Unit 1 Objectives & Targeted Content

A balance between governmental power and individual rights has been a hallmark of American political development.

The U.S. government is based on the following democratic ideals: 

           The ideal of limited government is ensured by the interaction of these principles: 

The Declaration of Independence, drafted by Thomas Jefferson (with help from Adams and Franklin), restates the philosophy of natural rights, and provides a foundation for popular sovereignty. The U.S. Constitution, drafted by James Madison at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia that was led by George Washington (with important contributions from Hamilton and members of the “Grand Committee”), is an example of a social contract and establishes a system of limited government. The Constitution provides the blueprint for a unique form of democratic government in the United States. 

Representative democracies can take several forms along this scale: 

Different aspects of the U.S. Constitution as well as the debate between Federalist No. 10 and Brutus No. 1 reflect the tension between the broad participatory model and the more filtered participation of the pluralist and elite models of representative democracy 

     The three models of representative democracy continue to be reflected in contemporary institutions and political behavior





The Constitution emerged from the debate about the weaknesses in the Articles of Confederation as a blueprint for limited government.

Specific incidents and legal challenges that highlighted key weaknesses of the Articles of Confederation are represented by the: 

Compromises deemed necessary for ratification of the Constitution included the following: 

The debate over the role of the national government, the powers of state governments, and the rights of individuals remains at the heart of present-day constitutional issues about democracy and governmental power, as represented by: 





The Constitution created a competitive policy-making process to ensure the people’s will is represented and that freedom is preserved.


Federalism reflects the dynamic distribution of power between national and state governments.

Federalism is the system of government in the United States in which power is shared between the national and state governments. The exclusive and concurrent powers of the national and state governments help explain the ongoing debate over the balance of power between the two levels. 

The distribution of power between national and state governments is demonstrated by: 

The balance of power between the national and state governments has changed over time based on U.S. Supreme Court interpretation of such cases as: 




Federalism Explained

1.8 - McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

1.8 - McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)

1.8 - U.S. v. Lopez (1995)

1.8 - U.S. v. Lopez (1995)

Unit 1 Review Materials

Steve Heimler's Unit 1 Summary Video

Carey LaManna's Unit 1 Review Video