The Federalist Papers | Study Guide

Alexander Hamilton

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The Federalist Papers | Glossary


Articles of Confederation: the first constitutional framework established for the United States. The Articles were drafted in 1777 but not ratified until 1781.

Bill of Rights: a formal declaration of the legal and civil rights of citizens. The American Bill of Rights (1791) comprises the first 10 amendments to the Constitution and contains such guarantees as freedom of speech and the press, no establishment of religion, the right to bear arms, the right to privacy, and a ban on cruel and unusual punishments.

checks and balances: restraints built into the Constitution to prevent the improper accumulation of power by any one branch of government. The presidential veto power is one example of checks and balances; the power of impeachment is another.

concurrent jurisdiction: the overlap of governmental powers or functions on the federal level with those on the state level. Taxing power provides one example of concurrent jurisdiction; certain processes and procedures of the state and federal courts provide another.

faction: a group united or motivated by a desire to injure the rights of others or to subvert the common good. A faction may be compared to an interest group, but the deeply negative connotations of the word conveyed a certain ruthlessness and malignity.

Federalism: an approach to government that includes a strong central authority operating on a national basis. In American Federalism the federal government coexists with state governments, which retain all the powers not specifically enumerated and assigned by the Constitution to the federal government.

impeachment: an accusation of misconduct made against a holder of public office. The Constitution provides, for example, for impeachment by the House of Representatives and trial by the Senate, where a two-thirds vote must be secured for conviction (Article 1, Sections 2 and 3).

militia: a part-time, semitrained military force, usually raised from the civil population during an emergency. A militia is distinguished from a standing army, which is a full-time, professional trained force.

republic: a form of government in which the people, who hold sovereignty, elect representatives to act in accordance with their interests. A republic is distinguished from a pure democracy, in which the citizens take part directly in government.

separation of powers: a principle of government by which different branches of government function independently in their own spheres. This principle typically specifies the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government.

veto: in government the power to negate or reject a legislative action or bill. The Constitution gives the president veto power over acts of Congress, but a veto can be overridden by a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate.

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