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The Similarities Of The Ancient Roman Government And The American Government

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Category: English

Autor: anton 18 March 2011

Words: 1759 | Pages: 8

Jarad Klaus


Final draft

The Similarities of the Ancient Roman Government

and the American Government

Have you ever thought that the U.S. government is easily comparable to the Roman’s version of government? Maybe that’s because the U.S. government is roughly parallel with the Ancient Roman Government. The Romans did not have a constitution, like us Americans, but their division of executive, legislative, and judicial branches is similar. The Roman government served as a template for the American government. As you read further, you will see how the governmental structures, with detail, are similar by first making points on the American style contrasted with the Roman style of government.

First, I am going to take a look at the division of power within the American government by starting off with the legislative branch. The legislative branch is responsible for coming up with the laws. In Article I of the U.S. Constitution states, “All legislative Powers…shall be vested in a Congress of the United States and the House of Representatives.” The U.S. congress is divided into the House of Representatives, known as the lower house, and the Senate, known as the upper house. The Congress’ role in the government is to legislate- to make laws. The laws enacted by Congress are called statutes. The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to make laws (Theodore J. Lowi).

The idea for a statute begins as a proposal. The proposal can come from a member of the legislature or from a member of an outside source, such as a citizen, a lobbyist, and administrative agency, or the President. Then the proposal needs to be drafted into writing and the written proposition is called a bill. After the bill is introduced, it is referred to the committee and subcommittee that consider the type of legislation. The committee then investigates the bill, public hearing are held and the testimony may be heard, the bill then may go through many changes, and lastly the committee issues a report.

After a committee looks at the bill, the bill goes to the floor of the house for further debate. During the debate the bill may go through several changes, and amendments may be added. The bill has to pass in both houses in order for it to be sent to the House-Senate Conference Committee. The report that is drawn up by the committee is sent to the House and the Senate for approval. If they both give their approval for the bill, it is then sent on to the President, and if the President signs the bill it becomes a law. Congress can override a President’s veto by 2/3 vote, and if there is a 2/3 majority vote the bill then becomes a law (From Readings for the American Government).

Then as for the legislative branch for the Roman’s it fell into three assemblies that included the entire electorate. All of the three assemblies made up voting units. The single vote of each voting unit determined by a majority of the voters in that unit. The first assembly was the Curiate Assembly, which was the oldest units of organization; based on clan and family associations. It became obsolete as a legislative body, but preserved functions of senior magistrates with power and witnessing religious affairs. The second assembly was the Centuriate assembly was the most important units of organization that was based on wealth and age. This assembly was the proper body of declaring war. The last assembly was the Tribal assembly. This assembly originally was for election of tribunes and deliberation of plebeians; units of organization. Eventually they became the chief law-making body, criminal and civil. The judge or arbitrator heard the case, formulated a judgment, and then would impose a fine. (Paul-Louis)

The second branch of the U.S. government is the Executive branch. The Executive branch is the branch responsible for enforcing the laws of the land. The President is the head of the Executive branch. Article II of the Constitution says that before the president takes office, he or she must solemnly swear or affirm to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” The executive branch is made up of the President and all that fall under the President. That includes appointees, administrative agencies, and governor. The President has a cabinet, which people appointed by the President, that include a Vice-President and 15 other executive departments. The President cannot create legislation or encroach upon the legislative branch. The legislative branch must approve many of the President appointees (Theodore Lowi).

In the Roman government, the emperor stood at the top of the administrative system, not a President. He served as military commander in chief, high priest, court of appeal, and source of law. The soldiers under the emperor did not swear their oath to a constitution or flag, they swore their oath to the emperor. The emperors took over the Senate’s political and legislative power, but they needed the help of senators who had experience in diplomacy, government, and military command.

Roman law in the republic was often based on custom (Paul-Louis). During the Roman Empire, however, the emperor became the final source of law. Roman law was one of the original products of the Roman mind. They created the Twelve Tables, which was the first Roman code of law developed during the early republic. Roman civil law allowed great flexibility in adopting new ideas or extending principles in the complex environment of the empire. This was to establish laws that allowed greater fairness. Early Roman law derived form customs and statutes, but the emperor asserted his authority as the ultimate source of law.

The executive branches in Rome were elected magistrates, which were held by at least two men. All members of a college were of equal rank and could veto acts of other members; higher magistrates could veto acts of lower magistrates. Here are the names of each office in the executive branch: Annual tenure, whose term was limited to one year. Consuls were the chief civil and military magistrate. Praetors, who had military command and administered civil law at Rome. Aediles were in charge of religious festivals, public games, temples, upkeep of city, regulation of marketplace, and grain supply. Quaestors, were financial officers and administrative assistants, and they were in charge of the state treasury at Rome, serve as quartermasters and seconds-in-command. Tribunes, charged with protection of lives and property of plebians, had power to veto over elections, laws, decrees of senate, and the acts of all other magistrates. Censors, were elected every 5 years to conduct census, enroll new citizens, review roll of senate; controlled public morals and supervised leasing of public contracts. In protocol ranked below praetors and above aediles, but still help enormous prestige and influence. Last is the dictator, who in times of military emergency appointed by consuls; the dictator would appoint a Master of the Horse to lead the cavalry; tenure limited to 6 months or duration of crisis, whichever was shorter and was not subject to veto (Guglielmo Ferrero).

Last of the three branches, in the American system is the judicial branch. This branch of government interprets and applies the law in a fair and impartial manner. The judicial branch is the third check and balance in the U.S. Constitution’s threefold separation of powers. Article III states that “the judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court and such inferior courts as the Congress may, from time to time, ordain and establish. The judges…shall hold their offices during good behavior, and shall… receive… compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.” Unlike legislators and the president, the judges are not elected, nor are their appointments limited to certain number of years. Judges can serve for the rest of their lives if they so please. Where the president has a 4-year term, the House of Representatives are two-year terms, and the Senate is four-year terms. The judges are free to make decisions without fear of retaliation from the legislative or executive branches. All courts are bound to applying federal and constitutional law. They are responsible though to interpret the laws meaning. The courts are the final authority on the meaning of the law. The judicial branch also hold the right to put an action under judicial review, which means that the court could decide that a statute passed by Congress is unconstitutional thereby making the law void, and because of the seriousness of the power to void legislation, the courts use this authority sparingly (Readings for the American Government).

The judicial branch of the Roman government was originally brought to the centuriate assembly. These cases that were brought before them were major crimes against the state. The late Republic, most cases were prosecuted before one of the quaestiones perpetuae, which means, “standing jury courts.” Each had a specific jurisdiction such as treason, electoral corruption, extortion in the provinces, embezzlement of public funds, murder and poisoning, forgery, and violence. The juries consisted of 50-75 members, mainly containing senators, turbinates, knights, and there were empanelled from an annual list of eligible jurors.

The Roman Senate was composed of leading citizens who were members of the original aristocratic families in the old Republic. The original purpose of this group was to advise the King, just like our president has cabinet members to help advise him. After the expulsion of the last Tarquin, Tarquinius Superbus, and the Senate formed the main governing body of the Roman Republic. Many of the early senators were great orators, and we have their words preserved by contemporary historians. During the later Roman Empire, the Senate had become more of an elite club for member of old aristocratic and equestrian families. It had no real governing power and its approval of acts of the emperor his laws were purely ceremonial. The Senates function was originally an advisory board composed of the heads of patrician families, and came to be an assembly of former magistrates. They took awareness of virtually all public matters, but most important areas of competence were in foreign policy and financial administration.

As you now can see from the analysis of the two governmental bodies that they are similar in many ways because the Roman’s established what we would know as the division of power, which is the legislative, executive, and judicial. The American style of government was mostly taken from the ideas of the Roman government. The Americans as you have seen have just simplified and expanded on the Roman’s ideas to make for a more efficient running government.

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