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the institution through which a society makes and enforces its public policies.


body of fundamental laws setting out the principles, structures, and processes of a government.


supreme and absolute power within a territory.

limited government

government is restricted in what they may do

Magna Carta

a document created by the English that limited the power of the king, and provided for trial by jury and due process of the law.

natural law

life, liberty, and the right to own property

natural rights

life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness

Thomas Jefferson

author of the Declaration of Independence


refusal to buy or sell certain products or services

Articles of Confederation

this document established a "firm league of friendship," and called for strong state governments, and an extremely limited national government


formal approval


the group of delegates who wrote our Constitution, and are considered the Founding Fathers of our nation

Virginia Plan

called for a government with three separate branches, a bicameral legislature wtih representation in both houses based on population or wealth, Congress would choose a national executive and judiciary

New Jersey Plan

called for an equal unicameral Congress that would be in charge of national tax and trade, more than one executive, federal judiciary chosen by the executive

Connecticut Compromise

also known as the "Great Compromise," an agreement that would create a bicameral Congress with one house based on population and the other equal.

Three-fifths Compromise

provided that all "free persons" should be counted as three-fifths of a person toward the population count for the house of representatives


included James Madison and Alexander Hamiltion; this group believed in a strong national government.


included Patrick Henry and Samuel Adams; this group believed in a Bill of Rights, the mention of God, and stronger state governments.


introduction to the Constitution

Separation of Powers

basic principle of the American system of government that the powers of the three branches are divided throughout the government

checks and balances

system of overlapping the powers of the three branches to permit each branch to check the actions of the others



judicial review

power of the coutrs to determine whether what the government does is in accord with what the Constitution provides


to declare illegal, specifically within the government


the division of power amon a central government and several regional governments


changes int he written word to the Constitution

Bill of Rights

first ten amendments

executive agreement

a pact made by the president directly with the head of a foreign state


a formal agreement between two or more sovereign states (in the U.S. it must be approved by the Senate)

Electoral College

the group that makes the formal selection of the nation's President


an advisory body to the President, traditional made up of the heads of the Executive Departments and other officials

writ of habeas corpus

court order directed to prevent unjust arrests and imprisonment; commands the court to rule before a person can be imprisoned for a crime

ex post facto laws

laws passed after the fact

delegated powers

powers given to the government in the Constitution

expressed powers

powers expressely spelled out in the Constitution (examples are veto, impeachment, declare war, etc.)

implied powers

not expressely stated, but suggested by the Constitution; includes the "Necessary and Proper Clause" (examples are highways, gambling and smoking laws, etc.)

Inherent powers

powers that belong to the National Government because it is a sovereign nation (examples include immigration, deportation, protecting the nation, etc.)

reserved powers

powers that are not granted to the national government by the Constitution, meaning they are granted to the States (examples include education, marriage laws, gambling laws, etc.)

concurrent powers

powers granted to both the national and state governments (examples include taxes, establishing courts, borrowing money, etc.)

Categorical Grants

federal money granted to a state for a specific purpose

Block Grant

federal money given to states or other local governments with fewer-than-usual strings attached

grants-in-aid programs

federal money or resources given to states or local governments

full faith and credit clause

the constitutional idea that each state accepts the laws and court matters of other states


the constitutional idea that states will return criminals to the state where the crime occurred for trial


current office holders

splinter parties

parties that have split away from a major party (Bull moose party)

ideological parties

parties based on a particular set of beliefs

political party

group of people who seek control of the government by winning elections


firm allegiance to a political party

minor party

a political party without wide support


a country that does not have any dominate parties but is ruled by many different parties

national chairperson

in the U.S. it is the elected leader in the two major political parties

national committee

an elected body in each national party that creates a party platform

national convention

the party meeting where both parties officially nominate a person to run for president

split-ticket voting

a person votes for multiple parties on their ballot

economic protest parties

third parties that focus only on economic issues

single-issue parties

thid parties in the U.S. that focus only on one important issue


practice of drawing electoral district lines in order to limit the voting strength of a particular group or party


the right to vote


all of the people entitled to vote in a given election

Civil Rights Act of 1964

government act that banned racial discrimination

Voting Rights Act of 1965

government act that banned the use of the poll tax and literacy test

Motor Voter Law

Directs every state to allow eligible citizens to register to vote when they get their drivers license, by mail and make registration forms available at locals offices.

off-year elections

congressional elections held in the even-numbered years between presidential elections.

political socialization

the process by which people gain their political attitudes and opinions

gender gap

measureable differences between the partisan choices of men and women today

General Citizenship Act

grants all Native Americans the rights of citizenship, including the right to vote in federal elections.

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