Americans tend to hold their great historical documents as sacred, giving those documents an incredible influence on American politics even today. Hundreds of years after the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights were written, these documents still continue to shape American political culture. The Constitution seems to be the most powerful of American historical documents, giving rise to a constitutional politics in which every aspect of the document plays a vital role. The most heated political debates are often over the constitutionality, or lack thereof, concerning the issue in question. Differing interpretations of the Constitution allow for opposite sides of such debates to have points of view which are
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Both concepts, separation of powers and checks and balances, are built into the Constitution and therefore into the basic structure of the American governmental system. A prime concern during the drafting of the Constitution was to ensure that the American people had not overthrown one tyrannical system only to be given another (Romance, July 12). The great distrust of powerful central government had led to the creation of the Articles of Confederation, in which a very weak central government had been established (July 12). Experience quickly showed that the Articles of Confederation were too weak, leading to the calling of the Constitutional Convention in 1787. One of the most important results of the convention was the compromise reached in which a strong central government was designed with an internal system for restricting itself against tyrannical tendencies (July 12). The government had to be designed so that it would control itself, or as James Madison put it in Federalist No. 51, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition” (Madison, 106). The concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances were integral to the formation of this governmental system.
The system endures today, with three branches of the government splitting and balancing power amongst themselves. Congress, the legislative branch, is the lawmaking body of the government, its powers strictly enumerated in the first article of the Constitution (Romance,