Foundations of American Government
Standard(s) of Learning
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of the foundations of American constitutional government by
||explaining the fundamental principles of consent of the governed, limited government, rule of law, democracy, and representative government;
||explaining the significance of the charters of the Virginia Company of London, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, and the Constitution of the United States, including the Bill of Rights;
||identifying the purposes for the Constitution of the United States as they are stated in its Preamble;
||identifying the procedures for amending the Constitution of Virginia and the Constitution of the United States.
||The student will demonstrate knowledge of the American constitutional government at the national level by
||explaining the principle of separation of powers and the operation of checks and balances;
Explain that fundamental political principles define and shape American constitutional government. Include an analysis of the following fundamental political principles:
- Consent of the governed—People are the source of any and all governmental power.
Limited government—Government is not all-powerful and may do only those things people have given it the power to do.
- Rule of law—The government and those who govern are bound by the law.
- Democracy—In a democratic system of government, the people rule.
- Representative government—In a representative system of government people elect public officeholders to make laws and conduct government on their behalf.
Explain that American constitutional government is founded on concepts articulated in earlier documents, including the charters of the Virginia Company of London, the Virginia Declaration of Rights, the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom.
Analyze the influence of earlier documents on the Constitution of the United States of America, using the following information as a guide:
Describe how the preamble of a constitution sets forth the goals and purposes to be served by the government. Include an analysis of the following purposes of U.S. government:
- Charters of the Virginia Company of London
- Rights of Englishmen guaranteed to colonists
- The Virginia Declaration of Rights
- Served as a model for the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States of America
- Declaration of Independence
-Stated grievances against the king of Great Britain& Declared the colonies’ independence from Great Britain
Affirmed “certain unalienable rights” (life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness
- Established the idea that all people are equal under the law
- Articles of Confederation
- Established the first form of national government for the independent states
- Maintained that major powers resided with individual states
- Weakness of central government (e.g., no power to tax and enforce laws). Led to the writing of the Constitution of the United States of America
- Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom
- Freedom of religious beliefs and opinions
- Constitution of the United States of America (including the Bill of Rights)
- Establishes the structure of the United States government
- Guarantees equality under the law with majority rule and the rights of the minority protected
- Affirms individual worth and dignity of all people
- Protects the fundamental freedoms of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition
- To form a union
- To establish justice
- To ensure domestic peace
- To provide defense
Explain that the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America expresses the reasons the constitution was written. Analyze how the Preamble, which begins, “We the people,” establishes that the power of government comes from the people.
Explain that separating power among the legislative, executive, and judicial branches helps prevent any one branch from abusing its power.
Describe how a system of checks and balances gives each of the three branches of government ways to limit the powers of the other branches.
Use the following information to summarize how separation of powers and checks and balances protect against abuse of power by any one branch of government.
Legislative powers over the executive branch:
- Overrides vetoes
- Impeaches a President
Legislative powers over the judicial branch
- Approves federal judges
- Impeaches federal judges
Executive powers over the legislative branch
- Vetoes acts of Congress
- Calls Congress into special session
Executive powers over the judicial branch
- Appoints federal judges
Judicial powers over the legislative branch
- Declares laws unconstitutional
Judicial powers over the executive branch
- Declares executive acts unconstitutional
Explain that the Constitution of the United States of America defines the process by which formal changes are made to the document.
Explain that the process for amending the Constitution of the United States of America includes:
Action by Congress or convention
Ratification by the states
Explain that the amendment process is complex; to date, only 27 amendments have been added.
Below is an annotated list of Internet resources recommended for this organizing topic. Copyright restrictions may exist for the material on some Web sites. Please note and abide by any such restrictions.
“Avalon Project.” Yale University. <http://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/virginia.asp>. This site contains the text of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
“Charters of Freedom.” The National Archives Experience. <http://www.archives.gov/national_archives_experience/virginia_declaration_of_rights.html>. This site contains the Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights and resources.
“Document Analysis Worksheets.” National Archives and Records Administration Digital Classroom. <http://www.archives.gov/worksheets/written_document_analysis_worksheet.pdf>. This site supplies worksheets for analyzing every type of primary source document; including written documents, pictures, political cartoons, and sound recordings.
Documents of American History. Virginia Department of Education. <http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/.../resources/documents_american_history.pdf>. This site includes the text of important historical documents in PDF form.
“Historical Documents.” Ben's Guide to the U.S. Government for Kids. <http://bensguide.gpo.gov/6-8/documents/index.html>.This site contains thetexts of the Declaration of Independence, Articles of Confederation, Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights.
“The People’s Vote. 100 Documents That Shaped America.” <http://www.ourdocuments.gov/>. This site provides text versions of documents and resources.
“Preamble Scramble.” Ben's Guide to Government for Kids. <http://bensguide.gpo.gov/9-12/games/preamble_scramble.html>. Students can unscramble the words to the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
“Top Treasures” American Treasures of the Library of Congress. <http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/treasures/tr00.html> This site presents digital photos of the original handwritten draft of the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
“Virginia Declaration of Rights.” Library of Virginia. <http://www.lva.virginia.gov/lib-edu/education/psd/nation/dofr.htm.> This site contains the text of the Virginia Declaration of Rights.
Virginia Standards of Learning Assessments for the 2008 History and Social Science Standards of Learning. Civics and Economics. Test Blueprint. Virginia Department of Education, 2009.
<http://www.doe.virginia.gov/testing/sol/.../2008/blueprints_civics_economics.pdf>. This site provides assessment information for Civics and Economics.
“A Voice of Dissent: George Mason.” <http://www.virginiadeclarationofrights.com/>. This site, written by students, is devoted to The Virginia Declaration of Rights.
“What is Meant by Returning to Fundamental Principles?” <http://www.civiced.org/index.php?page=wtp_hs40_sb>. This site presents a "We the People" lesson on the fundamental principles of our governmental system.