amendment An addition, alteration, or other change to a constitution or other legal document.
aristocracy A form of government in which a privileged few rule.
Confederation Ratified in 1781, this was the first constitution of the United States. It created a government that received its power from a confederation of semi-sovereign states.
bicameral A system of government in which the legislature consists of two parts. In the United States federal government, these parts are the Senate and the House of Representatives.
constitution A document or set of documents in which the laws or principles of a government are laid out.
Declaration of Independence Document adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, that asserted the thirteen American colonies' independence from England.
democracy A form of government in which the people have the power to rule themselves.
enumerated powers A group of key powers the First Article of the Constitution explicitly gives to Congress. Examples include the power to tax, coin money and regulate commerce.
federalism A governmental principle that calls for a strong national government, with some power given to individual states.
monarchy A form of government in which hereditary rulers (kings and queens) hold power over the people.
natural law The political theory that says society should be governed by certain ethical principles.
oligarchy A form of government in which a relatively small body of individuals who govern possess high levels of wealth, social or military status, or achievement.
popular consent Political theory asserting that people should be able to participate directly in the governing of their own societies.
theory Likens a society's government and its citizens to parties entering into a contract. In this theory, individuals are considered free, so they give their consent when they agree to be governed.
supremacy clause Principle of the Constitution that holds that the laws of the Constitution and the nation as a whole are supreme in regard to any laws enacted by states.