The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday is the simple fact that the Constitution of the United States was inspired by God. The truthfulness of this fact is shown in the Constitution itself and well as the circumstances surrounding its creation and ratification. A few of the internal evidences are as follows.
1. The separation of powers at the federal level. Instead of one powerful leader, such as a king, the Constitution created three branches of government – executive, legislative, and judicial. The Constitution gives the legislative branch the power to make the law, the executive branch the power to administer and enforce the law, and the judicial branch the power to apply and interpret the law. President J. Reuben Clark explains why this separation of powers is so important.
It is this union of independence and dependence of these branches – legislative, executive and judicial – and of the governmental functions possessed by each of them, that constitutes the marvelous genius of this unrivalled document…. It was here that the divine inspiration came. It was truly a miracle.
The use of checks and balances was deliberately designed, first, to make it difficult for a minority of the people to control the government, and, second, to place restraint on the government itself.
In an effort to put constitutional restraints on the government, the Founders further divided the legislative branch into a “bicameral” system – the Senate and the House of Representatives. They thought that this further division would slow down the creation of laws enough to protect the legislative process from the passions of the people.
2. Federalism. The Founders took the idea of separation of powers to another level. They divided the power between the federal government and the state governments. They were concerned that the federal government would become too powerful, so they made the states powerful enough to counteract a tyrannical federal government. Amendment 10 declares, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
3. Checks and Balances or the Auxiliary Precaution. In an effort to put further restraints against democratic tyranny, the Founders wrote checks and balances into the Constitution. A few of them are as follows: (1) The election process itself, in which the people exercise their voice to check the encroachment of tyranny. (2) Each branch has its specific duties. Even though the President is the commander-in-chief of the military, the legislative branch has the authority to declare war. (3) The executive branch makes treaties, but the treaties must be ratified by the legislative branch. (4) The executive branch enforces laws, but the legislative branch controls the budget power and finances to do so. (5) The executive branch nominates federal judges and other officers, but the legislative branch must confirm the appointments. (6) Judges are appointed for life, thus aiding them in remaining apolitical. (7) The legislative branch holds the power of impeachment over the executive and judicial branches. These checks and balances limit the power of any one branch and bring a requirement for debate, deliberation, compromise, and concurrence between the branches.
The separation of powers between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the federal level and the bicameral legislature as well as the division of power between federal government and state governments limits the possibility of any person or group controlling the government of the United States. The checks and balances between the branches of the federal government is a second way of limiting access to all the power. More on the inspiration in the Constitution will come in future posts.