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all vocab from chapters 1-3 from the American Government Continuity and Change text book


The formal vehicle through which policies are made ad affairs of state are conducted


Member of the political community to whim certain rights and obligations are attached


The study of who gets what, when, and how- or how policy decisions are made.


A form of government in which power is vested in hereditary kings and queens who govern in the interests of all


a form of government in which power resides in a leader who rules according to self-interests and with out regard for individual rights and liberties.


a form of government in which the right to participate is conditioned on the possession of wealth, social status, military position, or achievement


A system of government that gives power to the people, whether directly or through elected representatives.

Social Contract

an agreement between the people and their government signifying their consent to be governed

Social Contract Theory

the belief that people are free and equal by god-given right and that this in turn required that all people give their consent to be governed

Direct Democracy

a system of government in which members of the polity meed to discuss all policy decisions and then agree to abide by majority rule

Indirect (representative) Democracy

a system of government that gives citizens the opportunity to cote for representatives who will work of their behalf


a government rooted in the consent of the governed; a representative or indirect democracy


an economic theory designed to increase a nation's wealth through the development of commercial industry and a favorable balance of trade

Stamp Act Congress

meeting of representatives of nine of the thirteen colonies held in New York City in 1765, during which representatives drafted a document to send to the king listing how their rights had been violated

Committees of Correspondence

organizations in each of the American colonies created to keep colonists abreast of developments with the British; served as powerful molders of public opinion against the British

first continental congress

Meeting held in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774, in which fifty-six delegates (from every colony except Georgia) adopted a resolution in opposition to the Coercive Acts.

second continental congress

Meeting that convened in Philadelphia on May 10, 1775, at which it was decided that an army should be raised and George Washington of Virginia was named commander in chief.


Type of government where the national government derives its powers from the states; a league of independent states

declaration of independence

document drafted by Thomas Jefferson in 1776 that proclaimed the right of the American colonies to separate from Great Britain

articles of confederation

The compact among the thirteen original colonies that created a loose league of friendship, with the national government drawing its powers from the states.

shay's rebellion

a 1786 rebellion in which an army of 1,500 disgruntled and angry farmers led by Daniel Shays marched to Springfield, Massachusetts, and forcibly restrained the state court from foreclosing mortgages on their farms

virginia plan

the first general plan for the Constitution, proposed by James Madison and Edmund Randolph. Its key points were a bicameral legislature, an executive chosen by the legislature, and a judiciary also named by the legislature

new jersey plan

a framework for the Constitution proposed by a group of small states; its key points were a one-house legislature with one vote for each state, the establishment of the acts of Congress as the "supreme law" of the land, and a supreme judiciary with limited power.

great compromise

A decision made during the Constitutional Convention to give each state the same number of representatives in the Senate regardless of size; representation in the House was determined by population

three-fifths compromise

Agreement reached at the constitutional convention stipulating that each slave was to be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of determining population for representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

separation of powers

a way of dividing power among three branches of government in which members of the house of representatives, members of the senate, the president, and the federal courts are selected by and responsible to different constituencies.

checks and balances

a governmental structure that gives each of the three branches of government some degree of oversight and control over the actions of the others

federal system

plan of government created in the U.S. Constitution in which power is divided between the national government and the state governments and in which independent states are bound together under one national government

enumerated powers

seventeen specific powers granted to Congress under Article 1, section 8, of the U.S. Constitution; these powers include taxation, coinage of money, regulation of commerce, and the authority to provide for a national defense.

necessary and proper clause

The final paragraph of Article I, section 8, of the Constitution, which gives Congress the authority to pass all laws "necessary and proper" to carry out the enumerated powers specified in the Constitution; also called the elastic clause.

implied powers

Powers derived from the enumerated powers and the necessary and proper clause. These powers are not stated specifically but are considered to be reasonably implied through the exercise of delegated powers

supremacy clause

portion of Article VI of the U.S. Constitution mandating that national law is supreme to (that is, supersedes) all other laws passed by the states or by any other subdivision of government


Those who favored a stronger national government and supported the proposed U.S. Constitution; later became the first U.S. political party


those who favored strong state governments and a weak national government; opposed the ratification of the U.S. Constitution

the federalist papers

A series of eighty-five political papers written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay in support of ratification of the U.S. Constitution

bill of rights

The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution

federal system

system of government where the national government and state governments share some powers, derive all authority from the people, and the powers of the national government are specified in the U.S. constitution


Type of government where the national government derives its powers from the states; a league of independent states

unitary system

System of government where the local and regional governments derive all authority from a strong national government

tenth amendment

The final part of the bill of rights that defines the basic principle of American Federalism in stating: "the powers not delegated to the united states by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people."

reserve (or police) powers

powers reserved to the states by the Tenth Amendment that lie at the foundation of a state's right to legislate for the public health and welfare of its citizens

concurrent powers

authority possessed by both the state and national governments that may be exercised concurrently as long as that power is not exclusively within the scope of national power or in conflict with national law

McCulloch vs. Maryland (1819)

the Surpreme Court upheld the power of the national government and denied the right of a state to tax the federal bank using the Constitution's supremacy clause. The Court's broad interpretation of the necessary and proper clause paved the way for later rulings upholding expansive federal powers

Gibbons vs. Ogden (1824)

The Surpreme Court upheld broad congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The Court's broad interpretation of the Constitution's commerce clause paved the way for later rulings upholding expansive federal powers

dual federalism

the belief that having separate and equally powerful levels of government is the best arrangement
ex: think of layer cake

Sixteenth amendment

authorized Congress to enact a national income tax

seventeenth amendment

made senators directly elected by the people; removed their selection from state legislatures

cooperative federalism

the relationship between the national and state governments that began with the New Deal
ex: think of marble cake

categorial grant

grant for which congress appropriates funds for a specific purpose

new federalism

Federal/state relationship proposed by Reagan administration during the 1980s; hallmark is returning administrative powers to the state governments

block grant

broad grant with few strings attached; given to states by the federal government for specified activities, such as secondary education or health services

unfunded mandates

national laws that direct states or local governments to comply with federal rules or regulations (such as clean air or water standards) but contain little or no federal funding to defray the cost of meeting these requirements


a concept derived from the Constitution's supremacy clause that allows the national government to override or preempt state or local actions in certain areas

sovereign immunity

The right of a state to be free from a lawsuit unless it gives permission to the suit. Under the Eleventh Amendment, all states are considered sovereign.

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