G CS 05

Basic Principles of the U.S. Constitution

Principles related to representative democracy are reflected in the articles and amendments of the U.S. Constitution and provide structure for the government of the United States.

Content Statement

5. As the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution incorporates basic principles that help define the government of the United States as a federal republic including its structure, powers and relationship with the governed.

Content Elaborations

Basic principles which help define the government of the United States include but are not limited to popular sovereignty, limited government, federalism, separation of powers, and checks and balances.

Popular sovereignty is the principle that governmental authority is derived from the people. Under this principle, government governs with the consent of the governed.

The principle of limited government holds that a government can only exercise the powers granted to it. Government must be conducted according to the rule of law.

Federalism is a system of government in which power is divided between a central authority and constituent units. Under the U.S. Constitution, this principle is reflected in the division of powers between the national government and the states.

The principle of separation of powers requires a distribution of governmental powers among independent branches. Each of the branches has a specific field of authority and unique set of responsibilities within the operation of the government.

Checks and balances constitute a system for controlling government power. Under this principle, the branches of government possess the ability to restrain certain actions of other branches.

These principles were introduced in grade eight.

Expectations for Learning

Explain in context one of the basic principles which help define the government of the United States.