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The Framers had at least four major goals for the new government. They wanted to have a government strong enough to meet national needs without threatening the existence of the states or liberty. They also wanted the government to be grounded on popular sovereignty. The Constitution both granted and limited power. A central mechanism for preserving liberty was the division of power between the national government and the states (federalism); another was the separation of powers among the three branches of government, each of which was designed to check excesses in the other branches. Rather than being completely separate, the three branches of the national government actually share powers.

Learning objectives:

  • Identify key arguments advocated by supporters (Federalists) and opponents (Antifederalists) of the new Constitution.
  • Identify four major goals of the Framers of the U.S. Constitution.
  • Provide examples of how American government consisted of separated institutions sharing powers, thus serving as checks and balances upon one another.
  • Describe the debates over the desirability of a bill of rights when ratification of the Constitution was being considered.
  • Understand the meaning and development of judicial review.
  • Discuss how the American system of government differs from that of a direct democracy.
  • Describe the varied terms of office of members of the three branches of government and the purposes that these differing terms serve.
  • Relate how key leaders, elections, and movements have resulted in a greater commitment to direct democracy during the course of American history.
  • Compare the American system of government with that of other democracies, especially those that utilize a parliamentary system of government.
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This title is part of the series: FRAMEWORK FOR DEMOCRACY




10 and up


Color and black-and-white

Run Time

26 minutes