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A human right based on nature or God

Articles of Confederation

A weak Constitution that governed America during the Revolutionary War

Constitutional Convention

A meeting in Philadelphia in 1787 that produced a new constitution

Shay's Rebellion

A 1787 rebellion in which ex-Revolutionary War soldiers attempted to prevent foreclosures of farms as a result of high interest rates and taxes

Virginia Plan

Proposal to create a strong national government

New Jersey Plan

Proposal to create a weak national government

Great Compromise

Plan to have a popularly elected House based on state population and a state-selected Senate, with two members for each state


A government in which elected representatives make the decisions

Judicial Review

The power of the courts to declare laws unconstitutional


Government authority shared by national and local governments

Enumerated Powers

Powers given to the national government

Checks and Balances

Authority shared by three branches of government

Reserved Powers

Powers given to the state government alone

Concurrent Powers

Powers shared by the national and state governments

Separation of Powers

Constitutional authority is shared by three different branches of government


A group with a distinct political interest


Those who favor a stronger national government


Those who favor a weaker national government


An alliance of factions

Bill of Rights

First ten amendments to the Constitution

Habeas Corpus

An order to produce an arrested person before a judge

Bill of Attainder

A law that declares a person, without a trial, to be guilty of a crime

Ex Post Facto Law

A law that makes an act criminal although the act was legal when it was committed


A new provision in the Constitution that has been ratified by the states

Line-item veto

An executive's ability to block a particular provision in a bill passed by the legislature

Charles A. Beard

A historian who argued that the Founders were largely motivated by the economic advantage of their class in writing the Constitution

James Madison

A principal architect of the Constitution who felt that a government powerful enough to encourage virtue in its citizens was too powerful

Thomas Jefferson

Author of the Declaration of Independence

Federalists papers

A series of political tracts that explained many of the ideas of the Founders

Massachusetts Constitution

A state constitution with clear separation of powers but considered to have produced too weak a government

Pennsylvania Constitution

A governing document considered to be highly democratic yet with a tendency toward tyranny as the result of concentrating all powers in one set of hands

natural rights

Rights of all human beings that are ordained by God, discoverable in nature and history, and essential to human progress

Patrick Henry

Individual who refused to attend the Constitutional Convention because he "smelled a rat"


A form of democracy in which leaders and representatives are selected by means of popular competitive elections

Constitutional Convention

A meeting of delegates in 1778 to revise the Articles of Confederation

Checks and Balances

The power of legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government to block some acts by the other two branches


An alliance between different interest groups or parties to achieve some political goal

Inalienable rights

Rights thought to be based on nature and providence rather than on the preferences of people


Change in, or addition to a constitution


A group of people sharing a common interest who seek to influence public policy for their collective benefit

Judicial Review

The power of the courts to declare acts of the legislature and of the executive unconstitutional and therefore null and void

Federalist papers

A series of eighty-five essays published in New York newspapers to convince New Yorkers to adopt the newly proposed Constitution


Supporters of a stronger central government who advocated ratification of the Constitution and then founded a political party

Line-item Veto

The power of an executive to veto some provisions in an appropriations bill while approving others


Those who opposed giving as much power to the national government as the Constitution did, favoring instead stronger states' rights

Ex post facto law

A law that would declare an act criminal after the act was committed

Madisonian view of human nature

A philosophy holding that accommodating individual self-interest provided a more practical solution to the problem of government than aiming to cultivate virtue


An agreement among sovereign states that delegates certain powers to a national government

Writ of habeas corpus

A court order requiring police officials to produce an individual held in custody and show sufficient cause for that person's detention


A government that is legally and politically independent of any other government

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