Unit 1- Federal Government and the Constitution

This lesson is about the US Federal government and the US constitution.


A form of government in which power is in the people, who exercise their power through elected representatives.

Virginia Plan

A proposal for representation proportionate with population

Connecticut Compromise (Great Compromise)

A compromise providing the states with equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House of Representatives


-They supported removing some powers from the states and giving more powers to the national government
-They favored dividing powers among the different branches of government


-They wanted important political powers to remain with thestates
-They feared that a strong government might become a king or tyrant
-They believed that a Bill of Rights needed to be added to the Constitution to protect people’s rights

Federalist Papers

1787-1789 by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay
Written to promote approval of the US Constitution

Checks and Balances

Used to keep the government from getting too powerful in one branch

Articles of Confederation- weaknesses

1 The national government could not force the states to obey its laws.
2 It did not have the power to tax
3 It did not have the power to enforce laws
4 Congress lacked strong and steady leadership
5 There was no national army or navy
6 There was no system of national courts
7 Each state could issue its own paper money
8 Each state could put tariffs on trade between states. (A tariff is a tax on goods coming in from another state or country.)
9. Congress couldn’t control interstate commerce


A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives


A smaller interest group in a larger party

New Jersey Plan

A plan providing for a single legislative house with equal representation for each state

3/5 Compromise

Allowed a state to count three fifths of each slaved person in determining political representation in the House

Separation of Powers

Divides government into three branches: legislative, executive, and judiciary and limits the power of each branch

Elastic Clause

(Article I, Section 8) Grants Congress the power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying out the enumerated list of powers.

Judicial Review

The ability of a court to examine and decide if something violates the law, a State Constitution, or the United States Constitution.

Marbury v. Madison

Established Judicial Review by declaring part of the Judiciary Act of 1789 unconstitutional

John Marshall

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who made the court powerful by expressing judicial review

Pluralist Theory

Theory where power is distributed between interest groups

Elitist Theory

Theory where power rests in a small number of individuals, the upper class

Hyperpluralist Theory

Theory where the interest groups are so strong that government is weakened

Conditions Conducive to Democracy

educational (ability to read), economic (need for a large middle class with distribution of wealth), social (pluralism), ideological (democratic consensus)

Democratic Consensus

General acceptance of the ideals of democracy, and a willingness of a substantial number of people to agree to proceed democratically


A system that divides up power between a strong national government and smaller local governments


A system in which state governments have ultimate authority except for those powers that they expressly delegate to a central government


A system in which sovereignty is wholly in the hands of the national government

Electoral College- Roche’s Theory

“Merely a jerry-rigged improvisation which has subsequently been endowed with a high theoretical content”

Bill of Rights

Created to protect individual liberties; first 10 amendments

Formal Amendment Process

1. Proposed by CONGRESS by a 2/3 Vote in both houses.
2. Proposed at NATIONAL CONVENTION called by congress when requested by 2/3 of State Legislatures.

1. Ratified by state LEGISLATURE in 3/4 of states.
2. Ratified by CONVENTIONS held in 3/4 of the states


Composed of two legislative chambers or branches (House and Senate)

Majoritarian Democracy

Democracy based upon majority rule of a society’s citizens


The concept where the majority doesn’t always win; Supreme Court protects the rights of the unpopular minority. E.g. Burning flags in protest is protected political speech- against majority opinion.

McCulloch v. Maryland

Decision: Congress had implied powers under the Necessary and Proper Clause of Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution to create the Second Bank of the United States and that the state of Maryland lacked the power to tax the Bank

Concurrent Powers

Powers given to both states and the federal government by the U.S. Constitution

Enumerated Powers

The powers of the federal government that are specifically described in the Constitution (Article 1 Section 8)

Inherent Powers

Powers the government has for the sole reason that we are a sovereign nation

Implied Powers

Powers that congress has derived from the necessary and proper clause (article 1 section 8, elastic clause)

Denied Powers

Powers the Constitution denies to the national government

Reserved Powers

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

Congressional Elaboration

Congressional legislation that gives further meaning to the constitution based on sometimes vague constitutional authority, such as the necessary and proper clause.

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.


The process of removing power from the central government back to the states e.g. US v Lopez

Block Grant

Money from the national government that states can spend within broad guidelines

Categorical Grant

Federal grants for specific purposes

Formula Grant

Federal categorical grants distributed according to a formula specified in legislation or in administrative regulations.

Unfunded Mandates

A statute or regulation that requires a state or local government to perform certain actions, with no money provided for fulfilling the requirements

Cross-over Sanction

Federal orders in which the national government pulls or threatens to pull funding from one state-relate expense because of an unrelated offense

Cross Cutting Requirements

Required by any entity that receives federal money -e.g. non-discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. These regulations cut across all programs touched by the federal government.

U.S. v. Lopez

Decision: Congress had exceeded its constitutional authority under the Commerce Clause when it passed a law prohibiting gun possession in local school zones. (DEVOLUTION)

Horizontal Federalism

Federalism between states on the same level. E.g. Arizona and Colorado agreeing to share Colorado river

John Locke

Man can’t abide by the laws of nature, and therefore enters the world of government. Man gives up some liberties in exchange for protection of life liberty and property. If the government fails this protection, man has the right to over throw it.