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The Seven Principles of
the U.S. Constitution

The framers of the Constitution wanted a system of government that would prevent the tyranny that they experienced under the rule of the British monarchy. They established a foundation for government based on the following seven principles, which work together to protect individual rights and liberties, while having a strong central government that can work for the good of the nation.
Principles Diagram

Popular Sovereignty

(Literal meaning: rule by the people) The people give the government its power. The framers of the Constitution believed that power begins with the citizens, who can exercise that power to make decisions that affect their own and other Americans’ lives. For citizens to make wise decisions, they should stay informed about the issues and vote.

Republicanism

A form of government where people vote for representatives (Congress, President and Vice President, some judges). The framers of the Constitution wanted people to have a voice in the government, but they did not want public opinion to interfere with good government. These elected representatives are responsible to the citizens and they must govern according to law. The principle of Republicanism should not be confused with the Republican Party.

Federalism

A form of government where power is shared between the national and state governments. The framers of the Constitution wanted to create a strong national government (to address the weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation), yet enable state governments to address local issues. The term “federal government” generally applies to the central national authority.

Separation of Powers

Governmental power is separated into three branches: legislative, which makes the laws; executive, which enforces the laws; and judicial, which interprets the laws. Each branch has its own responsibilities, including overseeing the other branches. The framers of the Constitution wanted to ensure that no person or group could abuse their powers.

Checks and Balances

In order for a separation of powers to succeed, each branch of government needs to be limited in its power. Each branch “checks” that the other two branches are functioning within their given powers and that responsibilities are balanced among them. The system of checks and balances ensures that no one group of people becomes too powerful.

Limited Government

Government leaders are not above the law; their powers are limited by the law. Since power originates with the people, no single individual or group can abuse it for their own gains. The framers of the Constitution wanted the national leaders to be bound by the Constitution and national law.

Individual Rights

Citizens have basic rights, freedoms, and liberties guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. No laws can be passed to take away those rights. This principle was also stated in the Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.


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