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Summary and Review - James McClellan, Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government 
Liberty, Order, and Justice: An Introduction to the Constitutional Principles of American Government (3rd ed.) (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2000).
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Summary and Review
All of this detail may seem somewhat confusing, so a summary and review of this information about the separation of powers and about checks and balances should be helpful.
The Framers understood, chiefly from the experience of the States and the general government under the Articles of Confederation, that only through a system of checks and balances might the separation of powers be maintained. So the Constitution contains the ingenious network of checks and protections previously described.
These checks and balances were devised to enable each branch to resist such invasions of their proper authority. They enabled each branch to exert some direct control over the other branches. This the Framers accomplished by overlapping some of the functions of the Federal government, so that each branch might play some part—though merely a limited part—in the exercise of the other branches’ functions.
Thus the Congress was empowered to exercise a degree of executive and judicial power. The Senate, for example, actually exercises an executive function when it participates in the appointment and treaty-making processes; and both houses of Congress exercise a judicial power when they impeach and remove a judge or an executive official from office. A legislative check on the judiciary is established by the power of Congress to determine the size of the courts and to limit the appellate jurisdiction of both the Supreme Court and inferior Federal courts.
Similarly, the executive exercises some legislative powers. The presidential veto, for example, is a legislative power that permits the President to take part in the law-making process. The President exercises a judicial power, on the other hand, when he pardons a person convicted of a Federal crime.
The judiciary, in turn, possesses legislative power through judicial review, and enjoys some executive power through its authority to appoint clerks and other court personnel.
Each branch, it may be seen, is independent of the others, although the independence they possess is not absolute.
Such is the theory of the separation of powers as understood and applied in 1787. Madison and other Framers expected quarrels to break out from time to time between branches of government. Indeed, they counted on such quarrels. Why? Because jealousy and hostility among the chief divisions of the Federal government would prevent the three branches from combining in any scheme to infringe upon the powers of the several States or to diminish the liberties of citizens.
In other words, Madison and his colleagues meant to avert the rise of an oligarchy (the rule of a few rich and powerful men) or of a tyrant (an unlawful single ruler) by making it almost impossible for any man or faction to secure the simultaneous cooperation of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. Thus the Constitution would be guarded against subversion by the ambition and the vanity of the men who respectively belonged to the legislature, the executive force, and the body of judges. “Ambition would counteract ambition,” as Madison put it.
The principal men in Congress would tend to resent the power of the presidency and to assert the claims of Senate or House to national leadership. The President, for his part, would cherish his powers jealously and would vigorously repel attempts of the Congress to dictate executive policies. And the Supreme Court would maintain a stern defense of its prerogatives, rebuking both Congress and President from time to time.