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Declaration of Independence

the document recording the proclamation of the second Continental Congress (4 July 1776) asserting the independence of the colonies from Great Britain

social contract

the notion that society is based on an agreement between government and the governed in which people agree to give up some rights in exchange for the protection of others

natural rights

the idea that all humans are born with rights, which include the right to life, liberty, and property

John Locke

English philosopher who advocated the idea of a "social contract" in which government powers are derived from the consent of the governed and in which the government serves the people; also said people have natural rights to life, liberty and property.

Magna Carta

This document was signed by King John in 1215. It was the first document that limited the power of the government.


form of government in which the leader has absolute power and authority

direct democracy

Government in which citizens vote on laws and select officials directly

representative democracy

A system of government in which citizens elect representatives, or leaders, to make decisions about the laws for all the people.


an autocracy governed by a king or queen who usually inherits the authority


a movement in the 18th century that advocated the use of reason in the rethinking of accepted ideas and social institutions

Articles of Confederation

This document, the nation's first constitution, was adopted by the Second Continental Congress in which states and individuals held most of the power.

Boston Massacre

British soldiers fired into a crowd of colonists who were teasing and taunting them. Five colonists were killed.

1st Continental Congress

(1774) Convention of delegates from 12 of 13 colonies gathered in Philadelphia to write a response to the "Intolerable Acts".

2nd Continental Congress

Congress of American leaders who declared independence from England in 1776, and helped lead the United States during the Revolution

Lexington and Concord

sites in Massachusetts of the first battles of the American Revolution.

Stamp Act

A tax that the British Pariliament placed on newspapers and official documents sold in the American Colonies

French and Indian War

This struggle between the British and the French in the colonies of North America was part of a worldwide war known as the Seven Years' War.

Proclamation of 1763

law forbidding English colonists to settle west of the Appalachian Mountains

intolerable acts

Also known as the Coercive Acts these laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 that closed Boston Harbor, dissolved the Massachusetts assembly, and forced Boston colonists to house British soldiers.

Common Sense

A pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in 1776 to convince the colonists that it was time to become independent.


People who feared the Constitution, thinking it gave too much power to the Federal Government


supporters of the stronger central government who advocated the ratification of the new constitution

Great Compromise

the agreement by which Congress would have two houses, the Senate (where each state gets equal representation-two senators) and the House of Representatives (where representation is based on population).

Virginia Plan

A plan at the Constitutional Convention that called for a strong central government with a bicameral legislature with more power going to the big states

Commerce and Slave Trade Compromise

Resolved differences between northern and southern states; Congress could not tax exports nor ban the slave trade for 20 yrs.

New Jersey Plan

The proposal at the Constitutional Convention that called for equal representation of each state in Congress regardless of the state's population.

3/5 Compromise

the decision at the Constitutional convention to count slaves as 3/5 of a person for the purpose of deciding the population and determining how many seats each state would have in Congress

Electoral College Compromise

A group of people choosen by each state to select president and vice president.

Boston Tea Party

protest against increased tea prices in which colonists dumped British tea into Boston Harbor

Declaration of Rights and Grievances

stated grievances against the crown, issued by First Continental Congress, also had a colonial bill of rights

Mayflower Compact

a formal document, written in 1620, that provided law and order to the Plymouth colony


French philosopher who believed that people are naturally good, but are corrupted by society.


believed in religious tolerance and freedom of speech


Policy by which a nation sought to export more than it imported in order to gain wealth and power.


the Enlighenment writer who believed in seperation of powers

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