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The delegates at the Constitutional Convention must have felt the weight of the world on their shoulders when they began to create a new form of government for the United States.  They came together knowing the Articles of Confederation had been too weak, and they did not want a government that was too powerful and controlled by one person or group.  They wanted a democratic government but were mindful of history’s failed attempts at trying to create democratic societies.  

Our Founders have been given the rap that they were the aristocracy of the day. That may be so, but they did not obtain that designation because they were birthed by the “right” parents.  They earned the title through the development of their minds and talents.

Besides being very well-educated, our Founders were also devout students of the Bible.  Next to the Bible, our Founders most often quoted French professor, author and philosopher Baron Charles de Montesquieu and his work in “The Spirit of Laws.”   

It may surprise you, but the idea of creating three branches of government, reinforced by Montesquieu’s writings, actually came from the Bible. Isaiah 33:22 says, “For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king …” Thus, the delegates decided to create three separate branches of government — a Judicial Branch, a Legislative Branch and an Executive Branch.     

The Founders struggled with trying to come up with a just government in which “we the people” ruled.  They knew that most people were so involved in day-to-day living that they did not have the time, energy or inclination to attend hearings or adequately study the important issues of the day.  (Sound familiar?)  

How could a government with “we the people” in charge actually work?  They finally agreed that the fairest way would be to form a republic-type democracy.  The people would elect representatives to represent them.

The real genius of the convention was that the Founders organized a system of “checks and balances” to prevent one branch of government from becoming more powerful than the other two.  Each branch was designed with defined duties, and each was restrained by the other two in several ways.

The Executive Branch, headed by the president, would perform ceremonial duties, deal with international powers, direct national defense and become the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Perhaps the most important function of the Executive Branch was to enforce all federal laws. The president could recommend laws and veto laws, but he could not pass laws or change laws that had already been passed by Congress.  Finally he could grant pardons and reprieves to federal offenders.

The main task of the Legislative Branch, headed by Congress, which included the House of Representatives and the Senate, was to make the laws. Its powers included passing laws, originating spending bills (House), impeaching officials (Senate), and approving treaties and appointments (Senate).  Congress could override a presidential veto with a two-thirds vote of both houses.

The Judicial Branch, headed by the Supreme Court, was to interpret laws. If brought to trial, the justices could declare laws passed by Congress and actions of the president unconstitutional.  To balance that power, justices were appointed by the president and had to be confirmed by the Senate.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

President Obama, the former constitutional law professor, must be having difficulty remembering the prescribed duties of the Executive Branch.  Perhaps like so many other important issues, i.e., Benghazi, the IRS targeting of conservative groups, or the NSA surveillance of American citizens, he can claim that no one has informed him.

Recently, the president threatened he would use his pen to get done what he wanted:  “... we are not just going to be waiting for legislation.  I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions ...” These words reinforce the Founders’ greatest worry. They feared that the Executive Branch might become too powerful or “king-like.”  

The Founders had lived through the tyranny of a monarch and a large, powerful, ineffective government. The kind of government that the framers did not want was one that controlled the lives of the people.  (Could they have been thinking about such things as the newly formed government eventually forcing “we the people” to buy things we did not want like health insurance?)

 The Founders were very aware that the noble goal of “we the people” being in charge almost always resulted in the governing authority shifting to a central figure. They were afraid that if a single person or group became too powerful, the United States would once again end up under tyrannical rule. Is President Obama’s misuse of the Constitution leading us toward the dictatorial system that our Founders feared? It is time for the Supreme Court to act.

WILLEE COOPER is a former teacher and military spouse. A Hopkinsville resident, she is past president of the Kentucky Federation of Republican Women. Her column runs twice a month. Reach her at

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