Level 299
Level 300

Early America & the Constitution


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Declaration of Independence
This document stated that power came from the people (popular sovereignty) and listed the grievances (what we were mad about) and said that the United States was free from Great Britain
Articles of Confederation
This document was the first form of government for the United States. It set up a confederation and the federal government had very little power. All the power was in the hands of the states.
Constitution
This document is the outline of the government of the US. It also says that power comes from the people (popular sovereignty). The Constitution is divided into different sections - a Preamble, the Articles,…
Bill of Rights
Recognized by William and Mary which limited the powers of the monarchy, prohibited Catholics from occupying he throne and guaranteed the role of Parliament in government
Legislative Branch
(Congress) Makes the laws. The two houses of the federal legislature are the House of Representatives (determined by population) and the Senate (has two senators from each state). Both representatives and senators are electe…
Executive Branch
(President) Executes the laws. When a law is passed, it is up to the President (through departments and agencies) to enforce the laws - make them happen. The President also makes appointments and deals …
Judicial Branch (U.S. Supreme Court)
Supreme Court and lesser courts interprets the laws and determines if they are constitutional. Federal judges are appointed for life because the founders did not want judges to be influenced by politics. Judges ar…
Social Contract
An implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection. Theories of a social contract became popular in the 16th, 1…
Capitalism
An economic system that allows for individual choice, where the government does not interfere with business.
Socialism
Economic and political system where the government owns the means of production, distributes the products, determines and distributes the wages, and provides social services.
Bicameral
A two house legislature
Due Process
A Constitutional guarantee to apply fair and consistent legal procedures in courts of law to protect citizens against subjective actions by the government.
Federalism
Dividing the government's power between the national and state governments.
Separation of Powers
The sharing of the government's power; the power is divided equally between the three separate branches of the government.
Checks and Balances
Not wanting any ONE branch to get too powerful, the Founding Fathers gave each branch certain ways to limit the power of the other two.
Judicial Review (Marbury vs. Madison)
The Marbury vs. Madison case of 1803 established the principle of Judicial Review (the Supreme Court could decide if laws are unconstitutional).
Popular Sovereignty
Let the people decide on whether slavery should be allowed in territories through voting.
Limited Government
The government only has certain powers that the people give it. For example, neither the Congress nor the President, nor the Courts have "unlimited" power to do whatever they want - they are "limited…
Elastic Clause (Necessary & Proper Clause)
This clause gives the national government "implied powers" - implied power to pass any law "necessary and proper" for the execution of its express power. Allows for the "stretching" of powers of the national govern…
Supremacy Clause
Article VI of the Constitution states that the Constitution, laws passed by Congress, and treaties of the United States are the Supreme Law of the Land.
Impeachment
The Constitution includes a procedure for charging some federal officials with crimes and removing them from office. Impeachment ONLY means CHARGING a person with a crime - it does NOT mean they have been pr…
Electoral College
The system for electing the President created by the Constitution. It grants electoral votes to each state based roughly on the size of the state's population (number of Representatives in both houses of Congress). Alth…
Fourteenth Amendment
an 1868 amendment to the United States Constitution that guarantees equal protection of the laws, A constitutional amendment giving full rights of citizenship to all people born or naturalized in the United States, except for American Indians.
McCulloch vs. Maryland
The 1819 case in which the principle of Elastic Clause was established. Elastic Clause gave Congress the right to make laws necessary to carry out its other powers.
Plessy vs. Ferguson
The 1896 case in which the Supreme Court ruled that states can have separate facilities for blacks and whites as long as they are equal.
Brown vs. Board of Education
The 1954 case which reversed the Plessy decision (separate but equal is okay); the Court ruled that separate is inherently unequal.
Democracy (Representative Democracy)
A government where power comes from the people through elections. In a direct democracy, everyone votes on all issues. This still takes place in small communities, like Town Hall meetings. Since we have so …
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)
This organization is composed of the US and our allies in Europe. The purpose is to protect our national security and those of our allies. If one country was invaded, all member nations woul…
UN (United Nations)
This organization is composed of most of the countries of the world. The purpose is to prevent war through dialogue with other countries. The UN also orchestrates humanitarian missions to countries affected by war and disaster.
Level 301