Pre-University (CIE) Comparative Government: Specimen Questions with Answers 44 - 44 of 53

Question number: 44

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Discuss the features of American constitution.

Explanation

The present constitution of United States of America was adopted at the Philadelphia Convention held in 1787. It came into force on in 1789, after it had been ratified by the minimum required number of states.

Following are some of the salient features of the United States.

  • Written character: Like other federal constitutions in the world, the American constitution is written in form. It is a brief document consisting of seven articles and twenty-six amendments. It was in fact a model of draftsmanship, of constitutional elegance, of brevity and of apparent clarity.

  • Rigidity: The American Constitution is the most rigid constitution in the world. It can be amended by a lengthy and cumbersome process. Because of the complicated nature of the amendment procedure, sometimes it takes years before an amendment becomes operative after it has been proposed.

  • Federal character: The American Constitution is federal in character. It was originally a Federation of thirteen States but due to admission of new states, it is now Federation of fifty States. A constitutional division of powers has been made between the center and the federating units.

  • Supremacy of the constitution: The constitution is the supreme law of the land. Neither the center nor the state can override it. A law or an executive order repugnant to the constitution can be declared unconstitutional and invalid by the American Supreme Court.

  • Separation of power: the US constitution is based on the doctrine of separation of power. However, the three wings of the administration viz, the executive, the legislature, the judiciary are the interdependent and cannot be separated entirely in the interest of the good government yet an attempt has been made in the American government to separate them as much as possible. The congress is the legislative organ. The president is the head of the executive. The Supreme Court heads the federal judiciary and enjoys freedom in its work.

  • Checks and balances: recognizing the importance of close coordination among three organs of the government, the Fathers of the Constitution introduced ‘Checks and Balances’. The powers of one organ were so devised as to exercise a check upon the powers of others.

  • Bill of Rights: the Constitution guarantees Fundamental Rights of person, property and liberty. It is however, noteworthy that these Rights were incorporated in the Constitution by a number of amendments effected after the Constitution was promulgated. They were not enumerated in the original draft of the constitution. But by subsequent amendments, individual liberty has been effectively safeguarded the rights of the citizens are enforceable by recourse to the judiciary. These rights cannot be modified or suspended except by a constitutional amendment.

  • Judicial Review: The Supreme Court and lower federal courts possess power of judicial review of the legislative enactments. The federal judiciary can declare any legislation or executive action null and void if the same is found to be inconsistent with the provisions of the Constitution. The judiciary thus acts as a guardian and custodian of the constitution and fundamental rights of the citizens.

  • Republicanism: The USA is a Republic with the President as the elected head of the State. The Constitution derives its authority from the people. Moreover, the constitution mix it binding upon every constituent state to opt for the Republican form of government.

  • Presidential Form of Government: The Constitution provides for the Presidential type of Government in the USA. All executive powers are vested in the President. The President is not constitutionally responsible to the congress in the manner in which the executive is responsible to the legislature in England or India. He does not attend its sessions, nor initiates legislations directly, nor answer questions. The congress cannot remove him during the term of his office which is fixed for four years.

  • Dual citizenship: the US constitution provides for dual citizenship for the people of United States. An American is the citizen of USA as also of the state where he or she is domiciled.

  • Popular sovereignty: the ultimate sovereignty in the USA is attributed to the people. The doctrine of popular sovereignty attributes ultimate sovereignty to the people and substitutes constitutional system of government for arbitrariness.

  • Spoils System: This has been an important ingredient of the American constitution since its inception. It prevailed in the USA in its worst form during the 19th century. However, was put to an end by Pendleton Act of 1883.

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