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A nation's basic law

Declaration of Independence

The document approved by representatives of the American colonies in 1776 that stated their grievances against the British monarch and declared their independence.

Natural Rights

rights that belong to all human beings from birth

Consent of the Governed

the idea that government derives its authority by the sanction of the people

Limited Government

The idea that certain restrictions should be placed on government to protect the natural rights of citizens

Articles of Confederation

the document that created the first central government for the United States; it was replaced by the Constitution in 1789

Shay's Rebellion

a series of attacks on courthouses by a small band of farmers led by Revolutionary War Captain Daniel Shays to block foreclosure proceedings.

U.S. Constitution

The document written in 1787 and ratified in 1788 that sets forth the institutional structure of the U.S. government and the tasks these institutions perform. It replaced the Articles of Confederation.


Parties or interest groups that James Madison saw as arising from the unequal distribution of property or wealth and attacking as having the potential to cause instability in government

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

Virginia Plan

The proposal at the Constitutional Convention that called for representation of each state in Congress in proportion to that state's share of the U.S. population.

Connecticut Compromise

Compromise agreement by states at the Constitutional Convention for a bicameral legislature with a lower house in which representation would be based on population and an upper house in which each state would have two senators

Writ of Habeas Corpus

a court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody

Separation of Powers

the division of power among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government

Checks and Balances

A system that allows each branch of government to limit the powers of the other branches in order to prevent abuse of power


a government in which citizens rule through elected representatives


supporters of the constitution


people who opposed the Constitution

Federalist Papers

Series of essays that defended the Constitution and tried to reassure Americans that the states would not be overpowered by the federal government.

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution

Marbury v. Madison

This case establishes the Supreme Court's power of Judicial Review

Judicial Review

the power of the Supreme Court to declare laws and actions of local, state, or national governments unconstitutional

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