Different forms of governments
Through studying the different forms of governments, the Founding Fathers understood the three most common types of governments and their strengths and weaknesses as follows:
1. Monarchy - A single powerful ruler.
Strengths – had the executive strength needed to direct the administration of the government, particularly in time of war.
Weakness – where there is a wicked ruler, the people morn. Rulers more than not will make laws for their own interests and not for the interest of the people. Because of the tyrannical power of a ruler, the people end up losing their rights.
2. Aristocracy – The best families of the nation were allowed to rule.
Strengths – represents the interest of the wealthy.
Weakness – favor the wealthy at the expense of the common people.
3. Democracy – decisions were to be made by the whole people.
Strengths – represents the interests of the whole people.
Weakness – can abuse the rights of the few or minority.
Polybius, the greatest of all Greek historians recognized that unless there were checks and balances on all of these types of governments, they would all degenerate.
What the Founding Fathers did:
The Founding Fathers formed a Republican form of government that had all three types of governments as follows:
1. The U.S. President acting as the Monarchy (the ruler). He is the first branch of government and considered the executive branch or the one who is to see that the laws are followed and is commander-in- chief of the military.
2. The Senate acting as the Aristocracy (the wealthy). They are the second branch of government and considered the legislative or the ones who passes the laws in the interest of the States. (Changed with the 17th amendment, which did away with the protection of the States and instead of the Senate being appointed by the State Legislators is now voted in by the people and is more like the House of Representatives. This did away with one of the checks and should be repealed.)
3. The House of Representatives acting as the Democracy (the People). They are also the second branch of government and considered as the legislative or the ones who makes the laws. All money bills has to originate in the House of Representatives as they are the ones who appropriate the money.
The Founding Fathers also included the third branch of government being the Supreme Court, considered to be the judicial or the ones who makes judgments on the constitutionality of the laws being passed.
The Founding Fathers felt that by combining all three types of governments, they could have the strengths of all three. To stop the weaknesses in these types of governments, the Founding Fathers formed a Republican type of government, by making the government leaders accountable to the people. They accomplished this by doing the following:
1. Established frequent elections, so if the people did not like what their leaders were doing they could remove them by vote in a new person to represent them.
2. Gave the people the right to voice their grievances. You can do this through meeting with your representatives in person, by phone calls, letters or emails, through petitions, peaceful demonstrations and hired lobbyists.
3. Made a Constitution that listed the powers of each division of government.
4. Created a Bill of Right as part of the Constitution, listing what government could not make laws against.
5. Created a system of checks and balances
6. Required all government officials to take an oath to uphold and defend the U.S. Constitution.
7. Required a journal to be kept of all the proceedings of Congress and have it open to public view.
Why Separation of Powers is Necessary:
The Founding Fathers read the works of Montesquieu, who was one of the best educated scholars in France. Montesquieu said the following about separation of powers:
“When the legislative and executive powers are united in the same person, or in the same body of magistrates, there can be no liberty; because apprehensions may arise, lest the same monarch or senate should enact tyrannical laws, to execute them in a tyrannical manner.” (The Spirit of Laws. Great Books of the Western World. Vol. 38 (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1952. P 70; emphasis added.)
In other words, if the power to make laws and execute them were in the hands of the same person then they would become tyrannical.
Montesquieu also said,
“Again, there is not liberty, if the judiciary power be not separated from the legislative and executive. Were it joined with the legislative, the life and liberty of the subject would be exposed to arbitrary control, for the judge would then be the legislator. Were it joined to the executive, the judge might behave with violence and oppression.” Montesquieu
In other words, if the judge had his power plus the power of the legislative and executive, he would become a tyrannical leader.
John Adams said, “In the government of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts the legislative, executive and judicial powers, shall be placed in separate departments, to the end that it might be a government of laws and not of men.”
John Adams was indicating that the powers of the legislative, executive and judicial had to be separated so that laws governed men and not the whims of men. The whims of men usually are for the benefit of the rulers at the expense of the people and whatever they happened to decide, no matter what the people wanted.
James Madison said, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. (Federalist Papers, No 47, p 301.)
We learn that separating the legislative, executive and judiciary powers was necessary to stop government abuse of the people.
The Founding Fathers set up checks and balances. Taken from Dr. W. Cleon Skousen’s book, The 5,000 Year Leap, p 111 – 113.
1. The House of Representatives serves as a check on the Senate since no statue can become law without the approval of the House.
2. At the same time the Senate (representing the legislatures of the states before the 17th Amendment) served as a check on the House of Representatives since no statue can become law without its approval.
3. A President can retrain both the House and the Senate by using his veto to send back any bill not meeting with his approval.
4. The Congress has, on the other hand, a check on the President by being able to pass a bill over the President’s veto with a two-thirds majority of each house.
5. The legislature also has a further check on the President through its power of discriminating in appropriating funds for the operation of the executive branch.
6. The President must have the approval of the Senate in filling important offices of the executive branch.
7. The President must also have the approval of the Senate before any treaties with foreign nations can of into effect.
8. The Congress has the authority to conduct investigations of the executive branch to determine whether or not funds are being properly expended and the laws enforced.
9. The President has a certain amount of political influence on the Legislature by letting it be known that he will not support the reelection of those who oppose his program.
10. The executive branch also has a further check on Congress by using its discretionary powers in establishing military bases, building dams, improving navigable rivers, and building interstate highways so as to favor those areas from which the President feels he is getting support by their representatives.
11. The judiciary has a check on the legislature through its authority to review all laws and determine their constitutionality.
12. The Congress, on the other hand, has a restraining power over the judiciary by having the constitutional authority to restrict the extent of its jurisdiction.
13. The Congress also has the power to impeach any of the judges who are guilty of treason, high crimes, or misdemeanors…
14. The President also has a check on the judiciary by having the power to nominate new judges subject to the approval of the Senate.
15. The Congress has further restraining power over the judiciary by having the control of appropriations for the operation of the federal court system.
16. The Congress is able to initiate amendments to the Constitution which, if approved by three-fourths of the states, could seriously affect the operation of both the executive and judicial branches.
17. The Congress, by joint resolution, can terminate certain powers granted to the President (such as war powers) without his consent.
18. The people have a check on their Congressmen every two years; on their President every four years; and on their Senators every six years.
The Founding Fathers did a tremendous job setting up our Republican Form of Government. It was set up to include all the good parts of the three most common types of government and exclude all the bad. It was set up with checks and balances to keep it in place and in the hands of the people. However, in order for the people to keep this most valuable form of government in check, there has to be two things happen, first the people must be a righteous and moral and second they must be educated about their Republican form of government and how it was meant to function.
Dr. W. Cleon Skousen did an outstanding job writing his book entitled, The 5,000 Year Leap which list and explains the 28 principles of liberty that the Founding Fathers discovered and applied to our Republic form of government. Under these principles of liberty the United States became the freest, most advanced and wealthiest nation in the history of the world. I have just blogged a short version of two of those principles, which are:
Principle # 16. The government should be separated into three branches: legislative, executive, and judicial.
Principle #17. A system of checks and balances should be adopted to prevent the abuse of power.
Learn more purchase the book, The 5,000 Year Leap from our website and learn what the other 26 principles are and how they work. It will increase your ability to see whether or not legislation coming from the government is right or not by recognizing if it is in violation of any of these principles and if it does, call your representative and complain.
Let’s apply good common sense.
Linda N. Hackett