A form of government in which the interests of the people are represented through elected leaders.
A form of government in which power is held by a single person, or monarch, who comes to power through inheritance rather than election.
Articles of Confederation
Sent to the states for ratification in 1777, these were the first attempts at a new American Government. It was later decided that the Articles restricted national government too much, and they were replaced by the Constitution.
A system in which the powers of the government are restricted to protect against tyranny.
As understood by James Madison and the framers, the belief that a form of government in which the interests of the people are represented through elected leaders is the best form of government.
Consent of the Governed
The idea that government gains its legitimacy through regular elections in which the people living under that government participate to elect their leaders.
Also known as "unalienable rights," the Declaration of Independence defines them as "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness." The Founders believed that upholding these rights should be the government's central purpose.
A series of eighty-five articles written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that sought to sway public opinion toward the Federalists' position.
Those at the Constitutional Convention who favored a strong national government and a system of separated powers.
Those at the Constitutional Convention who favored strong state government and feared that a strong national government would be a threat to individual rights.
The idea that having a variety of parties and interests within a government will strengthen the system, ensuring that no group possesses total control.
A plan proposed by the larger states during the Constitutional Convention that based representation in the national legislative on Population. The plan also included a variety of other proposals to strengthen the national government.
New Jersey Plan
In response to the Virginia Plan, smaller states at the Constitutional convention proposed that each state should receive equal representation in the national legislature, regardless of size.
The Great Compromise
A compromise between the large and small states, proposed by Connecticut, in which congress would have two houses: a Senate with two legislators per state andy a House of Representatives in which each state's representation would be based on population.
A system of government in which legislative and executive power are closely joined. The legislature (parliament) selects the chief executive (prime minister) who forms the cabinet from members of parliament.
As defined in the 10th amendment, powers that are not given to the national government by the Constitution, or not prohibited to the states, are reserved by the states or the people.
National Supremacy Clause
Part of Article VI, section 2, of the Constitution stating that the Constitution and the laws and treaties of the United States are the "supreme law of the land," meaning national laws take precedent over state laws if the two conflict.
The states' decision during the Constitutional Convention to count each slave as three-fifths of a person in a state's population for the purposes of determining the number of House members and the distribution of taxes.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the Constitution; they protect individual rights and liberties.
Necessary and Proper Clause
Part of Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution that grants Congress the power to pass all laws related to one of its expressed powers; also known as the elastic clause.
A negative or checking power over the other branches that allows Congress to remove the President, Vice President, or other "officers" of the United States") including federal judges) for abuses of power.
Power of the Purse
The constitutional power of Congress to raise and spend money. Congress can use this as a negative or checking power over the other branches by freezing or cutting their funding.
The Supreme Court's power to strike down a law or executive branch action that it finds unconstitutional.
Executive Powers Clause
Part of Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution that states, "The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America." This broad statement has been used to justify many assertions of presidential power.
Part of Article 1, Section 8, of the Constitution that gives Congress "the power to regulate Commerce...among several states." The Supreme Court's interpretation of this clause has varied, but today it serves as the basis for much of Congress's legislation.
Powers explicitly granted to Congress, the President, or the Supreme Court in the first three articles of the Constitution. Examples include Congress's power to "raise and support armies" and the President's power as commander in chief.
Powers supported by the Constitution that are not expressly stated in it.
A significant change in the Constitution that may be accomplished either through amendments (as after the Civil War) or shifts in the Supreme Court's interpretation of the Constitution (as in the New Deal Era).