Matters of Education

Learning Happens Everywhere

The Three Branches of Government

Original Publication Date: September 2012


The basic rule book for our country is the United States Constitution. The Constitution was written in 1787 and ratified (or approved) by the States. The writers or framers of the Constitution had to make sure that this Constitution did many things, such as

  1. Protect our freedoms
  2. Make us safe
  3. Collect money so that the government could do its job
  4. Make sure the country would be fair to everyone

To accomplish these goals, the Constitution divides the government into three parts.

The Legislative Branch

This section of the government makes the laws. The legislative branch is called the Congress. It has two parts. One part is the Senate. Every state sends two people to the Senate. The other part of Congress is the House of Representatives. Each state sends people to the House of Representatives. The number of people a state gets to send depends on how many people live there. A state with a lot of people, like California, gets to send 53 people to the House of Representatives. A state with a small population, like Alaska, only sends one person to the House of Representatives.

The Executive Branch

An executive is someone who is in charge. The President is the head of the Executive Branch. The President can decide if the laws that Congress passes are OK. He is the Commander in Chief of the Army. He gets to pick judges. We elect a president every four years. So far we have had 44 presidents.

The Judicial Branch

This part of the government is made up of the judges, people who decide if things are fair. They get to decide if the President and the Congress are being fair to everyone. They get to decide if the laws that Congress passes are OK.

Checks and Balances

When they wrote the Constitution, America had just won its independence, or freedom, from England. England had a king and we did not want that kind of ruler in our new country. At the same time, we needed to make sure things were fair and orderly. To do that, the Constitution made sure that each of the three branches of government would be able to check up on the other two branches. The idea was to keep the three parts of our government balanced, no one part stronger than the other two.