Kyrgyz State National University
THE GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES
In July 1780 France's Louis XVI had sent to America an expeditionary force of 6,000 men under the Comte Jean de Rochambeau. In addition, the French fleet harassed British shipping and prevented reinforcement and resuppi^ of British forces in Virginia by a British fleet sailing from New York City. French and American armies and navies, totaling 18,000 men, parried with Cornwallis all through the summer and into the fall. Finally, on October 19, 17B1, after being trapped at Yorktown near the mouth of Chesa-peake Bay, Cornwallis surrendered his army of 8,000 British soldiers.
Although Cornwallis's defeat did not immediately end the war — which would drag on inconclusively for almost two more years — a new British government decided to pursue peace negotiations in Paris in early 1782, with the American side represented by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and John Jay. On April 15, 1783, Congress approved the final treaty, and Great Britain and its former colonies signed it on September 3. Known as the Treaty of Paris, the peace settlement acknowledged the independence, freedom and sovereignty of the 13 former colonies, now states, to which Great Britain granted the territory west to the Mississippi River, north to Canada and south to Florida, which was returned to Spain. The fledgling colonies that Richard Henry Lee had spoken of more than seven years before, had finally become "free and independent states." The task of knitting together a nation yet remained.
During the war, the states had agreed to work together by sending representatives to a national congress patterned after the "Congress of Delegates" that conducted the war with England. It would raise money to pay off debts of the war, establish a money system and deal with foreign nations in making treaties. The agreement that set up this plan of cooperation was called the Articles of Confederation. work together? They believed that the Congress needed more power.
The plan for the government was written in very simple language in a document called the Constitution of the United Slates. The Constitution set up a federal system with a strong central government. A federal system is one in which power is shared between a central authority and its constituent parts, with some rights reserved to each. The Constitution also called for the election of a national leader, or president.
Two main fears shared by most Americans: one fear was that one person or group, including the majority, might become too powerful or be able to seize control of the country and create a tyranny, another fear was that the new central government might weaken or take away the power of the state governments to run their own affairs. To deal with this the Constitution specified exactly what power central government had and which power was reserved for the states.
Representatives of various states noted that the Constitution did not have any words guaranteeing the freedoms or the basic rights and privileges of citizens. Though the Convention delegates did not think it necessary to include such explicit guarantees, many people felt that they needed further written protection against tyranny. So, a "Bill of Rights" was added to the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights
The first 10 amendments to the Constitution and their purpose
PROTECTIONS AFFORDED FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS
Freedom of religion, speech, press, and assembly; the right to petition government
PROTECTIONS AGAINST ARBITRARY MILITARY ACTION
Right to bear arms and maintain state militias (National Guard).
Troops may not be quartered in homes in peacetime.
PROTECTION AGAINST ARBITRARY POLICE AND COURT ACTION
No unreasonable searches or seizures.
Grand jury indictment required to prosecute a person for a serious crime. No "double jeopardy" – being tried twice for the same offence. Forcing a person to testify against himself or herself prohibited. No loss of life, liberty or property without due process.
Right to speedy, public, impartial trial with defense counsel, and right to cross-examine witnesses.
Jury trials in civil suits where value exceeds 20 dollars.
No excessive bail or fines, no cruel and unusual punishments.
PROTECTION OF STATES' RIGHTS AND UNNAMED RIGHTS OF THE PEOPLE
Unlisted rights are not necessarily denied.
Powers not delegated to the United States or denied to states are reserved to the states or to the people.
The Bill of Rights was ratified in1791, but its application as broadened significantly by the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, which was ratified in 1868. A key phrase in the 14th Amendment – "nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law" – has been interpreted by the Supreme Court as forbidding the states from violating most of the rights and freedoms protected by the Bill of Rights.
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
At a time when all the major European states had hereditary monarchs, the idea of a president with a limited term of office was itself revolutionary. The Constitution vests the executive power in the president. It also provides for the election of a vice president who succeeds to the presidency in case of the death, resignation or incapacitation of the president. While the Constitution spells out in some detail the duties and powers of the president, it does not delegate any specific executive powers to the vice president or to members of the presidential Cabinet or to other federal officials.
Creation of a powerful unitary presidency was the source of some contention in the Constitutional Convention. Several states had had experience with executive councils made up of several members, a system that had been followed with considerable success by the Swiss for some years. And Benjamin Franklin urged that a similar system be adopted by the United States. Moreover, many delegates, still smarting under the excesses of executive power wielded by the British king, were wary of a powerful presidency. Nonetheless, advocates of a single president—operating under strict checks and balances—carried the day.
In addition to a right of succession, the vice president was made the presiding officer of the Senate. A constitutional amendment adopted in 1967 amplifies the process of presidential succession. It describes the specific conditions under which the vice president is empowered to take over the office of president if the president should become incapacitated. It also provides for resumption of the office by the president in the event of his or her recovery. In addition, the amendment enables the president to name a vice president, with congressional approval, when the second office is vacated. This 25th Amendment to the Constitution was put into practice twice in 1974: when Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned and was replaced by Gerald R. Ford; and when, after President Richard Nixon's resignation, President Ford nominated and Congress confirmed former New York governor Nelson A. Rockefeller as vice president.
The Constitution gives Congress the power to establish the order of succession after the vice president. At present, in the event both the president and vice president vacate their offices, the speaker of the House of Representatives would assume the presidency. Next comes the president pro tempore of the Senate (a senator elected by that body to preside in the absence of the vice president), and then Cabinet officers in designated order.
The seat of government, which moved in 1800 to Washington, D.C. (the District of Columbia), is a federal enclave on the eastern seaboard. The White House, both residence and office of the president, is located there. Although land for the federal capital was ceded by the states of Maryland and Virginia, the present District of Columbia occupies only the area given by Maryland; the Virginia sector, unused by the government for half a century, reverted to Virginia in 1846.