Salient Features of the American Constitution

Fri, 08/02/2013 - 02:39 -- Umar Farooq

What does the American constitution means to you its simple answer that it is a system of laws for the protection of right of American citizens and set the limits of government as well. There are total of thirty three amendments of American constitution adopted by the American congress since march 4, 1789.

American Constitution is Written

Like other federal constitutions in the world, the American constitution is written in form. It is a brief document consisting of only 7 Articles and 27 Amendments. Indeed it was a skeleton constitution since the framers of the constitution left the details to be filled in by the Acts of the Congress. It has been adequately clothed with conventions, customs, judicial decisions and legislative measures.

Federal Character

The American constitution is federal in character. America was originally a federation of 13 States but due to admission of new states, it is now a federation of 50 States. A constitutional division of powers has been made between the centre and the federating units. The constitution enumerates the powers of the centre and leaves the residuary powers to be exercised by the federating states. The constitution thus creates a weak Centre and because residuary powers have been given to the units. However, in practice, federals centre in American has become very powerful due to the application of the doctrine of "Implied Powers" as propounded by the Supreme Court of the U.S.A.


American constitution is probably the most rigid constitution in the world. It can be amended by a very lengthy and difficult process. Because of the complicated nature of the amendment procedure, sometimes it takes years before an amendment becomes operative after it has been proposed. Every amendment, which can be moved in two different ways, must be ratified by 3/4th of the states. The rigidity of the constitution is obvious from the fact that during more than 200 years it has been in operation; only 27 amendments have been made in the constitution.

Presidential System

The constitution provides for the presidential type of government in the U.S.A. All powers are vested in the President. He is elected for a fixed period or 4 years and cannot be removed before the expiry or his tenure. Though the constitution provides indirect election of the President but in practice his election has become direct. The President is not politically responsible to the Congress. He has nothing to do with the Congress. The member of his Cabinet are neither members of the Congress nor answerable to it.

Supremacy of the Constitution

Supermacy of the constitution means the supreme law of the land. Neither the centre nor the states can override it.  A law or an executive order repugnant to the constitution can be declared unconstitutional and invalid by; the Supreme Courts.

Separation of Powers

The U.S constitution is based on the doctrine or "Separation or Powers. Although the three wings of administration, viz the executive the legislative and the judiciary-are inter-dependent 'and cannot be separate entirely in the interests of good government yet an attempt has been made in the American constitution to separate them as much as possible. The Congress is the legislative organ. The President is the executive who is elected directly by the people and has nothing to do with the Congress. He enjoys a fixed tenure of 4 years and is not a member of the Congress and cannot be removed by the vote of no confidence before the expiry of his term of office. He does not participate in debates, nor can he dissolve the Congress. Both are independent of each other. The Supreme Court heads the Federal judiciary and enjoys freedom in its work.

System of Checks and Balances

Recognizing the importance of close cooperation among three organs of the government, the Fathers of the constitution introduced -Checks and Balances". The powers of one organ were so devised as to exercise a check upon the powers of others. As for example, the President can veto the Bills passed by the legislature. The Senate shares with the President his powers of making appointments` to the various federal offices and conclusion of treaties and agreements with foreign states. All such appointments and treaties must be ratified by 2/3rd majority in the Senate. Through this Power, the Senate controls the internal administration and external policy of the President. The organization of the federal judiciary is determined by the Congress and the judges of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President with the consent of the Senate. The Supreme Courts can declare the laws 'passed by the Congress and executive, action taken by the President ultra-wires if the same are in clash with any provision(s) of the constitution.

Judicial Review

The constitution provides for the Judicial Review, of the legislative enactment. The federal judiciary can declare any legislation or executive action null and void if the same is found to be inconsistent with the provisions of the constitution. The Judiciary thus acts as the guardian and custodian of the constitution and fundamental rights of the citizens. The Supreme Court has so interpreted the constitution that it has adapted it to the changing needs of society. It has enlarged the power of the Congress.

Republicanism and U.S Constitution

The U.S.A. is a republic with the President as the elected head of the State. The constitution derives its authority from the people. Moreover, the constitution makes it binding upon every constituent state to have the republican form of government.

Dual Citizenship

The U.S. constitution provides for dual citizenship for the people of the United States. An American is the citizen of the U.S.A. and also of the state wherein he or she is domiciled. It is in contrast with the idea of single citizenship as incorporated in the constitution of Pakistan where every citizen irrespective of domicile is the citizen of Pakistan alone.

Spoil System

This is an interesting feature of the American political system. The system is associated with the name of President, Andrew Jackson. According to this system, when a new President takes over the charge of administration, appoints afresh all-important officials of federal government. The entire administration of the previous President is streamlined. The system is known as "Spoil System- because important jobs are, distributed among, the henchmen of the President or his Party without taking into accountability; .experiences or talent of the men appointed.

Some other features of American constitution are:


The Bill of rights,

Division of Powers etc.