Foundations: Background to American History

Declaration of Independence
the public act by which the Second Continental Congress, on July 4, 1776, declared the Colonies to be free and independent of England; mostly written by Thomas Jefferson.
United States Constitution
written at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787 and subsequently ratified by the original thirteen states; replaced the Articles of Confederation; established a new national government.
Bill of Rights
first ten amendments to the Constitution; individual rights.
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John Hancock
prosperous merchant from Boston and President of the Continental congress. Most recognizable signature of the Declaration of Independence.
Benjamin Rush
Physician, educator, and humanitarian. Father of American medicine.
John Jay
Appointed by President Washington as the first Supreme Court justice of the U.S.; helped write the Federalist Papers.
eminent domain
power of the government over property.
Alexis de Tocqueville
sent to U.S. by the French government to study its prisons in order to help the French government reform theirs
liberty
protection against tyrannical governments; freedom
egalitarianism
society of equals
individualism
free to flourish without hereditary distinctions.
populism
participation of the common people in political life.
E Pluribus Unum
meaning;out of many (comes) one. Meant to show that several states had joined to create one nation.
In God We Trust
U.S. national motto. Used on coins since 1864; now printed on all American money.
unalienable rights
rights that cannot be taken away; such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
federalism
powers that are divided between the federal government and the state governments
separation of powers
division of the federal government into three separate branches; executive, legislative, and judicial.
checks and balances
to prevent one branch of government from becoming too powerful by placing checks; on each branch by the other two branches
first amendment
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
2nd amendment
Right to bear arms
3rd amendment
No quartering of Soldiers
4th amendment
protects people from unreasonable searches and seizures
5th amendment
Criminal Proceedings; Due Process; Eminent Domain; Double Jeopardy; Protection from Self incrimination
6th amendment
Criminal Proceedings; Must inform defendant of charge/s; Right to Attorney; Right to fair impartial jury
7th amendment
Right to jury in civil trials.
8th amendment
no cruel and unusual punishment
9th amendment
Citizens entitled to rights not listed in the Constitution
10th amendment
Asserts that powers not delegated to the national government or denied to the states are reserved to the states.
Articles of Confederation
original federal constitution drafted by the Continental Congress in 1777

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