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Constitutional Principles

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Separation of Powers

James Madison knew that a key challenge of maintaining just government was framing it in such a way that the government would be forced to control itself. How does a system of separated powers—and the checks and balances built into those separated powers—preserve liberty?

For further exploration:

Federalist 51

Federalist 10

Consent of the Governed

Perhaps the most fundamental constitutional principle is that just government power flows from the consent of the governed. How does this principle, sometimes known as popular sovereignty, contrast with monarchical sovereignty?

For further exploration:

The Rights of the Colonists

The Declaration of Independence

Program in Constitutionalism and Democracy at the University of Virginia

Republican Government

The only theoretical alternative to monarchy in the Founders’ day was republican government. Why did the Founders believe that republican government would correct the problems associated with a majority-rule democratic system? How does the Constitution put these principles in place?

For further exploration:

Thoughts on Government

Federalist 39

The Federalist and Anti-Federalist Debate on Diversity and the Extended Republic, written by Drs. Christopher Burkett and Patricia Dillon

Rule of Law

Citizens’ commitment to the rule of law is crucial for self-government. The process by which the Constitution was framed and ratified reflects the rule of law, and many of its protections ensure that the United States is, as John Adams explained, an empire of laws and not of men.

For further exploration

The Constitution

The Bill of Rights

The Constitutional Convention as a Four-Act Drama, written by Dr. Gordon Lloyd

Religion in 18th Century America, written by Drs. Vincent Philip Muñoz and Maria Victoria Muñoz