The American Democracy, 10th Edition (Patterson)

Chapter 2: Constitutional Democracy: Promoting Liberty and Self Government


Anti-Federalists  A term used to describe opponents of the Constitution during the debate over ratification.
Bill of Rights  The first ten amendments to the Constitution. They include rights such as freedom of speech and religion.
checks and balances  The elaborate system of divided spheres of authority provided by the U.S. Constitution as a means of controlling the power of government. The separation of powers among the branches of the national government, federalism, and the different methods of selecting national officers are all part of this system.
constitution  The fundamental law that defines how a government will legitimately operate.
constitutional democratic republic  A government that is constitutional in its provisions for minority rights and rule by law, democratic in its provisions for majority influence through elections, and a republic in its mix of deliberative institutions, which check and balance each other.
delegates  Elected representatives whose obligation is to act in accordance with the expressed wishes of the people they represent.
democracy (according to the framers)  A form of government in which the power of the majority is unlimited, whether exercised directly or through a representative body.
denials of power  A constitutional means of limiting government by listing those powers that government is expressly prohibited from using.
Electoral College  An unofficial term that refers to the electors who cast the states’ electoral votes.
electoral votes  The method of voting that is used to choose the U.S. president. Each state has the same number of electoral votes as it has members in Congress (House and Senate combined). By tradition, electoral voting is tied to a state’s popular voting. The candidate with the most popular votes in a state (or, in a few states, the most votes in a congressional district) receives its electoral votes.
Federalists  A term used to describe proponents of the Constitution during the debate over ratification.
grants of power  The method of limiting the U.S. government by confining its scope of authority to those powers expressly granted in the Constitution.
Great Compromise  The agreement at the constitutional convention to create a two-chamber Congress with the House apportioned by population and the Senate apportioned equally by state.
inalienable (natural) rights  Those rights that persons theoretically possessed in the state of nature, prior to the formation of governments. These rights, including those of life, liberty, and property, are considered inherent and, as such, are inalienable. Since government is established by people, government has the responsibility to preserve these rights.
judicial review  The power of courts to decide whether a governmental institution has acted within its constitutional powers and, if not, to declare its action null and void.
liberty  The principle that individuals should be free to act and think as they choose, provided they do not infringe unreasonably on the freedom and well-being of others
limited government  A government that is subject to strict limits on its lawful uses of power, and hence on its ability to deprive people of their liberty.
New Jersey (small-state) Plan  A constitutional proposal for a strengthened Congress but one in which each state would have a single vote, thus granting a small state the same legislative power as a large state.
primary election  A form of election in which voters choose a party’s nominees for public office. In most states, eligibility to vote in a party’s primary election is limited to voters who are registered members of the party.
republic  A form of government in which the people’s representatives decide policy through institutions structured in ways that foster deliberation, slow the progress of decision making, and operate within restraints that protect individual liberty. A republic is designed, not to prevent the people from governing, but to filter popular sentiment in ways that reduce the likelihood of hasty, ill-conceived, and injurious policies. To the framers, the Constitution’s separation of powers and other limits on power were hallmarks of a republican form of government, as opposed to a democratic form, which places no limits on the majority.
self-government  The principle that the people are the ultimate source and should have a voice in their governing. (In practice, self-government has come to mean a government based on majority rule.)
separated institutions sharing power  The principle that, as a way to limit government, its powers should be divided among separate branches, each of which also shares in the power of the others as a means of checking and balancing them. The result is that no one branch can exercise power decisively without the support or acquiescence of the others.
separation of powers  The division of the powers of government among separate institutions or branches.
social contract  A voluntary agreement by individuals to form government, which is then obliged to act within the confines of the agreement.
Three-Fifths Compromise  A compromise worked out at the 1787 convention between northern states and southern states. Each slave was to be counted as three-fifths of a person for purposes of federal taxation and congressional apportionment (number of seats in the House of Representative).
trustees  Elected representatives whose obligation is to act in accordance with their own consciences as to what policies are in the best interests of the public.
tyranny of the majority  The potential of a majority to monopolize power for its own gain to the detriment of minority rights and interests.
Virginia (large-state) Plan  A constitutional proposal for a strong Congress with two chambers, both of which would be based on numerical representation, thus granting more power to the larger states.
Patterson Tenth Edition Large Cover
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