United States Government/Civics Glossary

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Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch

Act: A Bill that has been passed by Congress and become law. (Note: "Act" refers to a bill that has become law. "Act of Congress" refers to a bill passed by Congress but has not yet become law. "Act of the Senate" or "Act of the House" refers to a bill passed by one house only.)

Amendment: A change to a Constitution or to a bill.

Anti-Federalist: One who opposed the ratification of the Constitution.

Bill: Proposed legislation.

Bicameral: Having two branches of a legislature.

Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the United States Constitution.

Checks and Balances: A system whereby the different branches of government balance each other so that one branch does not gain too much power.

Commerce: Trade or exchange of goods and money.

Concurrent Powers: Powers shared by both the federal and the state governments.

Delegate: A representative entitled to exercise powers on behalf of a government, such as a in a convention.

Equal Representation: System under which all political entities such as states receive representation in the legislature equal to each other.

Executive Branch: The branch of government in charge of enforcing and executing the laws.

Federalism: System under which a national government as well as regional governments (the states) have certain powers of legislation.

Federalist: One who supported the ratification of the Constitution.

Impeachment: An accusation made by a legislature, or part of legislature, against an executive or judicial officer. The Impeachment is only the accusation and does not indicate guilt, which is determined at a trial in the other part of the legislature.

Judicial Branch/ Judiciary: The branch of government in charge of interpreting the laws; the courts.

Judicial Review: The power of a court to rule laws unconstitutional and therefore null and void.

Legislative Branch/ Legislature: The branch of government in charge of making the laws and overseeing their enforcement.

Probable Cause: Cause (for an action such as searching a home) that has a reasonable basis.

Proportional Representation: System under which a political entity such as a state recieves representation in the legislature in proportion with its population.

Quarter: To provide room and board for. Usually used in the context of boarding soldiers.

Ratification: 1. the approval of a constitution or an amendment by a state through a legislature, convention, or other method. 2. the executive act of approving a treaty. In the US, the President may ratify treaties, but only with the advice and consent of two-thirds of the Senate.

Subpoena: A court order commanding a person or entity either to surrender documents to the court or to testify.

Veto: The rejection of a bill by the executive.


Contents Colonial America - Articles of Confederation - The Constitutional Convention - Ratification - The Three Branches - The Federal System - General Provisions - The Bill of Rights - The Later Amendments - Legislative Branch - Executive Branch - Judicial Branch