Civics: Study of citizenship and government

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Purpose of Government

  • Civics: Study of citizenship and government.

  • Citizen: Member of a community with government and laws.

  • Government: The power that rules a country.

  • Governments make laws, provide services, and keep order.

  • Government services include the armed forces, police, fire department, schools, hospitals, and road construction.

  • Not only do governments make laws, they also enforce them.

  • Courts are established to decide truth in certain cases.


  • Direct democracy: Citizens have the power to rule and make laws. It was established in Athens, Greece.

  • Representative democracy: Citizens elect representatives to make laws. This is also known as a republic.

  • Citizens still hold power in a republic because they elect the leaders.


  • Controlled by a small group or a single person.

  • Leaders have complete control over laws and government and therefore control the citizens.

American citizen influence

  • Vote. Citizens vote for national, state, and local officials.

  • Join political parties and interest groups to express views with others that share the same beliefs.

  • Government is put in place by the people to serve the people.


  • Anyone born in US boundaries is a US citizen.

  • If both parents are US citizens, their children are US citizens.

  • Dual citizenship: Citizen of two countries. This occurs when a child is born outside US boundaries and has only one parent that is a US citizen.

Aliens and restrictions

  • Alien: Person from another country who has not become a US citizen.

  • Immigrant: An alien with the intention of staying in the country permanently without becoming a US citizen.

  • The government restricts the amount of immigrants that come to the country. This is called a quota.

  • Legal Immigration and Revision Act (1990): Increased the quota on immigrants allowed to enter the US and gave special considerations to those with needed job skills.

Illegal aliens

  • People in the country without permission from the US government.

  • Can not legally hold a job in the United States.

  • If they are found, they will be deported, sent back to their country. The Immigration and Naturalization Service investigates cases.

Legal aliens

  • Lives are similar to US citizens.

  • Must obey US laws and pay taxes.

  • Can not vote in elections or run for office.

  • They can not work most government jobs.

  • Some eventually become US citizens but, this is not required.


  • Process where an alien becomes a US citizen.

  • Must file a declaration of intention: alien intends on becoming a US citizen.

  • They must file an application for naturalization. (Must be 18).

  • Application is reviewed by the INS.

  • After approval of the application, an examiner will ask questions about US government and history that must be answered in English.

  • The immigrant must take an oath of loyalty in court. After the oath, the person is a US citizen.

  • All children of the naturalized citizen under 18 get automatic status as citizens.

English Government

  • In 1215, King John was forced by nobles to sign the Magna Carta. This document showed that the king had limits to his power.

  • King Henry III met with a group of advisors. The meetings were called parliaments. By 1300, Parliament grew in size and had legislative power.

  • In 1688, Parliament removed King James. This showed that Parliament was the true power of England.

  • The English Bill of Rights (1689) gave Parliament the power to raise taxes, make laws, and control the army.

  • Common law is based on precedents, an earlier ruling in a similar situation.

  • America copied several ideas from England: Ruler is not above the law, people have a voice in government, and citizens have basic rights.

A British Colony

- Colony: A group of people ruled by the government of another country.

- British citizens left England to settle in a new land. This made governing very difficult.

- Colonists began to develop their own laws.

House of Burgesses

  • Colonists arrived in Jamestown in 1607.

  • In 1619, each area elected two representatives (22).

  • They had little power.

Mayflower Compact

  • In 1620, the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts.

  • The members signed the compact, agreement, saying the government would make “just and equal laws”.

  • Established direct democracy in the colonies.

Colonial Governments

  • By 1733, all 13 colonies had established a government.

  • All had a governor and a legislature. Most legislatures were bicameral.

  • Colonists began to separate themselves from England.

  • In the mid-1700’s, England decided to strengthen its control.

British Taxes

  • King George III began introducing high taxes in the colonies.

  • All materials produced in the colonies belonged to England and colonists were forced to buy British goods.

  • British war debts with France increased taxes on the colonists.

Virtual Representation

  • The colonists had no representatives in Parliament. They argued that because their views were not presented, they should not have to pay taxes.

  • Britain argued that because the colonies were part of the British Empire, and Parliament made laws for the good of the empire, the colonies were virtually represented.

Increased Tension

  • Colonists began boycotting British goods. This led to the repeal of the Stamp Act.

  • In 1774, Britain passed the Coercive Acts. These were known as the Intolerable acts in the colonies.

First Continental Congress

  • Sept., 1774, 12 colonies sent delegates to Philadelphia.

  • Delegates demanded that King George III restore the rights of the colonists. He was given one year.

  • King George III sent soldiers to the colonies.

Lexington and Concord

  • Lexington: 70 Massachusetts Minutemen waited for the British, which numbered 750. After a stare down, a shot was fired. The colonists dispersed. There were 18 American casualties and 1 British casualty.

  • Concord: Colonists began firing at the British. There were 250 British casualties and 100 American casualties.

  • Independence was openly discussed.

Second Continental Congress

  • May, 1775, Colonial leaders met in Philadelphia.

  • In 1776, the leaders decided on Independence.

Declaration of Independence

  • Thomas Jefferson was chosen to write the statement.

  • He used the ideas of European philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau (All men are created equal) and John Locke (Natural Rights).

  • Four Parts:

1. Preamble: Introduction.

2. Declaration of Rights: Explained the rights that all people

should have.

3. List of Grievances: Explained everything that England did

to the colonists.

4. Formal Declaration: Declared independence.

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