Three Branches of Government – HISTORY

Contents

  1. Separation of Powers
  2. Legislative Branch
  3. Executive Branch
  4. Judicial Branch
  5. Implied Powers of the Three Branches of Government
  6. Checks and Balances
  7. Sources

The three branches of the U.S. government are the legislative, executive and judicial branches. According to the doctrine of separation of powers, the U.S. Constitution distributed the power of the federal government among these three branches, and built a system of checks and balances to ensure that no one branch could become too powerful.

Separation of Powers

The Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu coined the phrase “trias politica,” or separation of powers, in his influential 18th-century work “Spirit of the Laws.” His concept of a government divided into legislative, executive and judicial branches acting independently of each other inspired the framers of the U.S. Constitution, who vehemently opposed concentrating too much power in any one body of government.

In the Federalist Papers, James Madison wrote of the necessity of the separation of powers to the new nation’s democratic government: “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elected, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

Legislative Branch

According to Article I of the Constitution, the legislative branch (the U.S. Congress) has the primary power to make the country’s laws. This legislative power is divided further into the two chambers, or houses, of Congress: the House of Representatives and the Senate.

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