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AP Government Review #2A: Constitutional Foundations of the United States Government  

Welcome to the first post of the first unit of the AP US Government and Politics Review series. The posts that have the #2 on them will be about the first portion of the AP Government exam. The material I cover will be about 5-15% of the exam. I’m going to divide this unit into two different posts. The first one (this one) will be about the history of the US government and the key terms and social movements that occurred. The next post (#2B) will be about Federalism. Please note that in order to do well on the AP Government exam, you need to know your vocabulary. This is mostly a vocabulary exam! Okay, let’s get started!

Key Terms:

  1. Democracy: A system of government in which ultimate political authority is vested in the people. Derived from the Greek words demos (“the people”) and kratos (“authority”)
  2. Direct Democracy: A system of government in which political decisions are made by the people directly, rather than by their elected representatives; probably possible only in small political communities
  3. Representative Democracy: A form of government in which representatives elected by the people make and enforce laws and policies; may retain the monarchy in a ceremonial role 
  4. Constitutional Democracy: a system of government based on popular sovereignty, in which the structures, powers, and limits of government are set force in a constitution 
  5. Majority Rule: A basic principle of democracy asserting that the greatest number of citizens in any political unit should select officials and determine policies
  6. Plurality: the outcome of an election that involves more than two candidates
  7. Bicameralism: two legislative chambers [Congress- HoR and Senate]
  8. Natural Rights: Rights held to be inherent in natural law, not dependent on governments. John Locke stated that natural law, being superior to human law, specifies certain rights of “life, liberty, and property.” These rights, altered to become “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” are asserted in the Declaration of Independence
  9. Separation of Powers: The principle of dividing governmental powers among the executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches of government
  10. Checks and Balances: A major principle of the American government system whereby each branch of the government exercises a check on the actions of the others
  11. Direct Primary: where voters directly select the candidates who will run for office
  12. Judicial Review: The power of the Supreme Court or any court to declare unconstitutional federal or state laws and other acts of government (established in Marbury Vs. Madison 1803)
  13. Writ of Mandamus: A judicial order directing a government official to perform a duty of his or her office
  14. Executive Order:  A rule or order issued by the president to an executive branch of the government and having the force of law
  15. Executive PrivilegeThe privilege, claimed by the president for the executive branch of the US government, of withholding information in the public interest

 Important Court Cases of the Time:

What You Need to Know:

Types of Government: 

What Influenced the US Government: 

 Colonial Times:

Independence and Creating a New Government:

Creating a Better Government:

The Constitution:

Amending the Constitution:

The Bill of Rights: MEMORIZE THEM

  1. freedom of speech, petition, religion, assembly, and press
  2. right to bear arms
  3. sets conditions for quartering troops
  4. regulates searches, seizures, and warrants
  5. no double jeopardy, protection against self-incrimination, due process, eminent domain
  6. right to a public, speedy trial with impartial jury and attorney
  7. right to a jury in civil cases
  8. no cruel and unusual punishment or excessive fines or bails
  9. enumerated rights of people
  10. reserved powers of the states

Electing and Impeaching the President: 



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