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Paul Sparks - Online English Lesson Plans, Lesson Material and Ideas for "Culture of English Speaking Countries Lessons" for Xiangtan Normal University...




The American Political System

Source of information: and 

The peace treaty of 1783 recognised the independence of the United States and established the individual states. Once the states were established it was unclear about the relationship between each of the states, therefore a constitution was needed.

After the War of Independence the United States was not one nation, each state had its own government, with its own laws and policies. A plan was then drawn up called the "Constitution of the United States." This proposed an elected leader or president, it also proposed a central system for making laws and court systems. The constitution did not have any reference to the freedoms or basic rights of citizens, therefore in 1791 a "Bill of Rights" was added to the constitution. The government which was formed was divided up into three parts. The Executive, Legislative and Judicial. 

LEGISLATIVE BRANCH: The Legislative branch is made up of elected representatives from each of the states. It makes federal laws and taxes and is the only branch of government which can declare war or put foreign treaties into effect. It consists of a "Congress" which is made up of two houses:

The House of Representatives: This is made up of lawmakers who serve for 2 years. Each member represents their home district from their state. The number of districts in a state depends on the population.

The Senate: This is made up of lawmakers who serve for 6 years. Each state has two senators. Every 2 years one third of the Senate are re-elected, therefore there are always experienced senators working in government.

The main duty of Congress is to make laws. A law begins with a proposal, called a "Bill", it is then studied in committees, then amended in the Senate or House chamber in which it was introduced. It is then voted upon, if it passes it is then sent to another house where the same process takes place. When both houses of Congress pass the Bill it is sent to the president for signature, once signed it becomes law.

EXECUTIVE BRANCH: The chief executive of the United States is the president. Every four years there is an election for the president and vice president. Under an amendment to the Constitution in 1951, a president can only be elected for two terms. The job of president allows the formulation of public policy, allows a vito of bills, can appoint judges, has powers to issue regulations and directives regarding the work of the federal governments departments and the president is also the commander of the armed forces. The presidents cabinet of office is made up of 13 departments: State, Treasury, Defense, Justice, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Energy and Education.

JUDICIAL BRANCH: The head of the Judicial branch is the Supreme Court, which is the only court created by the Constitution. Congress has established 11 federal courts of appeal and 91 district federal courts. Federal judges are appointed for life or voluntary retirement, and can only be removed from the office through the process of impeachment and trial in the Congress.

THE BILL OF RIGHTS (1791): This is made up of 10 short paragraphs which guarantee freedom and individual rights to all Americans. In the Bill of Rights, Americans have the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech and freedom of the press (media). They have the right to assemble in public places, to protest government actions and demand changes. They have the right to own weapons. The Bill of Rights also guarantees a quick trial for any crimes.

POLITICAL PARTIES: The United States have two main political parties, the Democratic party and the Republican party. The Democratic party was established before 1800 and now uses the donkey as its symbol. The Republican party was formed in 1850 and uses the symbol of an elephant.


Kennedy, John F. (Fitzgerald) (nickname JFK)  1917 - 1963: Statesman and 35th U.S. president (1961-63), born on May 29, 1917, in Brookline, Massachusetts; the second of Joseph and Rose Kennedy's nine children. Kennedy was the youngest man elected president of the United States, dying from an assassinís bullet after serving less than one term in office. 

On November 22, 1963, Kennedy was assassinated by rifle fire while being driven in an open car through Dallas, Texas. The alleged assassin, 24-year-old Lee Harvey Oswald, was shot and killed by night club owner Jack Ruby two days later, while under heavy police escort on a jail transfer. Much controversy remains concerning the Kennedy assassination, and speculation about conspiracy theories abounds, despite the Warren Commissionís conclusion that Oswald most likely acted alone. 

Nixon,  Richard (Milhous)  1913 - 1994: During his last election campaign, what first appeared as a minor burglary was to become the beginning of the end of Nixon's political career. A break-in at Democratic national headquarters in Washington, D.C.'s Watergate apartment complex was linked to Republicans. During the trial of six men charged in the crime, the existence of the cover-up began to emerge, taking government officials down like dominos in its path. Nixon elicited the resignation of two top aides in April 1973 in an effort to stem the tide. But in October, as the Watergate investigation continued, he lost his vice president, Spiro T. Agnew, who resigned before pleading "nolo contendere" (no contest) in federal charges of income tax evasion related to accusations of accepting bribes. 

Nixon's efforts to avoid the taint of those scandals were fruitless when subpoenaed tapes he was ordered to give up by the U.S. Supreme Court showed he obstructed justice in stopping an FBI probe of the Watergate burglary. On August 9, 1974, in national disgrace, he became the first President of the United States to resign. He boarded a plane with his wife and returned to his California home, ending his public career. A month later, in a controversial move, President Gerald Ford issued an unconditional pardon for any offenses Nixon might have committed while president. 

On April 22, 1994, Nixon died of a stroke, and a state funeral was held five days later in Yorba Linda, California. In 1995, film director Oliver Stone released the controversial movie Nixon; staring Academy Award winner Anthony Hopkins as the president.

PRESIDENTS (by Date of Service)
George Washington (1789-97)
John Adams (1797-1801)
Thomas Jefferson (1801-09)
James Madison (1809-17)
James Monroe (1817-25)
John Quincy Adams (1825-29)
Andrew Jackson (1829-37)
Martin Van Buren (1837-41)
William Henry Harrison (1841)
John Tyler (1841-45)
James Polk (1845-49)
Zachary Taylor (1849-50) 

Millard Fillmore (1850-53)
Franklin Pierce (1853-57)
James Buchanan (1857-61)
Abraham Lincoln (1861-65)
Andrew Johnson (1865-69)
Ulysses S. Grant (1869-77)
Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-81)
James A. Garfield (1881)
Chester A. Arthur (1881-85)
Grover Cleveland (1885-89)
Benjamin Harrison (1889-93)
Grover Cleveland (1893-97)
William McKinley (1897-1901) 

Theodore Roosevelt (1901-09)
William H. Taft (1909-13)
Woodrow Wilson (1913-21)
Warren Harding (1921-23)
Calvin Coolidge (1923-29)
Herbert Hoover (1929-33)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-45)
Harry S Truman (1945-53)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-61)
John F. Kennedy (1961-63)
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-69)
Richard M. Nixon (1969-74)
Gerald R. Ford (1974-77)
Jimmy Carter (1977-81)
Ronald W. Reagan (1981-89)
George Bush (1989-93)
William J. Clinton (1993-2001)
George W. Bush (2001-present)

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