1. Articles of Confederation
3. Government: (1) the executive
(2) the legislative
(3) the judicial
4. The system of government: checks and balances
5.Political Parties: (1) the Democratic Party (donkey)
(2) the Republican Party (elephant)
Articles of Confederation
; The background of the Articles of Confederation
1.During the war, all the colonies united together to conduct the war with Britain. However, after independence, every state was more like an independent nation which made its own law and dealt with its own affairs.
2. A strong, new government was badly needed. In addition, US needed to pay back the debts, deal with foreign affairs with other countries.
3. As a result, the Articles of Confederation was approved by all 13 states. According to the articles, every state should cooperate with the Congress to make contribution for the new nation. (pay back debts and pay tax)
; In May of 1787, the Constitutional Convention was held in Philadelphia taken
part in by delegates from 12 states, according to which a federal system with
a strong central government was set up.
; The main contents of Constitution:
(1) The federal system is one in which the central government and every state could share power, but every state can reserve some certain rights.
(2) The president, a national leader, should be elected by all the people.
(3) Federal laws would be made by a Congress which is made up of representatives who are elected by the people.
(4) It also provided for a national court system headed by a Supreme Court.
; Two fears about Constitution
1. One fear was the forming of tyranny. Maybe one person or group became much more powerful to control the whole country.
In order to get rid of the fear, all delegates agreed to establish a government including three parts or branches, i. e. the executive, the legislative and the judicial.
2. Another fear was “highly-centralized government” which would weaken or
take away the power of state governments.
In order to deal with this fear, the Constitution explained in details the power belonging to central government and every state respectively.
Government: Legislative Branch
; It is made up of elected representatives from all of the states and is the only
branch that has the following powers: making federal laws, drawing federal
taxes, declaring war or putting foreign treaties into effect.
; It consists of a Congress that is divided into two houses, one is the House of
Representatives, the other is the Senate.
1. The House of Representatives includes lawmakers who serve two-year terms. Each district has a representative. If a state has more districts, that means it will have more representatives.
2. The Senate comprises lawmakers who serve six-year terms. Each state, regardless of population, has two senators. But only one-third of the Senators are elected every two years so that there are always some certain number of experienced senators serving in the Senate.
The main duty of the Congress is to make laws.
A law begins as a proposal called a “bill”. Then it will be read and studied. At last, when both houses of Congress pass the bill, it will be sent to the president for his signature. Only after it is signed, does the bill become a law.
Government: Executive Branch
; The chief executive is the president who is elected every 4 years.
; The powers of the president:
1. the chief public policy-maker; often proposing legislation to Congress; 2. Can veto any bill passed by Congress. But the veto can be overthrown by a 2/3 vote in both the Senate and House of Representatives.
3. appointing federal judges including the members of Supreme Court. But all appointments must be agreed by the Senate.
4. Checking the federal government’s departments and agencies.
5. The commander in chief of the armed forces.
6. appointing the heads and senior officials of the executive branch agencies and ambassadors. (13 departments) But every head should be approved by the Senate. 7. Making foreign policy, representing the US abroad.
Government: Judicial Branch
; It is headed by the Supreme Court.
; There are 11 federal courts of appeal;上诉法院； and, below them, 91 federal
; Federal judges are appointed for life or voluntary retirement, and can only be
removed from the office through the process of impeachment and trial in the
; The supreme court consists of a chief justice and eight associate justices.
; The Court’s most important function consists of determining whether
congressional legislation or executive action violates the Constitution. (决定
The most important principle in Am. Political system: Checks and Balances
; “Checks and Balances” is the characteristic of American three-part national
; The function of the principle : to keep serious mistakes from being made by
one branch or another.
; Examples of checks and balances: P58.
Bill of Rights (权利法案)
; The background of “Bill of Rights”: the Constitution in 1787 did not have any
words to guarantee the freedoms or the basic rights and privileges of citizens.
; “Bill of Rights” was passed in 1791 consisting of 10 Amendments which
guarantee freedom and individual rights and forbid interference with lives of
individuals by the government.
; Some basic rights of individuals written in Bill of Rights:
1.Americans have freedom of religion, of speech and of the press.
2. Americans have the right to a speedy trial if accused of a crime.
; By 1991, 16 other amendments to the Constitution were added. (slavery,
women’s right to vote and voting age:18)
; What is political parties?
Political parties are a group of people who share a set of ideas about how the United States should be governed and who work together to have members of their group elected in order to influence the governing of the country.
; Two major political parties in the US:
1. Democratic Party, which was formed before 1800. The symbol of the party is
2. The other is the Republican Party, which was formed in the 1850s. The symbol
of the party is the elephant.
3. The difference between two parties:
;1；. The Democratic party is believed to be a more liberal party, which means Democrats think the federal government should provide social and economic programs for the poor, the unemployed and the students.
The history of the Democratic party’s political opinion: during the depression of the 1930s, the president Franklin Roosevelt carried out “New Deal” plan, which provided many jobs to the unemployed people. (building dams and roads) The democratic government established Social Security, ensuring the retired and disabled persons’ lives.
;2；. The Republican Party is believed to more conservative, for it puts more emphasis on private enterprises. So to some degree, Republicans disagree social programs which are too expensive and cost too high tax to hurt the individuals.