Founding Principles

Below, you will find suggested definitions of each principle. Click here to read the words of James Madison, a primary contributor to the Constitution, and other Founders on these principles.

Individual Liberty:

The principle that each person is born with freedom from arbitrary or unjustified restraint


A system of dual sovereignty. The people delegate certain powers to the national government,
while the states and the people retain those powers not delegated.

Limited Government:

The philosophy that the national government has only those powers given to it in the Constitution. If a power is not listed, the national government is assumed not to have it.

Representative Government:

A republican system where the people select representatives to represent their interests as they
make and carry out laws.

Private Property:

A system where individuals have the right to obtain and control possessions, as well as the fruits of
their own labor.

“All Men Are Created Equal”:

The understanding that there is no natural class of rulers among people, and that all are born with
the same unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Separation of Powers/Checks and Balances:

A system of distinct powers built into the constitution, to prevent an accumulation of power in one
branch, and in order to ensure each branch can stop the others from growing too powerful.