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Salient Features of the

American Constitution
The US constitution was adopted at the
Philadelphia Convention in 1787
It came into force in 1789 after ratification
by the minimum number of required States.
It consists of 7 articles and 25 amendments.
The constitution has adopted the principles
of Federalism, separation of powers, checks
and balances etc.

Written Character
It is the first written constitution
It is a brief document consisting of 7
Articles and 25 amendments.
The framers left the details to be
filled in by Acts of the Congress.
It has been adequately clothed with
conventions, customs, judicial
decisions and legislative measures.

Conventions and Usages


The framers made a constitution which was
to be supplied with flesh and blood by way
of customs, traditions and usages.
The development of conventions and
usages have changed the character of the
constitution.
The indirect election of the President has
become a direct one. Tenure of the President
has been limited to two terms although
there was no such restriction originally.

Rigidity
It is perhaps the most rigid constitution in the
world.
It can only be amended after a lengthy and
difficult process.
Because of the complicated nature of the process,
an amendment takes years to become operative.
Only 25 amendments so far.
However, the constitution has been able to
evolve during the industrial revolution,
democratic upsurge, civil war, WWI and WWII,
Economic depression etc.

Federal Character
It is federal in character.
USA is a federation of 50 American States.
A constitutional division of power between
the Centre and the States has been made.
The constitution specifies the powers of
the Centre and leaves the residue to the
States. Any power not delegated to the
Centre or not reserved for the people is
exercised by the States.
Is the Centre weak or strong?

Supremacy of the
Constitution
The Constitution is the Supreme Law
of the land.
Neither the Centre nor the States can
override it.
How is this principle applied or
enforced?

Separation of Powers
This principle has been applied to the
US constitution successfully
However, the three institutions are still
interdependent as they cannot be
separated entirely in the interests of
good government.
President heads the executive, Congress
is responsible for law making and the
Judiciary interprets the law.
How is this principal undermined today?

Checks and Balances


Close coordination is required
between the three institutions.
The powers of one organ were so
devised as to exercise a check on the
powers of another.
How is this principle applied??
Why is this principle applied??

Bill of Rights
The constitution guarantees fundamental
rights of person to property and liberty.
Not part of the original draft but were
incorporated via the ten amendments
subsequent to passing of the
constitution.
How are these rights enforced???
Can these rights be modified, suspended
etc????

Judicial Review
The SC and other federal courts possess
power of judicial review of legislation.
The judiciary can declare any law of the
Congress or act of the executive as null and
void if the same is contrary to the
constitution.
Judiciary is the guardian and custodian of
the Constitution.
Is the American Constitution what the
judges say it is????

Republicanism
The USA is a federal republic
This means the head of state is elected.
The constitution derives its authority
from the people.
All federating units also need to enforce
a republican form of government.
Which country is not a republic????
Why????

Presidential form of
Government
The constitution provides for a
presidential form of government.
All executive powers are vested in the
President.
He is (directly or indirectly) elected and
is not responsible to the Congress.
His term is constitutionally protected.
He has a cabinet of ministers to help
him.

Division of Powers
There is a division of Powers between
the Centre and the states.
The constitution specifies the powers
of the Centre and leaves the rest to
the States.

Dual Citizenship
An American is the citizen of the USA
and also of the State where he or she
is domiciled.
Are the citizens of Pakistan dual
citizens???

Popular Sovereignty
The American constitution is based on
popular sovereignty. The preamble of
the constitution runs as follows:
We the People of the United States, in Order
to form a more perfect Union, establish
Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide
for the common defence, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of
Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do
ordain and establish this Constitution for the
United States of America.

Spoils System
Spoils System was a practice which became
common during the 19th Century.
A government office was considered as a spoil for
the services rendered to the prospective President
at the time of the elections.
Hence, a serving president had his supporters in
all important offices.
This practice led to inefficiency and corruption.
The Pendleton Act (1887) was passed to stop this.
About 80% of such govt offices are now filled
through competitive examinations. However, 20%
of the offices are still used as spoils by the
President.

Bicameral Legislature
This means the USA has two houses in the
Congress.
The Upper House known as the Senate (100
members) and the Lower House termed the
HoRs (435 members)
Unlike any other upper house in the world,
the Senate is the most powerful. It is
equipped with Executive, legislative and
judicial powers.
Each senator serves for 6 years and each
Representative for 2 years.