Unit Review Sheet
These facts and definitions should be mastered throughout this unit. This page can be used for periodic review and study as you are finishing the unit and in the future.
Facts and Definitions
Lesson 1: The Origins of American Government
- The structure of the American Constitution was influenced by many documents that came before it, such as the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, and the Mayflower Compact.
- The first attempt at a unifying document for the new nation was the Articles of Confederation, agreed upon in November of 1777.
- A confederacy is an alliance of independent governmental bodies.
- Under the Articles of Confederation, the federal government had very little power. The federal government needed to rely on the states for funding and military support, and Congress could not force the states to go along with any congressional orders. Congress also could not impose taxes or raise an army. This very weak federal government proved ineffective and, within a decade, leaders sought to remedy the problems of the Articles by drafting a new document, the Constitution.
Lesson 2: The Constitutional Convention
- The Constitutional Convention brought together leaders from all states but Rhode Island to consider replacing the Articles of Confederation with a governing document that would create a stronger central government for the new nation.
- The Great Compromise was a compromise between large states that wanted representation determined by population and small states that wanted each state to have the same say in national government. In this compromise, the House of Representatives is based on population with more populous states having larger numbers of representatives, and the Senate gives equal representation to every state with each state having two senators.
- The Three-Fifths Compromise was a compromise between those in northern states without slavery and those in southern states where slave labor was a critical part of the economy. It meant that for the purposes of congressional representation and taxation, the population of states would be determined by adding the number of free people within the state and a percentage (3/5) of the number of "other persons" (meaning slaves).
- As states decided whether or not to ratify the Constitution, political leaders were divided among Federalists, who supported the Constitution, and Anti-Federalists, who opposed it.
- A faction is a group of citizens who are united by a common interest. Early American leaders were concerned that, without governmental safeguards in place, a powerful faction might be able to exert too much influence in government, which could cause problems if the goals of the faction were in opposition to the interests of the community or rights of other citizens.
Lesson 3: The Constitution of the United States
- The Preamble states the purpose of the Constitution.
- The first ten amendments to the Constitution are known as the Bill of Rights.
- There have been 27 constitutional amendments, including the ten in the Bill of Rights.
Lesson 4: The Executive Branch
- The executive branch of the government is responsible for the enforcement and administration of federal laws. It includes the president, vice president, cabinet, and independent government agencies.
- The president of the United States serves a four-year term and may be re-elected once to a second term. The president serves as both the head of state and the head of government, as well as the commander-in-chief of the U.S. Armed Forces.
- The vice president can become president if the president dies, is impeached, resigns, or becomes incapacitated while in office. The vice president also serves as president of the Senate and can cast a tie-breaking vote in that body.
- The Cabinet is made of of the heads of 15 different executive departments within the federal government. They include the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Justice, the Department of Labor, the Department of State, the Department of Transportation, the Department of the Treasury, and the the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Lesson 5: The Legislative Branch
- Congress is divided into two parts, the House of Representatives and the Senate.
- The House of Representatives has 435 elected members. States with larger populations have more representatives than states with smaller populations.
- The Senate has 100 elected members, two senators from each state.
- In order for a bill to become law, it must be passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law by the president (or, if the president vetoes the bill, that veto must be overturned by a 2/3 vote in both the Senate and the House of Representatives).
Lesson 6: The Judicial Branch
- The Supreme Court interprets the law and can declare a law unconstitutional and therefore invalid.
- There are nine justices who serve on the Supreme Court. They are appointed by the president and approved by Congress, and they serve life terms.
- The three branches of the federal government (executive, legislative, and judicial) are all interconnected so that no one branch can become too powerful. Each has checks and balances on the powers of the others.
Lesson 7: State Government
- Like the federal government, your state's government includes executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
- The governor is the head of the executive branch of state government.
- Different states organize their legislatures differently.
- State courts handle cases related to state law, which are often very different from the kinds of cases handled by federal courts.
Lesson 8: Local Government
- Local government can include county, city, town, or municipal governments that meet the needs of smaller regional or local communities within states.
- The laws of individual states determine the nature of local government — what powers the local government has, what services local governments can provide, what kinds of laws or ordinances local governments can enact, and whether or not local governments can collect taxes.
- Most states have county governments, although some do not. Many counties have a board of commissioners that oversees the county government.
- Some areas also have a smaller government within a county that governs a city, town, township, or village. These municipal governments can be very large (such as the government of New York City) or very small (such as the government for a very small town). Cities and towns often have mayors as well as town or city councils or other governing bodies.
- Depending on where you live, different services may be provided by different forms of local government. Someone living in a rural part of a county might rely on the county sheriff's office for police assistance while someone in a neighboring town may call on a city police department. Similarly, parks, roads, recreational facilities, planning offices, offices that manage permits for construction or businesses, safety offices, fire departments, and other government entities may be controlled at either the municipal or county level, or sometimes at the state level as well.
Lesson 9: Citizenship
- There are both rights and responsibilities associated with citizenship.
- There are many opportunities to participate in the life of your community as a citizen — obeying applicable rules and laws, staying informed about public issues, voting, serving on juries, attending government meetings or hearings, and doing your part to take care of your community's resources and public property.
Final Project: Government Lapbook
- Be sure to set aside time to prepare for your unit test.