The Constitution

The following notes will help you prepare for questions about the Constitution on the AP U.S. History Exam.

  • Concern over recreating a monarchy led to the adoption of the Articles of Confederation as the first form of government in the U.S. It gave more authority to the states than to a central, federal government.

  • John Locke had a strong influence on the Constitution, including the idea that man has the right to life, liberty, and property. Thomas Jefferson incorporated many of Locke's ideas in the Constitution.

  • The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation, which gave more authority to the states and did not include a president of the U.S.


3/5 Compromise : the agreement between northern and southern states that slaves would count as 3/5 of a person in the population of the states

Anti-federalists : against strong central government and insisted that the Bill of Rights be included in the Constitution

Bill of Rights : The first 10 amendments to the Constitution, guaranteeing individual rights and liberties

checks and balances : the idea that each branch of the U.S. government has its power limited by the others to prevent one branch from gaining too much control

enumerated powers : powers granted to Congress by the Constitution, such as the power to declare war or collect taxes

Federalists : in favor of a strong central government

protective tariff : a tax on foreign goods, intended to protect the economy in the U.S. from foreign competition

separation of powers : the division of authority in the government between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches

supremacy clause : the idea that the Constitution and Congressional laws and treaties supercede those of the states

Federalist Papers

  • The Federalist Papers are a series of essays that support a strong central government. The primary authors are John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison, although the Federalist Papers were published under a pseudonym, Publius.

  • "Federalist #10" is one of the most significant essays. It suggests that a republic form of government can help prevent some of the problems associated with a large democracy, such as anarchy. Alexander Hamilton was the author.

  • "Federalist #51" argues in support of checks and balances. James Madison wrote it.

  • "Federalist #78," written by Alexander Hamilton, explains the power of the judiciary and is frequently cited by the Supreme Court.


Key Articles and Amendments

Article 1 : Explains the responsibilities of the legislative branch.
Article 2 : Explains the responsibilities and qualifications for the executive branch.
Article 3 : Explains the responsibilities of the judicial branch and explains treason.
Amendment 1 : Freedom of expression, religion, and the right to petition the government

Amendment 2 : The right to form a militia and bear arms
Amendment 4 : Protection against illegal search and seizure
Amendment 5 : The right to due process and to not self-incriminate
Amendment 13 : Abolished slavery
Amendment 14 : Guarantees equal protection for all citizens and that no law shall be made that abridges the rights of citizens
Amendment 15 : Grants the right to vote regardless of race or former condition of servitude
Amendment 18 : Prohibition of alcohol
Amendment 19 : Grants the right to vote regardless of sex
Amendment 21 : Repealed the 18th amendment
Amendment 22 : Limits presidents to two terms


Related Links:
The Constitution Quiz
AP US History Quizzes
AP US History Notes
The U.S. Constitution Quiz
Constitution Day Facts
United States Constitution Quiz
Constitution Day worksheets and Constitution Day games
Constitution Facts
The New South
The West

Educational Videos