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How does the United States Constitution guard against tyranny?

Nick Greenlees
West Career and Technical Academy

Living in todays age, especially in the United States, it seems to be taken for granted or
assumed that the United States government should not be cruel or oppressive. The president
cannot do whatever he wishes, Congress cannot corrupt the system, and the Supreme Court
cannot impeach whomever they please. The United States Constitution protects the United
States from falling into a tyrannical government by dividing the powers that each house, branch,
or representative of government has, as well as placing Checks and balances to moderate each
branchs responsibilities. The framers of the Constitution fixed what the Articles of
Confederation failed to do, protect the people against tyranny.
There are four main ways in which the United States Constitution guards the people
from falling into a tyrannical government; one is federalism. Federalism divides powers between
a central government and provincial governments. In the United States, the government is
divided into state governments and a central government. The Articles of Confederation
accomplished this trade but failed because they did not equalize the power of state and central
governments, essentially rendering the central government useless. The United States
Constitution balances the powers given to the states and the powers given to the central
government. For example, the states can regulate marriage and divorce laws, whereas the central
government can set up post offices. The central government could not regulate the specific needs
and demands of all the people in the United States for things such as marriage laws. The needs
and demands of each states population differ so dramatically and having laws that work best for
each state is much preferred to having one mandated law that every state must follow. On the
contrary, some things are much better to have a standard for the whole country, such as the
USPS. This ensures equal rates and equal policies throughout the country which avoids
confusion and unnecessary complications.

In democracy, not distributing the powers properly will result in tyranny. The division of
powers between the three branches provides an effective way to check on the other branches
while also defining the responsibilities of each. James Madisons quote from Federalist Paper
#47 explicitly states that the three branches (Executive, Judicial, and Legislative) must be
separate or democracy will ultimately result in tyranny. Imagine if the Executive branch could
both make and enforce the laws, then the Executive branch could run the country however it
wanted to, which would result in tyranny. Which is why the Legislative branch makes the laws,
the Executive branch enforces the law, and the Judicial branch interprets the law, so having one
branch being able to control more than one of these powers could easily get out of hand.
While separation between the three branches is good, it is not good enough to simply
work on its own, which is when the Checks and balances are applied. Checks and balances is
the idea that the three branches of government must check on each other, creating balance
between them. For example, the Legislative branch can override a veto the president has on a
proposed law and impeach the president. These two checks ensure that the Executive branch
cannot gain too much power over the Legislature. In addition, the president is the one who
nominates judges to the Supreme Court; this equalizes the Executive and Judicial branches. Also,
the Judicial branch can declare any law or action (by the other branches) unconstitutional. And
while there are more checks that each branch has to another, the end result is the same; no
singular branch is more powerful than another. The Checks and balances system is another way
to ensure that the United States does not end up in tyranny.
Moreover, this protection against tyranny is found in Article 1, Section 2 of the
Constitution. This section states that the Congress shall be split up into two houses, the Senate,
and the House of Representatives. The difference being that the number of representatives a state

received in the House of Representatives is based on that states population. Whereas in the
Senate, each state receives two members of Congress regardless of the states population. This
small state - large state compromise guards against tyranny; the Senate setup ensures that all
states are represented equally, while the population in the House fluctuates depending on state
population; this way no state has more influence than another.
Connectively, the framers of the Constitution fixed what the Articles of Confederation
failed to do; they protected the people against tyranny in four specific ways: Federalism,
Division of power between the three branches of government, Checks and balances, and a TwoHouse Congress.