Democracy – Government by the people, both directly or indirectly, with free and frequent elections.
Direct democracy – Government in which citizens vote on laws and select officials directly.
Representative democracy – Government in which the people elect those who govern and pass laws; also called a republic.
Constitutional democracy – A government that enforces recognized limits on those who govern and allows the voice of the people to be heard through free, fair, and relatively frequent elections.
Constitutionalism – The set of arrangements, including checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, due process, and a bill of rights, that requires our leaders to listen, think, bargain, and explain before they act or make laws. We then hold them politically and legally accountable for how they exercise their powers.
Statism – The idea that the rights of the nation are supreme over the rights of the individuals who make up the nation.
Popular consent – The idea that a just government must derive its powers from the consent of the people it governs.
Majority rule – Governance according to the expressed preferences of the majority.
Majority – The candidate or party that wins more than half the votes cast in an election.
Plurality – Candidate or party with the most votes cast in an election, not necessarily more than half.
Theocracy – Government by religious leaders, who claim divine guidance.
Articles of Confederation – The first governing document of the confederated states drafted in 1777, ratified in 1781, and replaced by the present Constitution in 1789.
Annapolis Convention – A convention held in September 1786 to consider problems of trade and navigation, attended by five states and important because it issued the call to Congress and the states for what became the Constitutional Convention.
Constitutional Convention – The convention in Philadelphia, May 25 to September 17, 1787, that debated and agreed upon the Constitution of the United States.
Shays’s Rebellion – Rebellion led by Daniel Shays of farmers in western Massachusetts in 1786-1787, protesting mortgage foreclosures. It highlighted the need for a strong national government just as the call for the Constitutional Convention went out.
Bicameralism – The principle of a two-house legislature.
Virginia Plan – Initial proposal at the Constitutional Convention made by the Virginia delegation for a strong central government with a bicameral legislature dominated by the big states.
New Jersey Plan – Proposal at the Constitutional Convention made by William Paterson of New Jersey for a central government with a single-house legislature in which each state would be represented equally.
Connecticut Compromise – Compromise agreement by states at the Constitutional Convention for a bicameral legislature with a lower house in which representation would be based on population and an upper house in which each state would have two senators.
Three-fifths compromise – Compromise between northern and southern states at the Constitutional Convention that three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for determining direct taxation and representation in the House of Representatives.
Federalists – Supporters of ratification of the Constitution and of a strong central government.
Antifederalists – Opponents of ratification of the Constitution and of a strong central government, generally.
The Federalist – Essays promoting ratification of the Constitution, published anonymously by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in 1787 and 1788.