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Chapter 2: Founding and U.S. Constitution

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Declaration of Independence
Document primarily written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress in 1776 declaring the independence of the colonies from Great Britain. Considered the founding document of the American political creed, which promotes equality of opportunity, individual rights, limited government, and consent of the governed.
John Locke
British political philosopher considered a founder of classical liberalism. He used social contract theory to articulate a vision of government whose power was derived from the people with the purpose of protecting natural rights.
natural rights
Rights that exist in Nature and that every human being naturally possesses prior to the existence of government. John Locke's natural rights included life, liberty, and property.
consent of the governed
The idea that legitimate government power must be derived from the people. The government's power is limited to that power which the people consent to give it.
Articles of Confederation
America's first written constitution that served as the basis for America's national government from 1781 to 1789. It created a confederate system of government.
confederation
A system of government in which states retain sovereign authority except for the powers expressly delegated to the national government. All political power is derived from and originates in the states.
Annapolis Convention
Convention of five states in 1786 to discuss the revisions to the national constitution, the Articles of Confederation. The meeting resulted in a resolution calling for another convention the next year in Philadelphia.
Shay's Rebellion
Rebellion by farmers in Massachusetts to prevent bank's from foreclosing on debt-ridden farms. The challenge of containing the rebellion demonstrated to some the need to strengthen the national government.
Constitutional Convention of 1787
Convention in 1787 to revise the Articles of Confederation that ultimately produced a proposal for an entirely new national constitution that would create a federal system and more powerful national government.
Virginia Plan
A proposal during the Constitutional Convention that representation in the national legislature be based on the population of each state.
New Jersey Plan
A proposal during the Constitutional Convention that representation in the national legislature be equal for each state regardless of population.
Great Compromise
Agreement reached at the Constitutional Convention that gave each state an equal number of senators but based representation in the House of Representatives on population.
Three-Fifths Compromise
Agreement reached at the Constitutional Convention that stipulated that for purposes of the apportionment of congressional seats in the House of Representatives three-fifths of slaves would be counted.
bicameral
A legislature composed of two chambers or houses; distinguished from unicameral (one house) legislatures.
checks and balances
Mechanism through which each branch of government is able to participate in and influence the activities of the other branches; a design feature of the U.S. Constitution that requires the three branches to share power in order to govern and enables them to check each other's ambitions.
separation of powers
Design feature of the U.S. Constitution that separates the power of government between different institutions (branches) in order to avoid concentrations of power.
federalism
Design feature of the U.S. Constitution that divides power between the national government and the states.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1791. The federal Bill of Rights placed restrictions on the new national government to protect state power and civil liberties.
expressed powers
Specific powers granted by the Constitution to Congress in Article I, Section 8 and the president in Article II. Powers explicitly stated in the U.S. Constitution; also called enumerated powers.
elastic clause
The "necessary and proper clause" in Article I, Section 8 that grants Congress the power to make laws necessary to carry out its expressed powers. (Ex: borrow money, coin money, raise tax revenue).
implied powers
Powers claimed by Congress based on the elastic clause. (Ex: create national bank).
judicial review
The power of the courts to review and, if necessary, declare actions of the legislative and executive branches invalid or unconstitutional; the Supreme Court formally asserted this power in Marbury v. Madison (1803).
supremacy clause
Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, which states that laws passed by the national government and all treaties are the supreme law of the land and superior to all laws adopted by any state.
Federalists
Those who favored a strong national government and supported the federal constitution proposed at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Anti-Federalists
Those who favored strong state governments and a weak national government and who were opponents of the federal constitution proposed at the Constitutional Convention in 1787.
Federalist Papers
A series of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay supporting ratification of the federal constitution.
Publius
Name used by some Federalists when writing essays supporting ratification.
Brutus
Names used by some Anti-Federalists when writing essays opposing ratification.
tyranny
Oppressive government that employs cruel and unjust use of power and authority.
limited government
A government whose powers are defined and limited by a constitution.
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