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The United States Constitution

The United States Constitution

Author: Bethany Petty

After completing this tutorial, the student will be able to describe the concepts of separation of powers and checks and balances, applying them to responsibilities of branches of American government.

The concepts of checks and balances and separation of powers are essential to the function of the United States government. Through these principles, government officials are kept "in check" to preserve the "balance" of power, which is separated to ensure that no one person gains too much power.

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As the founding fathers were deciding how our federal government would be organized, they raised many important questions:

  1. How should power be distributed?
  2. Which branch, if any at all, should receive "more" power?
  3. How can we ensure that all branches of government are functioning in accordance with the Constitution?

The framers of the Constitution discussed these and many other issues during the summer of 1787. Over 70 men were invited to the Constitutional Convention, and only 39 of those men actually signed the Constitution. Clearly, issues discussed in the Convention were hotly contested and highly debated.

This video by Crash Course's John Green describes the messy process through which our American Constitution was drafted and eventually adopted by 39 representatives from 12 of the 13 "states." This video will provide you with valuable background information about the issues and controversies at the center of the Constitutional Convention.

Source: Green, John. "The Constitution, the Articles, and Federalism: Crash Course US History #8." YouTube. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 June 2014. .

Checks and Balances Print

This PDF shows the three branches of government and what are included in those branches. Use the PDF and the following website to help you visualize the checks in the federal government.