The role of a democratic government is to secure the rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for each of it’s citizens.
Each branch of the United States government has it’s own exclusive powers as well as the responsibility to influence the workings of the other two, ensuring that the democratic process functions in a balanced way and expresses the will of the American people.
Though the House and Senate have their own procedures for passing legislation, the committees in each chamber have similar oversight on various parts of the federal government.
When a new law is being created, it is first introduced into the relevant House or Senate committee where it is researched, written, and eventually placed up for a vote.
A list of the committees each representative or senator is assigned to, as well as the specific legislation being worked on within each district, can be found online at www.house.gov and www.senate.gov.
A “republic” is a form of government that empowers its citizens to vote and elect officials, an idea that America was founded on when the Revolutionary War was fought to secure independence from the monarch of Great Britain.
In reference to a political party, the word “republican” has had different meanings throughout history. The Republican Party that exists today was created in the late 1850’s and was prevalent in the northern states that were in favor of abolishing slavery. Abe Lincoln was the first Republican President, and the Civil War was fought during his administration in an effort to prevent the southern states from creating a separate form of government.
In the years following the war, the first of the civil rights amendments were written.
- 13th Amendment abolished slavery
- 14th Amendment safeguards the legal protections and equal freedoms of Americans
- 15th Amendment secures the right to vote
President Obama, one of the youngest presidents in recent years, is leaving office at age 55. His well-publicized plans are to live in Washington D.C. for a few years, most likely working with young people, making speeches, and writing books about his time in office.
The online magazine www.businessinsider.com takes a look at how presidents have aged while in office.
The responsibilities of the executive branch are delegated to the President, the Vice President, and the offices of the Cabinet. The Constitution empowers the President to select a team of close advisers to manage the numerous agencies and programs that influence the lives of Americans every day.
During the first presidential administration, George Washington established four Cabinet posts: Secretary of State, Treasury, War, and the Attorney General.
- The War Department evolved into the Department of Defense in 1949, with control over the Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force
- The Attorney General, at first a part-time position, now heads up the Justice Department, created in 1870 to advise on legal matters within the federal government
Eleven other Cabinet level positions have been added during the twentieth century, the most recent being the Department of Homeland Security created in 2002.
In an age of transparency and social media, it’s difficult to image the challenges faced by 18th century politicians to keep Americans informed about the workings of the government. The Constitution, for instance, was signed by 39 delegates on September 17, 1787 in Pennsylvania, but the American public wasn’t able to view the document until two days later.
The “Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser” distributed 500 copies of the Constitution so the American public could finally be informed about the structure of the new federal government and the “law of the land” that has governed us for over 200 years.
Though the original signed copy of the Constitution, written on parchment and carefully preserved, is on display at the National Archives in Washington D.C., a rare copy of the printed version can be found at The National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.