We The People Unit 1 L3-L5 Notes Lesson 3: What is Republican Government? Vocabulary Civic virtue

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We The People Unit 1

L3-L5 Notes

Lesson 3: What is Republican Government?


Civic virtue – term that means putting the common good above individual interests

Common good – good of the community as a whole

Direct democracy – the type of democracy where the people themselves meet and make the laws that they decide are needed

Interests – things that are to your advantage or benefit

Represent – to take the place of or to stand in for someone

Representatives – people elected to stand in for someone

Republican Government (representative democracy) – government in which power is held by the people who elect representatives to run the government for the common good

Roman Republic - ancient republic that existed more than 2000 years ago, and helped inspire our form of government

Republican Government


  • People hold the power to govern

  • People give their power to delegates or leaders who represent them

  • The representatives are responsible to help all the people, not a select few


  • Elected to serve a common good

  • More efficient

  • People have a say

  • Representative are held responsible to the people


  • Works best in small communities

  • People need to have a lot in common, not much diversity

  • Large groups would naturally for factions, that would work against each other

Learn for story of Cincinnatus

  • Sometimes civic virtue can come at a cost (personal sacrifice)

Beliefs of Founders

In order for republican government to work the people:

  • Must have civic virtue

  • Must be willing to participate in their government

  • Must select good representatives interested in working for the common good

Lesson 4: What is constitutional government?


Constitution – a set of rules and laws that tells how a government is organized and run

Constitutional government – a government in which the powers of the ruler or rulers are limited by a constitution. The ruler(s) must obey the constitution.

Dictatorial government – government in which the rulers have unlimited powers

Limit- restrictions or boundaries

Citizen – person who is a member of a nation
Types of government

Autocracy - government in which one person has all power, two types:

  1. Dictatorial (dictatorship)

    • Ruler(s) have unlimited powers

    • absolute control over citizen’s lives

    • if there is a constitution – dictator has control over it (so doesn’t mean much)

    • may have other “branches” of government – but all must report to dictator and do what he/she wants

  1. Monarchy

  • King or Queen rules (monarchs)

  • Come to power through family line

  • Most modern – share power and final say with government

  • Usually subject to the country constitution

Democracy – citizens hold political power, two types:

  1. Representative democracy

    • Citizens elect leaders

    • Elected leaders or representatives do the day-to-day running of the country

    • Citizens hold power (if don’t like what reps are doing can vote in new ones!)

  1. Direct democracy

    • No representatives

    • Citizens directly involved in day-to-day governing

    • Citizens might have to help make laws or be a judge

    • Works best in small countries (i.e. ancient Athens)


  • Small group of people has power (i.e. noblemen or a junta-small group of military officers)

  • Operates much like a dictatorship (but power is shared)

  • Example – Myanmar or Burma from 1962-2011


  • Government recognizing God as ultimate authority

  • Religious law used to settle disputes and rule people

  • Can be any kind of government

  • Example – Iran (recognizes Islamic law)


  • Nobody is in control – or everyone is in control

  • Within government, what human state was like before governments

  • No current countries operate this way

Things often found in a constitution

  • Purpose of government

  • Organization of government

  • Define a citizen

  • How people are selected to serve government

  • List rights and responsibilities of citizens

How a constitution can limit government’s power (only some examples)

  • Those in office can be removed by vote

  • Courts cannot force a person to witness against himself

  • Courts cannot deny accused the right to an attorney

Lesson 5: How to organize government to prevent abuse of power?


Bill of Rights – 1st ten amendments to the constitution – list the basic rights of the people the federal government may not interfere with and must protect

Checks and balances – the sharing and balancing of power among different branches of government so no one branch can completely control the others

Executive branch – has power to carry out and enforce laws (carries out the laws made by the legislative branch)

Judicial branch – interprets and applies the laws and settles disputes

Legislative branch

Higher law – a set of laws that are superior to other laws. (US constitution is a higher law than any federal or state law)

Separation of powers – division of powers among the different branches of government (in US divided between legislative, executive and judicial)
How the government is limited


  • Rulebook for a country’s government

  • Can help limit a government

  • Most modern countries have a constitution

Rule of law

  • Laws are fair and enforced, no one is above the law (even the president or leader)

  • Citizens feel secure

  • Procedures are in place to keep law enforced

Separation of power

  • Dividing of power among several branches of government

  • Prevents one person or group from getting too much power

  • Each branch responsible for different government functions

Consent of the governed

  • Citizens give permission to be governed by the country’s government

  • Do this by voting – can change the government by voting

Rights of the minority

  • Protecting the rights of small or unpopular groups regardless of what the majority believes

  • When citizens ARE the government, this is important because in limiting government, you limit the power of the majority

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