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Mr. Wexler's AP Class Chapter 2


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Opponents to the ratification of the Constitution who valued liberty above all else and believed it could be protected only in a small republic. They emphasized states' rights and worried that the new central government was too strong.
A term used to describe supporters of the Constitution during ratification debates in state legislatures
bill of attainder
A law that declares a person, without trial, to be guilty of a crime. The state legislatures and Congress are forbidden to pass such acts, Article 1, Sections 9 and 10, of the Constitution.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution, containing a list of individual rights and liberties, such as freedom of speech, religion, and the press.
checks and balances
The power of the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government to block some acts by the other two branches. These checks prevent any one branch from becoming too powerful.
common law
The system of laws originated and developed in England and based on court decisions, on the doctrines implicit in those decisions, and on customs and usages rather than on codified written laws.
due process clause
A mechanism in the constitution that ensures the government will respect all of a person's legal rights instead of just some or most of those legal rights, when the government deprives a person of life, liberty, or property
elastic clause
the last paragraph of Article I, Section 8, of the U.S. Constitution, giving Congress the power to "make all laws which shall be necessary and proper" for carrying out the powers and purposes of the Constitution.
equal protection clause
Portion of the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that prohibits discrimination by state government institutions. The clause grants all people "equal protection of the laws," which means that the states must apply the law equally and cannot give preference to one person or class of persons over another.
free exercise clause
The free exercise clause prevents any legislative, state, or federal power to exert any restraint on religion.
commerce clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, known as the Commerce Clause, empowers the United States Congress "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes."
the General Welfare clause
Article I, Section 8, Clause 1 of the Constitution, which grants Congress the power "to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States..."
the double jeopardy clause
a constitutional right that forbids a defendant from being tried a second time for a crime, after having already been tried for the same crime. Comes from Amendment 5 of the constitution, which states "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."
implied powers
powers claimed by Congress which are not specifically enumerated in the Constitution, but are implied in its necessary and proper clause (Article I, Section 8).
concurrent powers
powers granted to the national government by the Constitution, but not denied to the states. One example is the right to lay and collect taxes.
reserved powers
powers given to the states that are not enumerated in the US Constitution. According to the Tenth Amendment, "powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people
ex post facto law
A law which makes criminal an act that was legal when in was committed, or that increases the penalty for a crime after it has been committed, or that changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. The state legislatures and Congress are forbidden to pass such laws by Article 1, Sections 9 and 10, of the Constitution.
A political system in which ultimate authority is shared between a central government and state or regional governments
loose construction
Interpretation of the Constitution in a way other than strictly literal.
strict construction
Literal interpretation of the Constitution.
Great Compromise
proposal presented by Connecticut delegates at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to compromise between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. The Great Compromise suggested that a bicameral Congress be established, with representation in one house being determined by state population, and the other having equal representation from each state.
judicial review
The power of courts to declare an act of Congress unconstitutional. It is also a way of limiting the power of popular majorities.
"higher law"
The belief that one is entitled to natural rights, which are life, liberty, and property. The colonists believed in a "higher law".
New Jersey Plan
A plan of government proposed by William Patterson as a substitute for the Virginia Plan in an effort to provide greater protection for the interests of small states. It recommended that the Articles of Confederation should be amended, not replaced, with a unicameral Congress, in which each state would have an equal vote.
Virginia Plan
A plan submitted to the Constitutional Convention that proposed a new form of government, not a mere revision of the Articles of Confederation. The plan envisioned a much stronger national government structured around three branches. James Madison prepared the initial draft.
The Annapolis Convention
A meeting at Annapolis, Maryland of 12 delegates from five states (New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia) that called for a constitutional convention. It let to the first constitutional convention.
The Philadelphia Convention
The constitutional converntion, which took place in 1787 to address problems in the government of the United States of America following independence from Britain. Its result was the creation of the Constitution of the United States of America.
Constitutional ratification
process by which people or legislatures express their official approval of a proposed document or plan. In the United States, Amendments tot he Constitution can not be part of the Constitution until they have been ratified by 2/3 of the legislature, or by 2/3 of the states.
separation of Powers
division of governmental authority among the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial branch.
supremacy clause
- Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the "Constitution, and the laws of the United States made in pursuance thereof ... shall be the supreme law of the land." Thus, if any state laws come into conflict with the Constitution , then the Constitution must win out.
The Federalist Papers
A series of eighty-five essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay that were published in New York newspapers to convince New Yorkers to adopt the newly proposed Constitution.
writ of habeas corpus
A court order directing a police officer, sheriff, or warden who has a person in custody to bring the prisoner before a judge to show sufficient cause for his or her detention. The purpose of the order is to prevent illegal arrests and unlawful imprisonment. Under the Constitution, the writ cannot be suspended, except during invasion or rebellion.
amendment process
According to the Constitution, there are four ways in which it can be amended. An amendment can be proposed to the states either after a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress, or by a vote in two-thirds of the state legislatures. Once it has been proposed to the states, it can be ratified either by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states or by conventions in three-fourths of the states. All 27 amendments, except the 21st Amendment, were proposed by a two-thirds majority of Congress and ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the states.
Shays Rebellion
A rebellion in 1787 by ex-Revolutionary War soldiers who feared losing their property over indebtedness. The former soldiers prevented courts in western Massachusetts from sitting. The inability of the government to deal effectively with the rebellion showed the weakness of the political system at the time and led to support for revision of the Articles of Confederation.
James Madison
Co-author, with John Jay and Alexander Hamilton, of the Federalist Papers, and is commonly regarded as the Father of the United States Constitution.
George Mason
Delegate from Virginia whos efforts eventually succeeded in convincing the Federalists to modify the Constitution and add the Bill of Rights.
popular sovereignty
Idea that government should reflect the general will of the people, or the interests that all citizens have in common.
The form of government intended by the Framers of the Constitution that operates through a system of representation.
Magna Carta
British document, signed by King John, which reaffirmed long-standing rights and responsibilities of the English nobility; limited the powers of the king; and recognized that all people, including the government and monarch, are subject to the law.
Petition of Right
British document guaranteeing the right of representation in determining taxation. Along with the British Bill of Rights (1689) and the Act of Settlement (1701), this law helped shape the British constitutional system.
social contract theory
A theory that involves an agreement among all the people in a society to give up part of their freedom to a government in exchange for protection of natural right.
Virginia Declaration of Rights
A declaration by the Virginia Convention of Delegates of rights of individuals and a call for independence from Britain. It heavily influenced the Bill of Rights.
Charles Beard
A historian who argued that the Constitution was designed to protect the economic self-interest of its framers. Beard's view is largely rejected by contemporary scholars.
natural rights
the rights of life, liberty, and property. These are rights that the colonists felt should not be infringed on.

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