Definitions of the 7 Principles of the Constitution
Popular Sovereignty- The final power of the national government rests with the people. Examples from the Constitution include the 14th Amendment (right to citizenship regardless of race), the 15th Amendment (right to vote regardless of race), the 19th Amendment (right for women to vote), and the Preamble to the Constitution which begins by stating, "We the people of the United States of America" not 'We the government of the United States of America.' What does this look like in action? The people have the power to petition government if the government makes a law that the people don't like.
Republicanism- The people of the United States give their power to other people by electing representatives. Examples from the Constitution include Article I (creates a bicameral legislature), Article II (creates the offices of President and Vice President), and Article IV (guarantees each state a republican form of government). What does this look like in action? Elected representatives like Senators, Representatives, and the President do the work of making government decisions.
Separation of Powers- The power that the government has is divided between three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Examples from the Constitution include Articles I, II, and III (these articles create the three different branches of government). What does this look like in action? The legislative branch makes the laws, executive branch enforces the laws, and the judicial branch decides whether or not laws are Constitutional.
Checks and Balances- The three different branches of government has certain things that they can do to balance the powers of the other branches so that one branch doesn't become too powerful. Examples from the Constitution include Articles I, II, and III (dictate the powers/checks that each branch has over the other). What does this look like in action? The President can veto a law, but Congress can override a veto with a majority vote.
Limited Government- The government has to follow the same laws that its people have to follow. Examples from the Constitution include Article I (Sections 9 & 10), Article VI, and the Bill of Rights. What does this look like in action? The President can be impeached for breaking a law.
Federalism- Power is divided between the national/federal government and the states' governments. Examples from the Constitution include Article I,Section 8 (lengthy list of powers of Congress) (federal) and Amendment 10 ( powers not given to the national government are automatically given to the state government). What does this look like in action? The federal government can set certain rules that must be enforced in schools, but the states get to decide how their schools will be run (STAAR, etc.).
Individual Rights- Rights that each individual has just for being a citizen of the United States (or just for being human). Examples from the Constitution include the Bill of Rights (lists basic freedoms), and the 14th amendment (equal protection of the law for all citizens). What does this look like in action? Police cannot enter a house and search without a warrant, citizen must be allowed to own guns, and people's rights cannot be taken away without good reason.
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