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John Hamlin
Country Description
Basis Of Government
Election Process
History Of Events
Historical Documents
History Of Wars
Past Presidents
Making Laws
National Accounts
Banking And Currency
Branches Of Government
The Executive
The Legislative
The Judicial
Independent Agencies
The Right To Lobby
Details of 50 Sovereign States, Maps, Regulations, Harbors and Airports...
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A visual tour of America
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Important Symbols of America

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National versus State Government

The first type of government in America was based primarily on state government. Prior to the signing of the Constitution, America had been made up of thirteen colonies, which had been ruled by England . Following the Revolutionary War, these colonies, although they had formed a league of friendship under the Articles of Confederation, basically governed themselves. They feared a strong central government like the one they lived with under England 's rule. However, it was son discovered that this weak form of state government could not survive and so the Constitution was drafted.

The Constitution.

  • Defines and limits the power of the national government
  • Defines the relationship between the national government and individual state governments, and
  • Guarantees the rights of the citizens of the United States

This time, it was decided that a government system based on federalism would be established. In other words, power is shared between the national and state (local) governments. The opposite of this system of government is a centralized government, such as in France and Great Britain , where the national government maintains all power.

Sharing power between the national government and state governments allows us to enjoy the benefits of diversity and unity. For example, the national government may set a uniform currency system. Could y9ou imagine having 50 different types of coins, each with a different value? You would need to take along a calculator to go shopping in another state. By setting up a national policy, the system is fair to everyone and the states do not have to bear the heavy burden of regulating their currency.

On the other hand, issues such as the death penalty have been left up to the individual states. The decision whether or not to have a death penalty, depends on that state's history, needs, and philosophies.

Type of Government

The foundation of the United States is its Constitution which is based on a federal republic, with a strong democratic tradition.

The Legal System

The United States legal system is based on English Common Law, with judicial review of legislative acts; it accepts compulsory ICJ jurisdiction, with reservations.

Laws are a result of a Bicameral Congress which consists of a Senate (100 seats) and a House of Representatives (435 seats).

Units of Government

There are three primary units of government: The Executive, The Legislative and the Judicial.

Political Organizations

The primary political parties are: The Democratic Party, The Republican Party, the Green Party and the Libertarian Party.

U.S. Government > Political Parties

However, today there are two major political parties in the United States, the Democratic and the Republican.

The Democratic Party evolved from the party of Thomas Jefferson, formed before 1800. The Republican Party was established in the 1850s by Abraham Lincoln, Hannibal Hamlin, and others who opposed the expansion of slavery.

The Democratic Party is considered to be the more liberal party, and the Republican, the more conservative. Democrats generally believe threat government has an obligation to provide social and economic programs for those who need them. Republicans are not necessarily opposed to such programs but believe they are too costly to taxpayers. Republicans put more emphasis on encouraging private enterprise in the belief that a strong private sector makes citizens less dependent on government.

Both major parties have supporters among a wide variety of Americans and embrace a wide range of political views. Americans do not have to join a political party to vote or to be a candidate for public office, but running for office without the money and campaign workers a party can provide is difficult.

After the 2002 congressional and local elections, just two of the 435 representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives were independents. At the state level only 21 (00.3 percent) of more than 7,300 state legislators were elected as other than Republican or Democrats. It is the two major parties that organize and dominate government at both the national and state levels.