other courts, would be to interpret the
law, to see whether or not things done by Congress and the president fell within the bounds
of the constitution. And the framers really thought
that the judicial branch would end up being the
weakest branch of government, although both the presidency
and the Supreme Court have grown in power over the years. Now, this is an incredibly brief overview of these three branches. These articles include lots more in them about the specific powers
of each of these branches and the kinds of
requirements one would need to become a representative or president, so I highly recommend
that you read more about the Constitution and
check out these articles. But what I want you to get out
of this is that the framers here were trying to separate
the powers of government, so they wanted to make sure that to avoid having too much power in government. Remember that they are trying
to escape from the monarchy. They want to make sure
that government power is kind of diffused among
these three branches with the idea that they’re
going to have to argue with each other to get things
done, they’re going to have to cooperate with each
other to get things done, so the separation of
powers is one of the key principles of the Constitution. Another key principle
is checks and balances. What do I mean by checks and balances? Well, this is the idea
that each of the branches of government has the power
to check in the sense of stop, like checkmate in chess, the
other branches of government. I think of this as kind of like a giant governmental game of
rock, paper, scissors. Now, there are many ways
that these branches can check each other, but I just
wanna give a couple of quick examples to help you understand
what that might be like. Alright, say that Congress makes a law, and the president doesn’t like that law. The president can use the power of the veto to kill that law, and if Congress gets annoyed
enough with the president, they might use their power
to impeach the president. What about the judicial branch? The judicial branch’s
main checking function is declaring laws unconstitutional. The president or Congress may put through a law that the Supreme Court says is not consistent with the Constitution. The judicial branch can then kill that law by declaring it unconstitutional. What happens if the other
branches are unhappy with the judicial branch? One way that the president
can check the judicial branch is through appointing judges. This would kind of change
the composition of the court, the people on the court, and so over time, the presidency can influence
who is on the Supreme Court and how they rule on laws. And lastly, if Congress isn’t
happy with the Supreme Court, they might be able to impeach justices, or change jurisdiction
of the lower courts. In this way, like the
separation of powers, the framers intended to make sure that one branch couldn’t get too powerful, because it would be able to
check the other branches. You could really think of
this as being a brilliant way of harnessing peoples’ natural inclination to look out for themselves. As rivalries developed,
as people tried to do what they thought was
best, they could help keep government honest by
fighting among themselves, and as they all strove
and checked each other, it would keep all of government
from becoming too powerful.

20 Comments

  • KillerWhaleSFl

    too bad the founding fathers couldn't do something to prevent money from hijacking the system they created

  • Love Roscoe

    You do not sound as though you have an understanding of what you're reading/saying. Cringing. Awkward "listen."

  • Migs 32

    I thought these videos were supposed to be better, more interesting than a regular class lesson? This is just as boring as civics class.

  • Saiful Islam

    US Constitution and Quiz
    Check your knowledge on US Constitution and challenge your friends. Lets check it out.
    https://goo.gl/jZKYhr

  • A'naysia Jackson

    After article 1 was created, the developers of the constitution saw that something was missing…which was established in article 2?

    Question 2 options:

    Senate

    Executive

    Legislative

    Judicial

    help! which one?

  • Taz Riot

    “But, indeed, no private person has a right to complain, by suit in Court, on the ground of a breach of the Constitution. The Constitution, it is true, is a compact, but he is not a party to it. The States are the parties to it. And they may complain. If they do, they are entitled to redress. Or they may waive the right to complain. If they do, the right stands waived. Could not the States, in their sovereign capacities, or Congress (if it has the power) as their agent, forgive such a breach of the Constitution, on the part of a State, as that of imposing a tax on imports, or accept reparation for it? In case this were done, what would become of the claims of private persons, for damages for such breach? To let such claims be set up against the forgiven party, would be to do away with the forgiveness. No, if there existed such claimants, they would have to appeal, each to his own sovereign for redress. It was that sovereign's business to get enough from the offending sovereign, to cover all private losses of his own citizens-and if he did not get enough to do that, those citizens must look to him, alone for indemnity.”

    Padelford, Fay & Co. v. Mayor and Aldermen of City of Savannah 14 Ga. 438, 1854 WL 1492 (Ga.)

  • Matrix Teknologies Inc

    the system is mess up, if they really wanted a system of check and balance only one one branch of government would have suffice to be able to override the other like in rock. paper. scissor
    you would have Legislative <Judicial< Executive < Legislative
    in other world before the executive branch could enforce the laws they would have to wait for the judicial to judge law made by the legislative branch constitutional or unconstitutional
    and the legislative branch should be able to make laws unless the executive branch request law to solve an issue
    and the judicial would prevent the executive branch from implementing and unfair system of law, and the legislative wouldn't be able to pass law that favor them. if you pay attention to the video you will see the system is design to obstruct and the only way to get everyone to collaborate is to bribe everyone with money and power. congress give the president enough power so he can be blame if the president is from the opposite party, and be a puppet if the president is from the same party, use cronyism to appoint judges.
    that why nothing gets done or change. and honestly how will you get 600+ people to cooperate in the legislator branch

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