tv Reel America Meet Your Federal Government - 1946 CSPAN January 12, 2019 8:19am-8:36am EST
>> next on "reel america," from 1946, a 15 minute classroom film describing how the three branches of government work. in "meet your federal government," a highschooler visits his uncle jim, who was a congressman. he finishes the day at the lincoln memorial. ♪ bill: i am bill miller, a senior at bellevue high.
it's my first day back at school after the visit with uncle jim in washington, d.c., he is a congressman. i sure was popular that day, especially since there was a test coming up in civics class. you would've thought i was running a special review session, the way they asked all the questions. again cannot wait -- the gang could not wait to know what i saw in washington, and what i heard. i told them what happened when mr. miller goes to washington. uncle jim met me at union station as i got off my train. when i told them that my civics class wanted me to make a report, he walked my legs off showing me how the federal government works. we started out at the plaza in front of the station. the first thing he showed me from the station was capitol hill, the seat of our federal government. federal agencies are scattered
all over the united states, the washington is the center of all national government activity. uncle jim felt we better start with a library of congress. it is the biggest and most important library in america, set up originally for senators and representatives, but open to all of the people. here are most of the important documents of the government, and copies of most newspapers and magazines published in the united states. one thing we wanted to see was in a glass case no the front of the building, the foundation of all of the powers and laws of our government. we couldn't have our form of government without it -- it is the original constitution of the united states of america. it provides for a government with three main branches, each with special functions. uncle jim says this is how they work. >> the constitution provides that the law should be made by the legislative branch, carried out by the executive branch, and
interpreted by a third branch of the government, the judicial branch, to make certain no law violates the constitution. legislative, executive, judicial. these are the three main branches of our federal government. now let's go take a look at one of them. bill: we went to take a look at each of the three branches to see how it works. our first stop was the capital building, that's where the legislative branch or congress meets. uncle jim was anxious to tell me firsthand just what congress does. after all, he is a congressman. he explained it to me this way. uncle jim: the capital is part of our system of representative government. the members of congress to meet
re make our law, but they can act only according to powers granted by the constitution. the entire country is divided into congressional districts of about 300,000 people each. members of the house are elected for short-term, two years, and since they had to come up for reelection so often, they must constantly be responsive to the wishes of voters. delegates from territories also said as nonvoting members. the house only does have the job of making the laws. the other half is done by the senate, which meets in the other wing of the capital. senators are elected on the basis of state representation -- two senators from each state regardless of population. they hold office for long terms, six years. their terms of office are staggered so that some expire every two years, guaranteeing there will always be experienced men in the senate.
all of our federal laws have to go through the house and the senate. this is the way it works, bill. first, and proposed law is introduced into one branch of the legislator as a bill -- legislature as a bill. it is given a number and rented -- printed like this one. it is then turned over to one of the legislative committees for consideration. the committee holds hearings where the public can speak for or against the legislation. sometimes, these hearings go on for months. unless it is killed by the committee, the bill then goes to the floor of the house or senate, where ever it originated, to be discussed and voted on. suppose, for example, this bill started in the house of representatives. if it is passed, it goes on to the senate. if the senate votes against the
bill, it dies, but if it is passed in the senate, the bill must be sent on to the president. the president may either sign it, in which case it becomes a law, or he may veto it. if he vetoes the bill, it may still become a lot of the senate and house override his veto by a two thirds vote. but in addition to making laws, congress has certain other specific duties to perform. for instance, issues all of the money in circulation throughout the usa under its constitutional power to borrow money on the credit of the united states. through printing and engraving at the federal mend, the government makes all of the currency we use in everyday business. of course, congress cannot just print new money every time it has to pay the expenses of the government. so the constitution gives congress the power to raise what
it needs by levying and collecting taxes, duties, and excises. you must have heard your father speak about the income tax. these excises and duties are levied on things such as movie admission, gasoline, luxuries such as jewelry, furs, silverware, and other things. another way congress raises money to run the government is from taxes on goods imported from other countries. these are called tariffs. congress also regulates commerce amongst the states, goods moving across state boundaries are not taxed, but regulated by congress through the interstate commerce commission. congress and only congress has the power to declare war, even though the president may call for a declaration of war.
and when the united states is involved in international agreements, the senate is all-important. for example, the signature of our secretary of state to the united nations charter had to be approved by a two thirds majority of the senate. a clause in the constitution states that treaties are made by the president that only with the advice and consent of the senate. bill: we went down pennsylvania avenue for a look at the white house, that's where the president lives. the white house represents the executive branch of the government. before we got through, i could understand why uncle jim said the president has the biggest and toughest job in the world. uncle jim: yes, the white house is both the home and office of the president. the president is chosen either -- by the people through the electoral college.
some of the president's duties are set by the constitution. others are established by laws, treaties, president, and public opinion. -- precedent and public opinion. the president's main job is that the law should be faithfully executed. he must decide whether to sign or veto every congressional bill, and when a bill becomes law, he is responsible for putting that law into effect. to help him, the president has 10 permanent executive departments. state, treasury, war, justice, post office, navy, interior, agriculture, commerce, and labor. the secretary of each department is a member of the president's cabinet, which is his chief advisory body. from time to time, as emergencies arise, special independent agencies are created to assist the president. two examples are the veterans
administration and the federal security agency. i probably don't need to tell you that the president is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces. this is a heavy responsibility, for congress gives him the power of making many military decisions in conducting a war. finally, it is the president's duty, he usually has a message to the joint session of congress. bill: the next outcome of the supreme court building. this is where they decide whether laws follow the constitution. uncle jim told me to notice the inscription over the entrance. equal justice under law. he said this pretty much sums up the purpose of the supreme court. then he went on to explain what it meant. uncle jim: the supreme court is
the judicial branch of the federal government. here, the law itself is on trial. it is judged according to whether it violates our constitutional rights. the court is composed of nine justices who hold office. -- they're a pointless must be now you should have a good idea of how the constitution sets up the three main branches of our government. the legislature, which is congress, the executive branch, which is the president, and the judiciary, which is the supreme court. the legislature is charged with making policies. that is, it passes the law. the executives responsible for carrying out policies.
and the judiciary is charged with reviewing and judging policies. while each of these branches of government has its own clearly defined duties, they all work together as a team through a system of checks and balances. here are some examples of what i mean. the president appoints justices to the supreme court. executive balances judicial. congress determines the size of the supreme court. legislative balances judicial. the president has veto power over the bills that are in by congress. executive checks legislative. the president can propose laws he thinks need to be passed. executive balances legislative. the supreme court has power to declare unconstitutional any law passed by congress. judicial checks legislative. congress must approve many of the appointments made by the president. legislative checks executive. congress appropriates money for the executive department. legislative balances executive. that's the way the constitution
balances all three branches to keep them working together as a team. it's an important principle of our government. >> by the time i got this far in my story, i was beginning to see how important this business of teamwork is to them every american citizen, and to realize how far ahead the founding fathers were looking and guaranteeing that nobody in our federal government would ever get too much power in setting it up, so that the three federal branches would have to work together for the good of all the people. it was at the washington monument that i began to get the feeling that may be these men
were still watching us. uncle jim sort of suggested the idea. >> george washington was a great fighter, bill. he knew independence always had to be fought for. it took him to bring together the quarreling states, which are always quicker to fight each other them they were to tackle a common enemy. ♪ >> and there were others, like thomas jefferson, all believing we could become a nation where people would be more important than anything else, and where the people could govern themselves. i think jefferson would have a lot to say today about those democratic principles he first taught. equal rights and equal opportunity for all. and abraham lincoln, why, lincoln has become a hero to the oppressed people all over the world because he lived and died
for freedom and equality, and because he led the country through one of its greatest crises. he believed the government of the people, by the people, and for the people should not perish from the earth. well, bill, washington and jefferson and lincoln are dead. they began our democracy, but they knew the job would have to be finished by those who lived after them. they knew that this democracy would last only as long as its citizens were willing to keep working on it.
it is our government, bill. from here on, it is up to us. ♪ [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2018] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] you're watching american history tv. all weekend, every weekend on c-span 3. announcer: next, villanova history professor mark gallicchio talked about his book, "implacable foes: war in the pacific, 1944-1945" co-authored with world war ii veteran waldo heinrichs. it won the 2015 bancroft prize bancroft prize for history and diplomacy and examines grand strategy as well as the experience of the common soldier during the final bloody months of the war. the new york military affairs symposium posted this 80 minute event. >> marc gallicchio, a history professor and chair of the history department at villanova university.