The Constitution guards against tyranny in four different ways: Federalism, the separation of powers, checks and balances, and equal representation for each state. The first step to prevent tyranny is Federalism. The Constitution would divide the power between central and state governments. This idea, created by James Madison, is known as Federalism. (Document A) Powers given to the central government include the regulation of trade, conduction of foreign relations, providing an army and navy, declaring war, printing money, setting up post offices, and making immigration laws. These powers are necessary to run a government. The powers given to the state allow the states to set up their own local government, hold fair elections, create schools, pass marriage laws, and regulate businesses.
The two levels of government are also given shared powers. These powers include, taxation, borrowing money, setting up courts, making laws, and enforcing laws. Federalism prevents tyranny because the states are not able to take control of the federal powers, while the central government cannot take hold of state powers. Another way the Constitution protects us from tyranny is through the separation of powers. The legislative, executive, and judiciary branch are separate and distinct branches of government. (Document B) Each branch has powers and members. The legislative branch has powers vested in the Congress, which consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislative branch creates our laws. The executive branch’s powers are given to the President. It is his job to enforce laws. The judicial branch’s powers belong to the Supreme Court, which can declare laws unconstitutional.
The constitution created an ingenious way to avoid tyranny of one branch over other branches, with a system of checks and balances. James Madison wrote in the Federalist Paper”…the constant aim is to divide and arrange the several offices in such a manner as they may be a check on the other… (The three branches) should not be so far separated as to have no constitutional control over each other.”(Document C) Each branch can check another branch. The President has the power to appoint judges, which the Court can declare presidential acts unconstitutional. The Court can also declare laws made by Congress unconstitutional. The Senate confirms the President’s nominated judges and can impeach judges. Congress also has the power to override a veto, while the President can veto Congressional legislation.
If one branch is trying to overpower the others, then the other branches are able to fix the issue. The final thing the constitution did in order to eliminate tyranny was making the legislative branch fair for each state. At first, two plans were proposed. One was the Virginia Plan and the other was the New Jersey plan. The Virginia Plan favored the larger states, and wanted the government to be based off of population. Since New Jersey had the smallest population, they knew that Virginia Plan would prevent them from having power in government, so they created the New Jersey Plan. This plan stated that if there were equal amount of votes from each state then no one state would have more power in the government. With some negotiation, the Great Compromise was fashioned and it was decided that Congress would be composed of the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives is based on the population of the state, allowing large states to have fair representation. (Document D) To provide equality to the smaller states, the Senate would be made of two representatives from each state. This solved any chance of tyranny arising in our country. In the end, many precautions were taken to protect our country from dictatorship. The Constitution guards against tyranny through Federalism, the three branches of government, checks and balances, and preventing one state from having more power than the others. The structure of the Constitution ultimately avoids tyranny, which allows our country to remain free.
Courtney from Study Moose
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