11 years after the United States declared independence from the British Kingdom, 55 people representing 12 colonies gathered in Philadelphia on May 25, 1787. Their aim was to make a constitution that would shape the new state, which had been in the form of a loose confederation for 11 years. These 55 men did not have a republic administration that could set an example in the world of those days. They learned by painfully experiencing the arbitrariness and tyranny of a system in which the governors of the colony were the ‘governor of their majesty’, the judges’ the ‘judge of their majesty’, and the law was the ‘command of his majesty’. However, the experience of “democracy” in the colonies within 11 years after the declaration of independence did not turn out very bright. In many places of the colonies, only decisions based on majority vote had arbitrary and overbearing pressure on the minority, as much as the governors of their majesty. They were looking for a system that would not allow arbitrariness and abuse of power, but also guarantee equality, freedom and rights for each individual. For this reason, it is understood from their correspondence and discussions in those days that they have studied all the management experiences in history since Ancient Greece. French lawyer Montesquieu was also one of the names that he was most impressed with. The theory of separation of powers expressed by Montesquieu in the Spirit of Laws published in 1748 was one of the most important guides in shaping the new American state.
James Madison, one of the architects of the US Constitution, wrote in the Federalist article No. 51 published in 1788: Regardless of whether he came with reign or election, giving the same hand is the definition of tyranny. ”
After the Constitutional Assembly, which lasted 3 months and 23 days until September 17, 1787, the world’s shortest constitution with 7 articles (including 27 additional articles to be added in the following years) emerged. The first three articles of the Constitution guarantee the separation of powers. They preferred to put the chairman, the executive, not the executive, the legislative power, in the center of the state. The first article held the Congress, the second the presidency and the third the judiciary.
During the approval of the Constitution at state congresses throughout 1788, some criticized that the first three articles of the Constitution did not bring a pure separation of powers. For example, the president had the power to veto a law passed by the Congress. This was the exercise of legislative power by the president. The Senate also had the power to reject the president’s appointments to federal institutions. This was executive power. These people were right in their criticism. As a matter of fact, James Madison, one of the most important actors in the creation of the new Constitution, would write that “a pure separation of powers is practically not possible and this is not the intention of Montesquieu.”
But what would prevent the state’s legislative, judicial and executive powers from gathering in the same hand, and thus the disappearance of the republic, if it was impossible for them to be completely separated?
The essence of the American constitutional state system emerged in this search for a solution: ‘Check and Balance’, namely ‘Balance and Supervision’. In fact, although there are some primitive practices in the British monarchy, Madison is also referred to as the “Madisonian Model” because it was the idea pioneer of applying it to a republic for the first time. In the balance and supervision system, the powers that make the law, enforce it and interpret the law will be independent from each other, but they will also have the power to control each other when they exceed their authority.
After the Constitution was adopted, despite these mechanisms, the feeling that state power continued to pose a potential threat to the rights and freedoms of citizens. Madison and Thomas Jefferson also joined this concern. Madison expressed concern that an oppressive majority could easily violate minority rights, and submitted an additional 10 amendments to the Constitution, called the ‘Bill of Rights’ in 1789. The constitutional amendment was approved in 1791. First Amendment, which restricts the freedom of expression and assembly of the congress or prohibits making laws against / against any religion, included the three powers of the state as well as the public in the system of ‘balance and supervision’. In other words, media, non-governmental organizations or ordinary citizens also gained the right to control, criticize, disclose and campaign against all kinds of activities of the state.
The retouch that Montesquieu is the real separation of “separation of powers” will come from the US Supreme Court on February 24, 1803.
In the case of William Marbury, who was appointed as a judge but whose appointment was not processed due to a lack of procedure; the case-law of the Supreme Court regarding the role of the judiciary rather than the content of the case was the beginning of the age of “separation of powers”.
The Supreme Court unanimously ruled that, in the decision of the case called ‘Marbury v Madison, there should be a man to protect the constitution; both against the executive and the legislature, and that it was the judiciary. That is, the courts were judged to have the power to cancel the laws, presidential decrees and practices they found unconstitutional.
President of the Supreme Court, John Marshall, wrote on the grounds: “The constitution is either a superior law that cannot be easily changed like ordinary laws, or it is the same level of savings as ordinary laws that the legislative power can change at any time. If the first of these options is true, the legislative body’s unconstitutional savings cannot qualify as a law. The second point is that written constitutions are like a meaningless attempt by nations to limit a force that is inherently impossible to limit. ”
Marbury v 1803 of the Supreme Court. The main purpose of this judicial control, which he reinforced with the case law in the Madison case, was to prevent the establishment of a dictatorship in the country by the executive or legislative power, or the denial of the constitutional order by law, and to guarantee the survival of the constitutional order of the republic.
Since this jurisprudence, both the federal district court and the Supreme Court have been able to revoke a law made by the Congress on the grounds that it is against the Constitution. Alexander Hamilton would write that the judicial control, which he described as the “legislative powers’ barrier against abuse”, was “the most shaping of the character of the American state system”.
The American system is of course not a perfect system. It also produced many problems. However, this system is the most important reason why the USA has not had a dictatorship experience for 227 years, has not witnessed a democracy cut, and is known as the ‘country of freedoms’. In political history, it continues to be the most effective mechanism for preventing abuse of state power.
In the USA, the term “presidential system” is a statement used for executive power in the context of the relationship between legislature and executive powers. It is not a concept that describes the American state system. In fact, this false perception occurred in the 20th century with the development of mass media. For example, Abraham Lincoln, who was considered the most important president of the USA by historians, was a name he did not know throughout the world, even in Europe. The first world-renowned president was Woodrow Wilson, president of World War I. The fact that the US presidential elections became the center of attention started in 1960 with the election of John F. Kennedy. The importance attributed to the president in the American public has increased in the last century. The position of the presidents, especially in foreign policy, strengthened relatively during the Cold War. However, the President is still not the power at the center of the system. It’s not the only power. The name of the American state system is not the “presidential system” but the “balance and control system”.
A state equipped with control mechanisms
The system of balance and control produces constant tension and strife among the three powers of the state. But this is exactly what constitutionalists want. Madison would record, “the passion of every man breaks another man from exceeding his authority.” This conflict, which mostly produces results for the benefit of America, is found all over the American system at the local or federal scale.
The President of the USA has the power to veto the law made by the Congress, but Congress has the power to pass the veto by two-thirds of the votes and enact the same bill.
From the ministers, ambassadors, the CIA and FBI presidents to the heads of federal institutions such as NASA and the Central Bank, the president chooses the candidate for all the important authorities of the executive, but only if the Senate approves.
Candidates for the vacant membership of the Supreme Court and judges to the federal courts elect the president, but they can start their duty only if the absolute majority of the Senate approves. Federal judges and members of the Supreme Court can never be dismissed and amended against their personal rights unless they retire voluntarily after they have taken office. This prevents a single government from completely filling the judiciary with its own staff within the mandate. Nevertheless, Congress can dismiss judges whose heavy penalty criminal crime is fixed from their duties.
The president and ministers sign international treaties on behalf of the US state, but the approval of two-thirds of the Senate is required for these treaties to take effect. The judiciary can also revoke the administrative decisions of the head of state or international treaties by finding it unconstitutional.
The Congress has the power to dismiss the President of the USA, the rulers of the federal institutions. During the dismissal, the House of Representatives acts as the admissions authority of the indictment and the Senate as a court. In these sessions, the President of the Senate is chaired by the Senate. The Assembly has exercised the power to initiate the process of dismissal about the president twice so far.
Through its committees and subcommittees, federal institutions have the authority to examine, investigate and, if necessary, refer to all decisions, policies and procedures. One of the ex-presidents, Woodrow Wilson, would state that the Congress has this legislative power over administrative functioning.
Congress can annul the Supreme Court case-law by amending the Constitution. But the constitutional amendment can only take place with the two-thirds vote of both wings of the Congress and the approval of three-quarters of the 50 state congresses. In other words, it is impossible for a party to change the Constitution alone, no matter how strong it is.