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United States Government for Kids

Branches of Government
Executive Branch
President's Cabinet
US Presidents

Legislative Branch
House of Representatives
Senate
How Laws are Made

Judicial Branch
Landmark Cases
Serving on a Jury
Famous Supreme Court Justices
John Marshall
Thurgood Marshall
United States Constitution
The Constitution
Bill of Rights
Other Constitutional Amendments
First Amendment
Second Amendment
Third Amendment
Fourth Amendment
Fifth Amendment
Sixth Amendment
Seventh Amendment
Eighth Amendment
Ninth Amendment
Tenth Amendment
Thirteenth Amendment
Fourteenth Amendment
Fifteenth Amendment
Nineteenth Amendment
Overview
Democracy
Checks and Balances
Interest Groups
US Armed Forces
State and Local Governments
Becoming a Citizen
Civil Rights
Taxes
Glossary
Timeline

Elections
Voting in the United States
Two-Party System
Electoral College
Running for Office


The United States first started to form a government at the First Continental Congress. However, it was during the Second Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776 that the United States declared its independence from the British Empire. Thomas Jefferson, together with other founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin and John Adams, wrote the Declaration of Independence. It stated that all people have "certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

Many of these rights are guaranteed in the Bill of Rights, which are the first 10 amendments of the Constitution. More amendments were added later to improve on the rights of the people, including abolishing slavery and the right for all people to vote regardless of gender or race.

Constitution

In 1788, the United States' Constitution was officially ratified. The constitution became the highest form of law in the country. It is the foundation of the federal government and is the basic framework for all the government in the US.

One major part of the Constitution is that the government is made up of three different branches. These branches include the Executive Branch (the president and the cabinet), the Congress (House and the Senate), and the Judicial Branch (the Supreme Court). By creating three branches of government, the founding fathers wanted no group or person to become too powerful. The three branches would "balance" the power of the other branches.

Balance of Powers

The President balances the power of the other two branches by having the power to veto the laws of congress and appointing the judges of the Supreme Court. The Congress is able to create laws and, in special cases, remove the President from office. The Congress also gets to approve the President's nominations to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court can declare a law unconstitutional and has the final say on many court cases.

Recommended books and references:

  • The executive branch by Diane Patrick. 1994.
  • The Bill of Rights by Patricia Ryon Quiri. 1998.
  • Order in the court : a look at the judicial branch by Kathiann M. Kowalski. 2004.
  • The state legislative branch by Mary Firestone. 2004.
  • Making laws : a look at how a bill becomes a law by Sandy Donovan. 2004.

  • Activities

    Try out this fun US Government game. Can you identify all the areas of the US Government?

    Go here to test your knowledge with a US Government crossword puzzle or word search.

    To learn more about the United States government:

    Branches of Government
    Executive Branch
    President's Cabinet
    US Presidents

    Legislative Branch
    House of Representatives
    Senate
    How Laws are Made

    Judicial Branch
    Landmark Cases
    Serving on a Jury
    Famous Supreme Court Justices
    John Marshall
    Thurgood Marshall
    United States Constitution
    The Constitution
    Bill of Rights
    Other Constitutional Amendments
    First Amendment
    Second Amendment
    Third Amendment
    Fourth Amendment
    Fifth Amendment
    Sixth Amendment
    Seventh Amendment
    Eighth Amendment
    Ninth Amendment
    Tenth Amendment
    Thirteenth Amendment
    Fourteenth Amendment
    Fifteenth Amendment
    Nineteenth Amendment
    Overview
    Democracy
    Checks and Balances
    Interest Groups
    US Armed Forces
    State and Local Governments
    Becoming a Citizen
    Civil Rights
    Taxes
    Glossary
    Timeline

    Elections
    Voting in the United States
    Two-Party System
    Electoral College
    Running for Office


    Works Cited

    Back to History for Kids


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