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People, places, things, and terms for the study of US History in the Constitutional Period

Great Compromise

Compromise between the Virginia Plan and New Jersey Plan leading to a bicameral Congress with representation in the HOR based on a state's population and equal representation in the Senate.


Written plan of government


A loose association of states.

Virginia Plan

Proposed by James Madison, the plan called for representation to congress based on a state's population.

Federalist Papers

Essays written by James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay in support of ratification of the US Constitution.These essays are used today as a guiding principle for understanding the intent of the constitution.

Popular Sovereignty

Principle of government that the majority rules.

Rule of Law

Principle of government that no one in the United States is above the law.


French philosopher who wrote "Spirit of Laws" suggesting separation of powers into three branches of government consisting of an executive, legislative, and judicial branches with checks and balances limiting the power of each branch so no one branch can control the others.

Checks and Balances

The idea that government powers are limited by checks and balances that can keep one branch from becoming too powerful.

Alexander Hamilton

Advocate for a strong central government, he would serve as the first Secretary of the Treasury.

James Madison

Known as the "Father of the Constitution". He took secret notes in a secret handwriting of the debates at the convention, authored many of the Federalist Papers, and ushered the Bill of Rights through the new government.

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the constitution provide protections for individuals from the power of government. These rights served as a negotiation tool between Federalists and Anti-Federalists in the political debate over ratification of the new constitution with Anti-Federalists agreeing to the new constitution if the Bill of Rights were added.


A principle of government where power is shared between the national and state governments.

Enumerated powers

Powers stated in the United States Constitution.

Concurrent powers

Powers that are shared between the national and state governments such as the power to tax, make roads, and regulate commerce.

Reserved powers

Powers that are reserved to state government such as public education, professional licences, and selection of state senators.

Electoral College

Each state gets a number of electors equal to its number of members in the U.S. House of Representatives plus one for each of its two U.S. Senators. When you cast your vote for president, you are casting your vote for an elector. The electors are duty bound to honor the candidate choice of the state for the election of the president.


An act or instance that may be used as an example in dealing with subsequent similar instances or as a pattern for behavior and decisions to be followed.


A state in which the supreme power rests in the body of citizens entitled to vote and is exercised by representatives chosen directly or indirectly by them.

Articles of Confederation

The first plan of government after the American Revolution was a loose confederation of the 13 states but had no ability to tax, and no strong central authority.

Three-Fifths Compromise

A compromise in regard to the counting of 3 African Americans for every 5 for taxation and population counts purposes.

Separation of Powers

A principle of government where power is divided between three branches; the legislative, executive, and judicial.

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