Unit 1 Concepts


Method of maintaining, managing, and gaining control of government (who gets what, when, and how)





natural rights


social contract


American political culture


popular sovereignty



A philosophy of limited government with elected representatives serving at the will of the people. The government is based on consent of the governed.

inalienable rights

rights that cannot be taken away



participatory democracy

a system of government where rank-and-file citizens rule themselves rather than electing representatives to govern on their behalf

pluralist theory

A theory of government and politics emphasizing that politics is mainly a competition among groups, each one pressing for its own preferred policies.

elitist theory

a theory that a few top leaders make the key decisions without reference to popular desires

constitutional republic

a form of government in which people are ruled by leaders they elect


A document which spells out the principles by which a government runs and the fundamental laws that govern a society


A form of government in which citizens choose their leaders by voting

Articles of Confederation

A weak constitution that governed America during the Revolutionary War.


One-house legislature

Shay's Rebellion

1786 revolt by Massachusetts farmers seeking relief from debt and foreclosure that was a factor in the calling of the Constitutional Convention

Constitutional Convention

A meeting in Philadelphia in 1787 that produced a new constitution

writ of habeas corpus

A court order requiring jailers to explain to a judge why they are holding a prisoner in custody.

bills of attainder

laws that punish a person without a jury trial

ex post facto laws

laws that declare an action to be illegal after it has been committed

Virginia Plan

Proposal to create a strong national government

New Jersey Plan

Proposal to create a weak national government

Grand Committee

A group chosen to settle disputes between power in states. Led by Benjamin Franklin

Great Compromise

Compromise made by Constitutional Convention in which states would have equal representation in one house of the legislature and representation based on population in the other house


A legislature consisting of two parts, or houses

Three-fifths Compromise

Agreement that each slave counted as three-fifths of a person in determining representation in the House for representation and taxation purposes (negated by the 13th amendment)

Compromise on Importation


separation of powers

Constitutional division of powers among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches, with the legislative branch making law, the executive applying and enforcing the law, and the judiciary interpreting the law

checks and balances

A system that allows each branch of government to limit the powers of the other branches in order to prevent abuse of power


the federal principle or system of government.

legislative branch

the branch of government that makes the laws

expressed or enumerated powers

the powers specifically named and assigned to the federal government or prohibited to be exercised by the states under the U.S. Constitution, also known as delegated powers

necessary and proper clause

constitutional authorization for Congress to make any law required to carry out its powers

implied powers

Powers not specifically mentioned in the constitution

executive branch

the branch of government that carries out laws

judicial branch

Interprets the laws

supremacy clause

Constitution is the supreme law of the land


A change to the Constitution


supporters of the Constitution


people who opposed the Constitution

Federalist Papers

A collection of 85 articles written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison under the name "Publius" to defend the Constitution in detail.

Federalist No. 51

Separation of powers, checks and balances


A group with a distinct political interest

Federalist No. 10

An essay composed by James Madison which argues that liberty is safest in a large republic because many interests (factions) exist. Such diversity makes tyranny by the majority more difficult since ruling coalitions will always be unstable.

Brutus No. 1

This work by a prominent Anti-Federalist argued that that the new federal government would be too powerful. In particular, he pointed to the necessary-and-proper clause and the supremacy clause. In addition, he objected to Congress's power to tax and rais

unitary system

A government that gives all key powers to the national or central government

confederal system

government in which local units hold all the power

federal system

the sharing of power between the central and state governments

commerce clause

The clause in the Constitution (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1) that gives Congress the power to regulate all business activities that cross state lines or affect more than one state or other nations.

10th amendment

Powers Reserved to the States

reserved powers

Powers not specifically granted to the federal government or denied to the states belong to the states and the people

concurrent powers

Powers held jointly by the national and state governments.

full-faith and credit clause

Constitution's requirement that each state accept the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state


A legal process whereby an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officials of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed.

privileges and immunities clause

prevents a state from treating citizens of other states in a discriminatory manner.

13th amendment

abolished slavery

14th amendment

Declares that all persons born in the U.S. are citizens and are guaranteed equal protection of the laws

15th amendment

gave African American men the right to vote

dual federalism

A system of government in which both the states and the national government remain supreme within their own spheres, each responsible for some policies.

selective incorporation

court cases that apply Bill of Rights to states

cooperative federalism

A system of government in which powers and policy assignments are shared between states and the national government. They may also share costs, administration, and even blame for programs that work poorly.


money given by the national government to the states

fiscal federalism

The pattern of spending, taxing, and providing grants in the federal system; it is the cornerstone of the national government's relations with state and local governments.

categorical grants

Federal grants for specific purposes, such as building an airport

unfunded mandate

a federal order mandating that states operate and pay for a program created at the national level

block grant

Money given to states for general programs within a broad category

revenue sharing

federal sharing of a fixed percentage of its revenue with the states