Unit I: The Foundations of
the American Political
System and the Creation
of the Constitution
Law and Government
• Why do we have rules/laws?
• Who should govern/rule?
• What are the roles and responsibilities of
• What rights should all human beings have?
• Govern: to exercise power or authority to control others
• Law: a binding custom enforced by controlling authority
• Republic: gov’t in which citizens elect representatives to
run the country
• Natural / Human Rights: the rights that all humans should
have regardless of wealth, social status, birth (text, pp. 16-
• Constitution: a written document that establishes the
system of gov’t (text, pp. 8-9)
• Aristotle: natural law
• society should be governed by certain ethical principles
• Gov’t must respect the citizens
• Enlightenment: 17th & 18th century.
• sought alternatives to oppressive gov’t
• popular consent: people should be able to participate directly
• John Locke: social contract theory:
• individuals are naturally free
• people give their consent to be governed
• people formed gov’ts to preserve life, liberty, property,
and to assure justice.
• if the gov’t decides to interfere with this, the contract is
Two Key Questions
• Political Science looks at issues of power,
especially who gets what, when, how. Key
things to consider as a political scientist:
• 1. Where is the power?
• 2. Who can participate?
Types of Gov’t
• Monarchy: hereditary rulers (people who share the same
bloodline) wield absolute pwr.
• Dictatorship: Rule by one with absolute pwr.
• Oligarchy / Autocracy: a body of individuals possessing high levels
of wealth, social or military status, rule with absolute pwr.
• Democracy: Citizens make all gov’t decisions
• Complete chart given to you in class
• Complete the summary section of the Cornell
Notes. To do this
• Work to incorporate what we have studied
about the origins of government
• Try to answer the following Essential Question:
Who should govern/rule?