Main or salient features of US Constitution can be discussed as following:

Written

The American constitution is a written document that was framed in 1787 by Philadelphia Convention and put into effect in 1789. It is consists of seven articles and twenty seven amendments; the first three articles deal with the structure and powers of the Legislative (Article 1), Executive (Article 2), and Judiciary (Article 3), and the other four with the position of states (Article 4), modes of amendment (Article 5), supremacy of national power (Article 6) and ratification (Article 7). (Article 7). The constitution is also the supreme law of the land. It, like most constitutions, has a preamble, which is a single statement that introduces and defines the document’s purpose.

Brief

It is the world’s briefest written constitution. It consists, as said above, of a preamble and seven articles totaling 4000 words on 10 to 12 pages that can be read in half an hour.

Federal

The United States constitution establishes a federal system of government, in which powers are distributed between the central government and the states. Article 1 declares that the federal government has jurisdiction over 18 items and that states have residuary powers. States are autonomous entities in their sphere of powers, and the centre cannot intervene in their affairs. In the event of a disagreement, the Supreme Court determines or settles the dispute.

Bicameral Legislature

A federation naturally requires a bicameral legislature where the federating units are give representation in one house on the basis of population while in the other house federating units are represented on the basis of equality. So the United States Constitution established a bicameral legislature, with two houses in the centre. “All legislative rights are vested in Congress,” according to Article 1. The Lower House, also known as the House of Representatives, and the Upper House, known as the Senate, are the two houses of Congress.

The House of Representatives has 435 members who are chosen by the people using the adult franchise process for a two-year term based on population, i.e., states with more people get more seats in this house, such as California, which has 53 members.

The state legislatures elect the members of the Senate. Each state has two senators, which corresponds to two votes in the Senate. Senators are elected for a six-year term on an equality basis. The number of senators is 100, and the number of states is 50.

Presidential Form of Government

US Constitution establishes a presidential system of government. The president is the only executive officer. The president is neither elected nor accountable to Congress. The congress and the president, unlike the parliamentary government of Britain, do not have a coordination of power. The president is unable to call a special session of Congress. The theory of separation of powers underpins the functioning of this government system. The president’s staff and cabinet are not part of Congress. All executive powers are vested in the President, who is the nation’s leader. He has a four-year term in office.

Separation of Powers

To prevent one institution from interfering in the business of another, the idea of separation of powers divides power among the three pillars/institutions of government. Congress, the President, and the Judiciary have equal power.

Congress has the authority to enact legislation that outlines general policies and establishes certain standards. The President has the authority to enforce, execute, and administer the law. He is aided by his cabinet, but he is fully responsible for the Executive Branch’s actions. The Supreme Court exercises judicial power by interpreting laws and deciding disputes and conflicts in accordance with the law and the processes provided by law.

Checks and Balances

A complete separation of powers might have resulted in constitutional deadlock. Therefore, the separation of powers is complemented by the system of checks and balances. Recognizing the significance of close coordination among three government departments, the founding fathers established “Checks and Balances.” The powers of one organ were designed in such a way that they acted as a check on the powers of others. The President, for example, has the power to veto legislation passed by the Congress. The President’s powers of appointment to various federal posts and the signing of treaties and agreements with foreign governments are shared between the Senate and the President. All such appointments and treaties must be ratified by the Senate with a two-thirds majority. The Senate exercises authority over the President’s domestic administration and foreign policy through this power. The organization of the federal judiciary is determined by Congress, and Supreme Court judges are appointed by the President with consent of the Senate. If the laws passed by Congress and the administration, as well as actions performed by the President, are in conflict with any provision(s) of the constitution, the Supreme Courts have the authority to declare them ultra wires.

Rigid Constitution

The American constitution is arguably the most rigid constitution in the world. It can be amended through a long and difficult procedure. Because of the complicated nature of the amendment process, it might take years for an amendment to take effect after it is introduced. An amendment can be proposed either by 2/3rd votes of both the houses of Congress or  by the Constitutional Convention called by Congress on the request of 2/3rd of the state legislatures. A constitutional amendment proposed either way needs to be ratified by 3/4th of the states legislatures or by 3/4th majority of the Constitutional Convention. The constitution’s rigidity is evident from the fact that only 27 amendments have been made to it in over 200 years of period.

Popular Sovereignty

The people rule in the United States, which means that they have delegated their powers to the government, and the government owes its authority to the people’s will. “We the people……..do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America,” says the Preamble of the Constitution.

Limited Government

A constitutional government is one in which the government’s powers are restricted. Limited governments are important to protect citizens’ rights against the government’s dictatorial authority. The constitution gave the national government only limited powers and left the rest to the states. Even state governments do not have boundless powers; they only have what they have. The constitution protects citizens’ rights while also limiting the government’s power.

Republican

The United States of America is a republic, with the President serving as the elected head of state. The people are the source of the constitution’s authority. Furthermore, the constitution requires each member state to follow the republican form of government.

Spoil System

The American political system has a unique feature.  When a new President assumes office, he or she appoints all of the federal government’s top officials from scratch. The previous President’s entire government is removed or sidelined. The system is known as the “Spoil System” because crucial appointments made by the President get spoiled with the expiration of his term of office.

Conventions

When it is said that US Constitution is written it does not mean there are no conventions or unwritten and customary practices in it. US Constitution, in fact, contain a large number of conventions. For example, the cabinet of the President is no where mentioned in the Constitution. However, George Washington, the first US president, appointed some advisors or assistants when he became the president; this practice is followed since then. Similarly, before appointing a United States Attorney, federal district judge, or federal marshal with jurisdiction in a state, the President of the United States must seek the assent of both Senators from that state. When both the senators give their assent the senate as a body in the courtesy does not object to the appointment. This is also called senatorial courtesy.

Bill of Rights

Originally the US Constitution did not mention any bill of rights. However, when the Constitution adopted by the Philadelphia Convention was presented to the state legislatures for ratification some states refused to ratify the Constitution unless it incorporates the fundamental rights of the citizens. James Madison convinced the Virginia state legislature that the amendment procedure could be used to incorporate the fundamental rights even after the constitution is ratified and came into effect. So soon after the constitution was ratified and came into effect the Bill of Rights i.e. the first ten amendments were added to it in 1791. It guarantees the right to life, freedom of speech, protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, equality before law, right to fair trial, etc.

Supremacy of the Constitution

The supremacy clause of i.e. Article VI, Clause II of the Constitution says that “this Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”

The supremacy of the constitution denotes that it is the supreme law of the land. It cannot be overridden by the centre or the states. The Supreme Courts can declare a law or presidential order that violates the constitution unconstitutional and invalid.

Judicial Review

If any law or executive action is found to be in violation of the constitution, the federal judiciary has the authority to declare it null and void. As a result, the judiciary serves as the guardian and custodian of the constitution and citizens’ fundamental rights. The Supreme Court has interpreted the constitution in such a way that it has adapted it to society’s changing demands.

It is pertinent to mention that US constitution did not expressly provide for the judicial review but the Supreme Court acquired this power by interpreting the constitution in the Marbury v. Madison case in 1803.

References

www.mountvernon.org

www.archives.gov

www.history.com

www.britannica.com

www.constitutiononnet.com

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