Inside the Museum
Inside the Museum
Nixon Presidential Library

America's Government

Legislative, Executive, Judicial

Washington D.C.
The Capital of the United States

Posted January 2024

ARTICLE I - LEGISLATIVE BRANCHAll legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives.

LEGISLATIVECongress of the United States meets in the United States Capitol located in Washington, DC.

Congress consists of a Senate and House of Representatives.

  • Congress has the responsibility to make and change laws, based on the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
  • Congress is bicameral; divided into two parts or "Houses."
  • Each "House" has lawmaking responsibilities, with different powers and duties.

America's Government The House of Representatives
The United States House of Representatives
The House Chamber ("Hall of the House of Representatives") is a large assembly room located in the center of the U.S. Capitol's south wing. Members of the House of Representatives sit in unassigned armchairs arranged on tiered platforms that face the House Speaker's rostrum.

The Speaker of the United States House of Representatives is the presiding officer. (Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution).

The number of U.S. Representatives from each state is determined based on population. The membership was limited by federal law on August 8, 1911 to 435 members.

America's Government The House of Representatives

America's Government The Senate
The United States Senate
The United States Senate chamber is in the North Wing of the U.S. Capitol (an extension of the Capitol complex, completed in 1859). The chamber is a rectangular, two-story room with 100 desks, one desk for each Senator, on a tiered platform that faces a central rostrum in the front.

The second floor has a gallery for visitors along all four sides that overlooks the chamber floor.

America's Government The Senate

ARTICLE III - JUDICIAL BRANCHThe judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish.

America's Government The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court Building, built in 1935, is located at One First Street, NE, in Washington, D.C., adjacent to the U.S. Capitol and the Library of Congress.

The Court Chamber is 82 by 91 feet with a 44-foot tall ceiling. It has 24 columns of Siena marble, ivory marble walls and friezes, and marble floors from Italy and Africa.

Justices sit at a raised bench during sessions. To the left of the Bench is the desk of the Clerk of the Court. To the right is the Marshal of the Court's desk. The tables in front of the Bench are for attorneys appearing before the court.

  • Holds the power of judicial review Marbury v. Madison) - determines if a law or policy is Constitutional.
  • Represents the final authority in all cases that involve the laws of Congress.
  • Consists of Nine Supreme Court Justices: a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices.
  • Prospective Justices are nominated by the President of the United States and approved by the U.S. Senate with at least 51 votes.
  • Serve in office for life or until they retire.

America's Government The Supreme Court

America's Government The National Mall
The National Mall
The National Mall is America's most visited national park, where the past, present and future come together. The monuments and memorials in this park honor American forefathers and heroes who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to this country.

America's Front Yard

  • The National Mall is centrally located in Washington, D.C., stretching over 2 miles from the Lincoln Memorial on the west end to the U.S. Capitol on the east end.

National Mall The White House
  • Dirksen Senate Office Building
  • Supreme Court
  • Russell Senate Office Building
  • Capitol
  • Department of Labor
  • Washington Convention Center
  • Freedom Plaza
  • National Museum of American History
  • The White House

National Mall The White House

National Mall Washington Monument
  • Dirksen Senate Office Building
  • Supreme Court
  • Russell Senate Office Building
  • Capitol
  • Cannon House Office Building
  • Rayburn House Office Building
  • Department of Labor
  • Washington Convention Center
  • Freedom Plaza
  • National Museum of American History
  • Smithsonian
  • National Air & Space Museum
  • Washington Monument

National Mall Lincoln Memorial

National Mall Capitol
  • Supreme Court
  • Capitol

National Mall Jefferson Memorial
  • Jefferson Memorial

Charters of Freedom

THE DECLARATIONWe hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Charters of Freedom Declaration of Independence
Declaration of Independence
Written in 1776, announces a complete break with Britain and expresses the ideals upon which the United State was founded.

This document is a replica of the original Declaration of Independence, which is a powerful statement of the principles on which the government of the United States is based upon.

The primary purpose of this document is to explain the right of American colonists to engage in a revolution: "to declare the causes that impel them to the separation." It was also written to rally American troops, gain alliances with foreign countries, and announce the creation of a newly formed country.

There are four main parts to the Declaration of Independence:

  1. Preamble - explains that the colonists have the right to separate from Great Britain and are obligated to explain the causes "which impel them to the separation."
  2. Declaration of Rights - "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
  3. Bill of Indictment - a list of 27 complaints against Britain's King George III.
  4. Statement of Independence - written for a world audience. "We, therefore the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress, Assembled ... solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States ..."

Declaration of Independence 1823 Engraving
1823 Engraving
Usually on display during holidays and special occasions, an 1823 engraving of the William J. Stone facsimile of the Declaration of Independence, on vellum, as commissioned by then Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, is on display. The engraving was donated to the Nixon Library by the Wright family in 1992. For conservation purposes the original is currently in storage, and a photograph of the 1823 engraving is currently on display.

Declaration of Independence 1823 Engraving

Charters of Freedom US Constitution
Constitution of the United States
The Constitution is the supreme law of the United States. The original four large sheets of parchment are depicted on this single page. The Constitution defines the framework and powers of the Federal Government. Written in 1787, the Constitution established an ingenious practical system of government that derives its power from "We the People of the United States and promotes the welfare of ail its citizens.

The Constitution of the United States of America consists of a preamble and seven articles that define the structure of government and how it is designed to operate.

The first three articles establish the three branches of government

  1. Legislative (House of Representatives and Senate)
  2. Executive (Presidency and Vice Presidency)
  3. Judicial (Supreme Court)- and the powers of each branch.

Articles four through seven define the relationship that the states have with the Federal Government, establish the Constitution as the supreme law of our country, and establish the process to amend and ratify the Constitution.

Charters of Freedom Bill of Rights
Bill of Rights
The Bill of Rights protects freedom of speech, press, religion, and assembly, among many other rights.

In June of 1789, James Madison proposed 19 amendments to the U. S. Constitution. The House of Representatives passed a joint resolution containing 17 amendments. The House and Senate compromised and on September 25, 1789, the First Congress of the United States agreed on 12 articles of amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

On October 2, 1789, President Washington sent copies of the 12 articles of amendments adopted by Congress to the states for ratification. 10 of the proposed 12 articles of amendments were ratified by three-fourths of the state legislatures when Virginia became the eleventh state to ratify the articles of amendments on December 15, 1791.

The ratified articles (articles 3 through 12) constitute the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution known as the U.S. Bill of Rights. In 1992, 203 years after it was proposed, article two was ratified as the 27th amendment to the Constitution. Article one has never been ratified.

The actual 1789 joint Resolution of Congress proposing the articles of amendments is on display in the Rotunda of the National Archives Museum located in Washington, DC.

Federalists favored a strong national government and believed that the Constitution did not need a Bill of Rights, since the Constitution already provided any powers not given to the Federal government remained with the people and the states.

Anti-Federalists wanted power to remain with state and local governments and believed that a Bill of Rights was required to protect individual freedoms.

James Madison, as a representative in the House of Representatives, revised the wording of the Constitution as he thought necessary. Other representatives were opposed to this, arguing that Congress could not change the wording of the Constitution. Therefore, Madison's proposed changes became a list of Constitutional amendments to follow Article VII of the U.S. Constitution.

The Bill of Rights are as follows:

  • Amendment 1: Freedom of Religion, Speech, Press, Assembly and Petition
  • Amendment 2: The Right to Bear Arms
  • Amendment 3: The Housing of Soldiers (quartering)
  • Amendment 4: Protection from Unreasonable Searches and Seizures
  • Amendment 5: Protection of rights in Life, Liberty, and Property
  • Amendment 6: Rights of Accused Persons in Criminal Cases
  • Amendment 7: Rights in Civil Cases
  • Amendment 8: Excessive Bail, Fines, and Punishments Forbidden
  • Amendment 9: Other Rights of Citizens
  • Amendment 10: Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution are reserved to the states

RICHARD NIXONI consider my four appointments to the Supreme Court to have been among the most constructive and far reaching actions of my Presidency.

Chief Justice Warren Burger
Warren Burger

Justice Harry Blackmun
Harry Blackmun

Justice Lewis Powell
Lewis Powell

Justice William Rehnquist
William Rehnquist

SUPREME COURTLeaving a Legacy on the Bench
One of the most important Presidential responsibilities - and an opportunity to leave a lasting legacy - is the filling of seats on the Supreme Court. Supreme Court Justices are appointed for life, which means that a President's nominee can serve long after the president has left the scene.

  • Warren Burger
    President Nixon's first opportunity came with the retirement of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Nixon nominated Warren Burger, a Minnesota judge, who was easily confirmed by the Senate.
  • Harry Blackmun
    The President had a difficult time with his next Supreme Court nomination. His first two choices were Southerners rejected by the Senate. Then the Senate confirmed his nomination of Eighth Circuit Court judge Harry Blackmun by a vote of 94-0.
  • Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist
    In 1971, Associate Justices Hugo Black and John Marshall Harlan resigned within the same week for health reasons. Lobbied by the First Lady, Nixon considered nominating Mildred Lillie, a California appeals court judge who would have been the first woman nominated to the Court. The American Bar Association, acknowledging that Lillie was the most qualified woman available, rejected her as not sufficiently qualified. Ultimately, President Nixon selected Lewis Powell, former president of the ABA, and William Rehnquist, an Assistant Attorney General.

    Rehnquist's 33-year tenure - with 19 of those years as Chief Justice - would allow Nixon's conservative legacy to live on for many years.

Justice Presidential Commissions
In the Oval Office
  • President Nixon presents the newly confirmed Supreme Court Justices Lewis Powell and William Rehnquist their framed Presidential Commissions.