introduction

The United States is a federal union of 50 states, with the District of Columbia as the seat of the federal government. The Constitution outlines the structure of the national government and specifies its powers and activities, and defines the relationship between the national government and individual state governments. Power is shared between the national and state (local) governments. Within each state are counties, townships, cities and villages, each of which has its own elective government.

Governmental power and functions in the United States rest in three branches of government: the legislative, judicial, and executive. Article 1 of the Constitution defines the legislative branch and vests power to legislate in the Congress of the United States. The executive powers of the President are defined in Article 2. Article 3 places judicial power in the hands of one Supreme Court and inferior courts as Congress sees necessary to establish. In this system of a “separation of powers” each branch operates independently of the others, however, there are built in “checks and balances” to prevent a concentration of power in any one branch and to protect the rights and liberties of citizens. For example, the President can veto bills approved by Congress and the President nominates individuals to serve in the Federal judiciary; the Supreme Court can declare a law enacted by Congress or an action by the President unconstitutional; and Congress can impeach the President and Federal court justices and judges.

Abridged from U.S. State Department IIP publications and other U.S. government materials.

Background

Abbreviations and Acronyms of the U.S. Government (Purdue University, Indiana)
http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/subjectareas/gov/docs_abbrev.html

Frequently Asked Questions of the U.S. Government (FirstGov)
http://www.firstgov.gov/Contact/Faq.shtml

A Guide to the U.S. Federal System (LLRX- Legal Web Journal)
http://www.llrx.com/features/us_fed2.htm

Das politische System der USA (MagazinUSA.com) Deutsch
http://www.magazinusa.com/lv2/politics/i_politicalsystem.asp

Die Vereinigten Staaten von Amerika (Bundeszentrale fur politische Bildung) Deutsch
http://www.bpb.de/wissen/RCGNS8,0,0,Vereinigte_Staaten_von_Amerika_(USA).html

We, the People – the Structure of the U.S. Government (U.S. Department of State)
http://usinfo.state.gov/topical/rights/structur/main2.htm

Statistics

Federal, State, and Local Governments (U.S. Census Bureau)
http://www.census.gov/govs/www/index.html

Fedstats
http://www.fedstats.gov/

For High School Students

Ben’s Guide to U.S. Government for Kids (U.S. Government Printing Office)
http://bensguide.gpo.gov/9-12/index.html

Firstgov. for Kids
http://www.kids.gov/k_gov.htm

Teacher Resources

Balancing Three Branches at Once: Our System of Checks and Balances
(National Endowment of Humanities)
http://edsitement.neh.gov/view_lesson_plan.asp?id=222

Constitutional Issues: Separation of Powers (Teaching with Documents – National Archives)
http://www.archives.gov/digital_classroom/lessons/separation_of_powers/ separation_of_powers.html

Link Lists

AboutGovernment Homepage (U.S. Congress)
http://www.aboutgovernment.org/

Browse Government Resources (Library of Congress)
http://lcweb.loc.gov/rr/news/extgovd.html

Federal Government Resources on the Web (University of Michigan Documents Center )
http://www.lib.umich.edu/govdocs/federal.html

FirstGov (U.S. Government’s Official Web Portal)
http://www.firstgov.gov/

Frequently Used Sites Related to U. S. Federal Government Information (Vanderbilt University)
http://www.library.vanderbilt.edu/romans/fdtf/

GovSpot (StartSpot Mediaworks)
http://www.govspot.com/

This Nation (Jonathan Mott, University of Oklahoma)
http://www.thisnation.com/

U.S. Government (Dmoz Open Directory Project)
http://dmoz.org/Regional/North_America/United_States/Government/

E-Texts

http://usa.usembassy.de/government.htm
U.S. Government Manual 2003/2004
http://www.gpoaccess.gov/gmanual/