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19 Cards in this Set

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  • Back
What are "Checks and balances"?
A system that keeps one part of the national government from becoming too powerful.
Articles of Confederation
a document that describes the first government of the United States of America. It was a form of weak government.
Constitution
A document that created a strong national government and still exists today.
Branches
The U.S. government is divided into three parts, or branches- the executive, the legislative, and the judicial- each with its own powers and responsibilities.
Constitutional Convention
Delegates met from most of the U.S. to work on a document that created a stronger government. George Washington, James Madison, and Gouverneur Morris were three key figures at the convention.
The Legislative Branch
main responsibility is making laws. The members that make up this branch are the Senators and the House of Representatives. The key powers of this branch allow the members to accept or reject appointments to important positions that the president makes. They also have the power to impeach government officials accused of serious crimes. Members can also write and pass bills, declare war, and collect taxes.
The Judicial Branch
Main responsibility is interpreting laws. The members that make up this branch are The Supreme Court Justices and Federal Courts. The key power of this branch allow them to determine whether a law is unconstitutional. Their powers are balanced because the president appointsits members and approved by the state. Members also preside over impeachment trials and interpret the meaning of laws.
The Executive Branch
Main responsibility is carrying out laws. The members that make up this branch are the President and his Cabinet. The key powers of this branch allow the head of this branch to suggest ideas for new laws in the State of the Union speech. He can also "check" the power of the legislative branch by vetoing any bill it passes. Other key powers include signing treaties, granting pardons, and calling Congress together for special sessions.
Liberties
The Bill of Rights protects the rights and liberties of American citizens, such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion.
Amendments
Changes to the U.S. Constitution
Rights of the accused
The Bill of Rights ensures that people suspected of a crime have basic rights, such as the right to a lawyer.
Bill of Rights
The first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution.
First Amendment
This amendment protects the freedom of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly. For example, the government could not close a newspaper for printing articles that criticize the president.
Second Amendment
This amendment protects peoples rights to own certain kinds of guns. The government could not take away all the guns from citizens.
Fourth Amendment
This amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. For example, police enter a citizen's house without good reason or permission from a judge. The police search for evidence to try to solve a crime.
Fifth Amendment
This amendment protects people from being put on trial twice for the same crime ( double jeopardy ). It also protects people from being forced to be witnesses against themselves. Therefore, if a person accused of a crime is found " not guilty " at his or her trial, the government cannot decide to put that person on trial again. This amendment protects the accused from being found " guilty " at the second trial and being placed in jail.
Sixth Amendment
This amendment protects the right to a fair, speedy, and public trial. It also protects the right to have a lawyer if you are accused of a crime. If a person is accused of a crime and they cannot afford a lawyer, they can't be forced to defend themselves in court.
Eighth Amendment
This amendment protects citizens against cruel and unusual punishment when they break the law. In other words, a judge cannot put a person in jail for six years for not stopping at a red light.
Why a Bill of Rights?
Many people in 1789 were afraid that the new Constitution gave the national government too much power. Americans had just fought the Revolutionary War to protect their rights against the Brittish government. They wanted to be sure that the new government would respect their rights.

The Bill of Rights shields citizens today in two key ways. First, it protects individual rights and liberties, like the right to freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. Second, it protects the rights of the accused in a number of ways, like guarranteeing due process of law and protecting against cruel and unusual punishment.