“A Comparative Analysis of The British parliamentary system and The American Presidential System”
The British Parliament and The American presidential system are the two of the strongest formal political institutions in modern times. The American presidential system was built upon parliamentary ideals but was altered in a way that reflected the will of the American patriots who demanded proportional and fair representation. It is important to recognize that the two institutions share a number of common elements. These common elements serve in large part to ensure the proper execution of democratic principles. The differences between the two systems are what define their distinctive political objectives. These practices that show distinctions are for the most part formalities. The characteristics of both systems have been shaped by histories of discontent and warfare. The purpose of this essay is to examine the long history of the British Parliamentary system that began in the 13th century, spread to British territories during it’s time as a colonial power in the 15th century and it’s eventual impact and influence on the American system we know today. The way in which contact and conflict have shaped these two powerful political systems will also be examined.
... . Parliamentary taxation, restriction of civil liberties, British military measures, and the legacy of colonial religious and political ideas were all factors in prompting Americans ... colonial religious and political ideas were major factors that led to the American Revolution. Some people believe that the parliamentary taxation was the ...
The British parliament emerged in the mid 13th century under Henry III of England. This parliament was the framework for the modern British parliament that came into effect during the 17th century. This parliament was a simple concept, by which people, the kings advisors or lords would meet at an arranged time to discuss matters. In the mid 13th centuries, changes began to happen that would differentiate the parliament of the day to the previous parliament that was in place. Parliament became an important mechanism for collecting taxes, which is the main reason why it came into effect with a more serious role in government affairs under Henry III. Henry III was the first monarch to demand regular taxation of his subjects to fund military expenditures. Over the remainder of the 13th century, taxation became an even more essential to every day political life. The king was required to meet with leaders of small regions in Europe, and as such parliament became an open assembly by which representatives of smaller regions, who were referred to as the “commons” were able to attend the parliamentary meetings. Over time the role of representatives carried greater significance.
It was during the 14th century that a bicameral parliament emerged, meaning two assemblies, one a House of Lords (the kings advisors) and the other a house of commons, meaning those who represented the communities, or the MPs. The United States was once under the Colonial rule of England. During this period there were thirteen colonies in the modern day United States that sought to gain independence from British rule. The American Revolution occurred as a result of widespread resentment towards British Parliament, who taxed people in the thirteen colonies without giving them adequate representation. After a variety of rebellious acts, the war, which is now referred to as “The American War of Independence”, broke out in 1775. The battle of Yorktown was a defining moment in history, as this is the battle that paved the way for American victory in the war. American independence was officially recognized by the treaty of Paris in 1783, and became ratified by The United States Congress and the King of Great Britain in 1784, in January and April of that year, respectively (Cogliano).
Thomas Pine, who was a devout patriot during the American civil war announced that ‘there is something very absurd, is supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island’ (Cogliano).
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British Parliament had been evolving over hundreds of years by the time Americans sought to gain independence. In devising the Presidential System and the American Constitution, the Founding Fathers of the United States had important decisions to make. They had to build a stable system in the newly recognized United States that represented their distinct desires but also reflected the stability they had previously experienced under British rule. It is obvious that there are common elements between The British Parliament and The American Presidential System as the Founding Fathers of The United States were at one time, British Subjects. In fact many had been born in Britain or had close family ties to Britain. They did not take issue with the mode by which they were ruled, they were, however, distressed by their lack of proximity to their government, who unjustly taxed them without representation. It is easy to compare these two systems in the present day because they are both democratic in nature. There are some common principles that are recognized as necessary in order to uphold a democratic government. Both systems are bicameral and they both practice a separation of powers to a differening degrees. In terms of voting, both systems practice forms of proportional representation that is geographic in nature. However members of parliament unlike their American counterparts do not have firmly fixed terms. This is because elections may be brought about in a parliamentary system before the nominal term is complteted.
A bicameral system emerged in England as a way to show the distinction between the nobility, or the House of Lords and the common people, which is the House of Commons. Under colonial rule, the British implemented a Bicameral system in order to represent the needs of England and the needs of the colonists. This system continued in most states following the Declaration of Independence, and those that did not follow initially follow suit, did shortly thereafter (Britannica).
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The Bicameral system is depicted under the Presidential System as the Senate representing the “House of Lords” and the Congress acting as the “House of Commons.” While the US Senate is selected along state lines, two senators per state, the House of Lords is not strictly geographic in nature. The United Nations Development Program explains that there is an important correlation between states with a bicameral system and democracy, whereas often times, a unicameral system is often associated with Authoritarian regimes. ”In recent years, unicameral systems, or those with one legislative chamber, were associated with authoritarian states. Although that perception does not currently hold true, there appears to be a general trend toward two chambers in emerging democracies’’ (UNDP).
Both formal institutions practice a separation of powers, however, the British Parliament does not have a full separation of powers, or a division between executive, legislative and judicial governments. The British Parliament has what is known as a “fusion of powers”, meaning that the executive and legislative branches are not separate from one another. This means that the prime minister is involved in both crafting and executing legislation. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) discusses the seperation of powers in the American System and the British System. Although the website describes three systems, the British, American and also the hybird French system, only the former two are relevant to this essay. ”Key differences among the three systems include the extent to which the powers of government are separated functionally between branches, and in the powers one branch does or does not have over another” (UNDP).
When it comes to voting, both systems use some form of proportional representation. Britain uses what is called the “first past the post system”, which means the candidate with the greatest number of votes wins, in other words, the candidate needs to have a pluarlity of votes in a given constituency. While this system is used in congressional and senate elections in the US a unique system was put in place to select the president. The “The Electoral College” makes the election of the president an indirect affair. Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of congressmen and senators they have. These electors, who are chosen by the political parties to be loyal party members meet after the election to cast their votes for president. Generally the votes are a true representation of how those states voted. Rarely a “faithless elector” may vote in a contrary fashion. Whether fixed or varied the terms are subject to regular review by the electorate. This is to ensure that no government falls to tyranny under the domination of a single ruler for an extended period of time.
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There are some important differences between the British Parliamentary system and the American Presidential system that are largely formalities, or traditions that differ between the two systems. In the American system, the President serves as both the symbolic head of state and the political head of state, whereas In Britain, The Queen is the symbolic head of state and the Prime Minister is the political head of state. In The United States, there is a strong emphasis on the separation between church and state. In England, however, there is an official state religion, which is The Church of England or Anglicanism. A major difference between the two systems is party discipline. Under the British system, Parliament can be dissolved at any time if there is a vote of non-confidence, whereas under the American system, it is much more difficult to throw a president out of office. It can be done by means of impeachment, which means that the president’s legitimacy is called into question and he is asked to resign from his position. Although both systems are technically multi-party systems, the United States has a dominant 2 party system, while Britain has a much more expansive political spectrum.
In the British Parliament, the Queen has remained the symbolic head of state, this
is a formality, it has nothing to do with effective governance. In the United States, however, the President is both the symbolic and political head of state. This is largely to illustrate the power that the president holds, it serves to illuminate his immense political power.
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The separation between Church and State is an ideal that has been adopted by most democracies. What many people fail to recognize is that where the United States government has no religious affiliations, England has an offical state religion, known as “The Church of England” or “Anglicanism.” This illustrates the notion of tradition that continues under the British Parliamentary system and the strong ties that Britain has to its historical roots. Although religion is no longer of important political significance, it is still relevant as a means of tradition.
Although The United States is technically a multi-party system, two dominant systems have emerged, the Democratic party (liberal) and the Republican party (conservative).
The British Parliament practices a multi-party system, by which a variety of independent, special interest parties have the opportunity to gain seats in the house commons. Many argue that the multi-party system is more democratic, because it allows minority groups a say in parliament. On the other hand, the multi-party system is thought to contribute to non-majority governments, which is where a two-party system may be more democratic, but that is a matter of opinion.
Both formal institutions have emerged from the same basic framework of democracy and state preservation. It is a fact that the American Presidential system evolved out of the pre-existing British Parliamentarian principles, which once governed the British colonists in the thirteen colonies. Where as the British Parliament has maintained a lot of its tradition, the United States has adopted a modern means of governance. The similarities that between the two government institutions are often in place to secure democracy and ensure state preservation, whereas the differences are more trivial matters, such as terms in office or formalities.
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