We the People: The Citizen & the Constitution, Level 3
Start  |  WTP  | CCE
Howard Chandler Christy, Signing of the Constitution, Architect of the Capitol, House wing, east stairway
Unit 2 Terms

"new science of politics"

James Madison's term in The Federalist for a study of politics utilizing reason, observation, and history that would help the Founders construct a new government on a rational and informed basis.    [ audio ]

ex post facto law

A law that criminalizes an act that was not a crime when committed, that increases the penalty for a crime after it was committed, or that changes the rules of evidence to make conviction easier. Ex post facto laws are forbidden by Article I of the Constitution.    [ audio ]


Opponents to ratification of the U.S. Constitution who believed that it gave excessive power to the federal government and failed to protect the rights and liberties of the people.    [ audio ]

Articles of Confederation

(1781-1789) The first constitution of the United States, created to form a perpetual union and a firm league of friendship among the thirteen original states. It was adopted by the Second Continental Congress on November 15, 1777, and sent to the states for ratification.    [ audio ]

bill of attainder

An act of the legislature that inflicts punishment on an individual or group without a judicial trial.    [ audio ]

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The Bill of Rights lists many basic rights that the federal government may not interfere with and must protect. Nearly all these rights are now also protected from violation by state governments.    [ audio ]

civil discourse

Reasoned discussion as opposed to emotional display. See civility    [ audio ]


A form of political organization in which the sovereign states combine for certain specified purposes, such as mutual defense. Member states can leave a confederation at any time. The United States was a confederation from 1776 to 1789.    [ audio ]

Constitutional Convention

See Philadelphia Convention    [ audio ]


(1) (noun) A person chosen to act for or represent others. (2) (verb) To entrust someone to represent your interests.    [ audio ]

deliberative body

A legislative assembly that meets to debate issues.    [ audio ]

Electoral College

The group of presidential electors who cast the official votes for president and vice president after a presidential election. Each state has a number of electors equal to the total of its members in the Senate and House of Representatives. The functioning of the Electoral College is provided for in Article II of the U.S. Constitution and amended by the Twelfth and Twenty-third Amendments.    [ audio ]


(1) A small group within a larger group. (2) In its political sense, according to James Madison in Federalist 10, a faction is a "number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or a minority of the whole, who are united...by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community."    [ audio ]

federal system

See federalism    [ audio ]


Advocates for a strong central government who urged ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787?88. They flourished as a political party in the 1790s under the leadership of Alexander Hamilton. The party disappeared from national politics in 1816.    [ audio ]

Great Compromise

A plan accepted at the Philadelphia Convention in 1787 that called for a Congress of two houses: in the upper house, or Senate, representation of the states would be equal, with each state having two senators; in the lower house, or House of Representatives, representation would be apportioned according to the population of each state, so that states with more people would have more representatives. Also called the Connecticut Compromise.    [ audio ]

majority tyranny

A situation in which a majority uses the principle of majority rule but fails to respect the rights and interests of the minority. See also majority rule    [ audio ]

national government

The organization having central political authority in a nation; the representative unit of political organization.    [ audio ]

necessary and proper clause

Article I, Section 8, Clause 18 of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to make all laws that are "necessary and proper" to carry out the powers specifically delegated to it by the Constitution. It is also known as the "elastic clause" because of the vagueness of the phrase "necessary and proper."    [ audio ]

proportional representation

In the context of American government, the electoral system in which the number of representatives for a state is based on the number of people living in the state. Proportional representation is used to determine the number of each state's representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives.    [ audio ]


(1) Formal approval of some formal legal instrument such as a constitution or treaty. (2) In U.S. constitutional history, the approval of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 by the ratifying conventions held in each state, except for Rhode Island, which initially voted the Constitution down by popular referendum.    [ audio ]


Formal withdrawal by a constituent member from an alliance, federation, or association.    [ audio ]

separated powers

The division of the powers of government among the different branches. Separating powers is a primary strategy of promoting constitutional or limited government by ensuring that no one individual or branch has excessive power that can be abused. See checks and balances    [ audio ]

shared powers

Legislative powers not completely separated between the branches of government.    [ audio ]

Shays' Rebellion

An armed revolt by Massachusetts farmers seeking relief from debt and mortgage foreclosures. The rebellion fueled support for amending the Articles of Confederation.    [ audio ]

supremacy clause

Article VI, Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the U.S. Constitution, laws passed by Congress, and treaties of the United States "shall be the supreme Law of the Land" and binding on the states.    [ audio ]


A tax on imported or exported goods. Also known as a duty.    [ audio ]

The Federalist

See Federalist, The    [ audio ]

Three-Fifths Compromise

Article I, Section 2, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution, later eliminated by the Fourteenth Amendment. The clause provided that each slave should be counted as three–fifths of a person in determining the number of representatives a state might send to the House of Representatives. It also determined the amount of direct taxes Congress might levy on a state.    [ audio ]
Unit 2      Terms
Menu Unit Lesson Section Tools