Thursday, August 2, 2007


amendment — An addition, alteration, or other change to a constitution or other legal document.
aristocracy — A form of government in which a privileged few rule.

Articles of
Confederation — Ratified in 1781, this was the first constitution of the United States. It created a government that received its power from a confederation of semi-sovereign states.

bicameral — A system of government in which the legislature consists of two parts. In the United States federal government, these parts are the Senate and the House of Representatives.

constitution — A document or set of documents in which the laws or principles of a government are laid out.

Declaration of Independence — Document adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, that asserted the thirteen American colonies' independence from England.

democracy — A form of government in which the people have the power to rule themselves.

enumerated powers — A group of key powers the First Article of the Constitution explicitly gives to Congress. Examples include the power to tax, coin money, and regulate commerce.

federalism — A governmental principle that calls for a strong national government, with some power given to individual states.

monarchy — A form of government in which hereditary rulers (kings and queens) hold power over the people.

natural law — The political theory that says society should be governed by certain ethical principles.

oligarchy — A form of government in which a relatively small body of individuals who govern possess high levels of wealth, social or military status, or achievement.

popular consent — Political theory asserting that people should be able to participate directly in the governing of their own societies.

social contract
theory— Likens a society's government and its citizens to parties entering into a contract. In this theory, individuals are considered free, so they give their consent when they agree to be governed.

supremacy clause — Principle of the Constitution that holds that the laws of the Constitution and the nation as a whole are supreme in regard to any laws enacted by states

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