Constitution and Declaration of Independence Words

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There are 297 words in this glossary
Abdicated
gave up a right, responsibility or duty

Abridging
reducing or restricting

Absolved
set free or released

Accommodation
the process of adapting or adjusting to someone or something

Acquiesce
agree without protest

Adhering
being attached as a follower

Adjourn
postpone action of a convened legislative body until another time specified

Admiralty and maritime jurisdiction
maritime—related to the sea or sailing—and admiralty jurisdiction covers things done upon and relating to the sea, lakes and rivers. These include transactions relating to commerce and navigation, as well as damages and injuries. Formerly these laws were administered by admirals, which explains their name.

Admit
allow

Affected
to seek to obtain; to aim at; aspire to

Affirmation
a formal legal declaration by a person who declines to take an oath for reasons of conscience (compare to oath)

Allegiance
tie or obligation of a person to his king or government

Ambassador
a government official of the highest rank sent by one nation to live in another nation as its representative

Annihilation
being wiped out completely

Appeal
to make a request to a higher court asking that a case be reheard or reviewed; 2) to make an urgent request

Appellate
relating to appeals, which are reviews of lower court decisions by a higher court

Application
formal request to an authority; the act of making such a request

Apportioned
divided and allocated

Appropriation
1) money set aside for a particular use; 2) assigning for a particular use

Arbitrary
1) not based on a known reason or rule; at the whim of someone else, such as a tyrant; 2) absolute or unrestricted

Arsenals
places for making or storing weapons and other munitions.

Article
a section or part of a written document such as a constitution, treaty or contract

Ascertained
established

Assent
agreement or consent

Assume
to take

At large
1) in general; 2) in complete detail or fully

Attainder
the loss of a person’s civil rights and property because he has been sentenced to death or outlawed

Attained
reached

Attainted
punished by attainderpunished by attainder

Bail
money given to allow the temporary release of a person from jail and to guarantee the person will return at a certain date. If the person fails to return, the money is given up.

Bands
things that bind or unite

Beneficent
causing good to be done

Bill
1) a proposed law presented for discussion and approval; 2) a list of items. The Bill of Rights lists 10 basic rights.

Bill of Attainder
a law passed against a person, pronouncing him guilty, without trial, of an alleged crime (especially treason) and punishing him by death and depriving him of his civil rights and his property

Bill of credit
paper money

Blessings
benefits

Bounties
rewards offered to people by the government for performing certain acts. During the Civil War, a cash bounty was offered to men for enlisting in the army.

Breach
violation

Brethren
people closely united or associated

Britain
“Britain” and “Great Britain” mean the island where England, Scotland and Wales are located, and since 1707 also refers to the political union of England, Scotland and Wales

Candid
free from prejudice; fair or impartial

Capital
punishable by death

Capitation
a tax, fee, or charge of the same amount for every person

Cases
matters to be decided (in a court of law)

Certificates
declarations made in writing and signed by the person and intended to verify a fact

Certify
make a declaration in writing

Cession
the action of transferring the title or ownership of something to another owner

Charter
a document which outlines the conditions under which a colony is organized

Chief justice
the senior judge of the Supreme Court

Civil
1) relating to a person as a member of a community. It comes from a Latin word meaning “city.”; 2) relating to the community, or to the policy and government of the citizens

Civil liberty
the liberty of persons in a society. Society restrains “natural liberty” for the safety of its citizens. So “liberty” in a civilized society has as part of its definition the control of the individual to the extent that the individual may not harm or hinder the liberty of another individual. Unnecessary restraint of natural liberty when an individual’s actions do not threaten the public good is oppression and therefore not liberty. See also natural liberty, liberty

Colony
1) a group of people who settle in a place away from their native land, but remain under the political control of their native land; 2) the land settled by these people.

Commander in chief
supreme commander of the armed forces

Commission
1) a written document given to a person authorizing him to perform certain duties; 2) the act of giving a commission to a person

Common law
that body of rules, principles and customs which have been received from our ancestors, and recognized by courts. It is different from “statutory law,” which is laws made by legislatures. It applies to disputes between private parties in non-criminal matters. The phrase “at common law” means according to common law.

Compact
contract or treaty

Compulsory process
a legal document ordering a person to appear in court

Conclude
to make a final determination

Concur
agree

Concurrence
agreement

Concurrent
existing at the same time

Confederation
a group of independent nations or states joined together. The Confederation was the word that referred to the United States before the Constitution was adopted.

Congress
1) a body of persons with the power to make laws. The U.S. Congress is composed of the Senate and House of Representatives.; 2) a meeting of individuals who will deal with matters for their common good

Conjured
asked earnestly

Consanguinity
relationship by descent from the same ancestor; relationship by blood; kinship; close relationship

Consent
permission

Constellation
a group of stars that form a recognizable pattern

Constituting
forming

Constitution
1) an agreement that sets in place a system of fundamental principles for the government of rational and social beings; 2) a system of fundamental rules, principles and laws that establishes the form of government in a state or country; 3) a document in which these fundamental laws and principles are written; 4) the state of being; or the way a thing is composed or made up The word comes from “constitute,” which means to fix or establish. So, our Constitution fixes or establishes what our government is and what it does.

Constrains
forces or compels

Construed
interpreted or explained

Consul
a person appointed by his government to live in a foreign country and serve his own country’s business interests, and citizens in that foreign country

Controversies
lawsuits

Convene
to cause to assemble

Convention
meeting of delegates or representatives for consultation on important issues

Correspondence
communication

Corruption of blood
a blood relative or family member of a person guilty of treason is held guilty of his or her relative’s treason. In times prior to this, sometimes a traitor’s family members were also punished.

Credit
1) confidence which people place in the ability of a nation, company or individual to repay borrowed money; 2) a reliance on the truth of something said or done

Creed
set of beliefs or aims that guide someone’s actions

Crown
the power of a king

Decent
fit or suitable

Declaration
a public announcement. Declaration comes from a Latin word meaning “make quite clear.”

Declare
to state that a person or thing exists in a certain way

Deem
conclude

Democracy
a government run directly by the people. “Demos,” a Greek word for “the people”, combined with “cracy,” a Greek word meaning “to rule,” to form democracy. A small town could have a democracy where each person voted on all matters concerning the town, but with millions of people in the United States, it was considered much more practical to have a “republican” form of government where the people vote for representatives who then vote on their behalf.

Denounces
announces

Deny
refuse to recognize

Depository
a place where anything is kept for safekeeping

Design
plan or purpose

Despotism
a tyranny; or unjust and oppressive government

Devolve
pass to a body or person at a lower level (said of duties and responsibilities)

Disavow
repudiate or condemn

Discipline
education and instruction

Disparage
regard as being of little worth

Dispose of
to deal with conclusively, or settle

Disposed
made willing; inclined

Distinct
separate

District
an area of a country or city

Domestic
refers to one’s own country

Due process of law
the regular administration or course of the law

Duty
1) a payment due to the government, especially a tax imposed on imports, exports, or manufactured goods; 2) that which a person owes to another; that which a person is bound by any natural or moral obligation to do or perform

Effect
produce or cause

Effects
personal belongings

Either
one or the other

Elector
someone who elects: a) a qualified voter or b) a person who votes at the Electoral College for president and vice president

Electoral College
“college” means an organized group with particular aims, duties and privileges. “Electoral” means relating to elections or electors. The term “Electoral College” designates the group of people that elects the president and vice president

Emancipation
the action of freeing from slavery

Emit
issue formally and with authority; put into circulation (emit currency)

Emolument
the gain from employment or position; payment received for work; salary, wages, fees, etc.

Endowed
provided with a quality or power

Ends
intended purposes

Engagements
obligations by agreement or contract

Enjoy
have, possess and use with satisfaction

Entangling
involving in difficulties or complicated circumstances that are difficult to get out of

Enumeration
establishing the number of something

Equity
fairness or justice. Equity is a system of rules that supplements and replaces laws in the United States when such laws are inadequate for fair settlement. It is based on principles of reason and fairness that allow the law to be adjusted to special circumstances. Originally, courts of equity were different from courts of law. Today, most states have combined the equity and law courts into one court system.

Establish
set up on a permanent basis

Evinces
shows or indicates

Ex Post Facto
after the fact. An ex post facto law is one which applies to actions committed before the law was passed. Taken from a Latin phrase meaning “from a thing done afterward.”

Excise
a tax on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of various commodities within a country, such as liquor, tobacco, etc.

Excited
created (He has excited domestic insurrections)

Execution
the putting into operation

Executive
refers to the branch of government that administers laws and government affairs

Executive departments
currently there are fifteen executive departments, such as the Departments of Defense, Commerce and Agriculture. The principal officers of these departments are called secretaries and, along with the vice president, make up the president’s “cabinet” or group of advisors.

Exercise
performance of duties

Expedient
proper under the circumstances

Faith
belief; confidence; trust

Fatiguing
weaken by harassing

Federal
the system of national government that deals with matters that individual states have in common (even though the individual states have their own state governments) is called the “federal system.” The federal government is also called the national government, the government of the United States, or the central government. The word “federal” comes from a Latin word, which means “league.” “League” means an alliance between states for their mutual aid and defense; a national agreement. A key element is their agreement. “Federal” means a league of states that have agreed to cooperate with each other for a specific purpose or purposes. Hence, we have our federal government of the United States, which is the central or national government. This federal government is made from the agreement of the states to cooperate with each other.

Felony
a major crime such as murder, arson, rape, etc.

Fit
convenient

Forfeiture
a giving up of something as a penalty, such as losing one’s property as a payment for a crime

Formidable
feared or dreaded

Free
able to think or act without restriction; independent

Free person
someone who is not a slave

General
concerning all or most people

Government
1) the action of controlling or regulating a nation; 2) the fundamental system by which a country is ruled The word “government” comes from “govern,” which means to direct or control the actions and conduct of men, either by established laws or by the will of the ruler.

Grand jury
a grand jury is a jury that investigates allegations of a crime and issues indictments if it finds there is sufficient evidence against the person or persons

Ground
foundation; that which supports anything

Habeas corpus
Latin for “you are ordered to have the body.” A writ of habeas corpus is a legal document ordering a person to be brought before a court; specifically, an order requiring that a detained person be brought before a court at a stated time and place to decide the legality of his detention or imprisonment.

Happiness
that agreeable state of being in which desires are gratified; the enjoyment of pleasure without pain; good fortune. It comes from a root meaning “chance” and “good fortune.” So the right to the “pursuit [from the Latin ‘follow forward’] of happiness” contains the idea that you are free to follow a path that leads to good fortune—whatever goal that represents for you.

Herein
in this document

High crimes
great or punishable by death

High seas
the open ocean not under the jurisdiction of a country

Hither
to this place

House
a group of people elected to make laws. It is part of the legislative branch of government. Congress is made up of two separate branches called “houses.” One house is named the House of Representatives, with its members usually called “representatives”; the other house is the Senate and its members are called “senators.”

Humble
submissive

Immunities
freedoms

Impeachment
charging the holder of a public office with misconduct. Under the Constitution, the House of Representatives makes a written charge against an official (the impeachment) and then, after impeachment, the Senate sits as a court, hears evidence and gives a verdict.

Impel
drive or urge forward

Impost
a tax, especially a tax on imported goods

In consequence
as a result

In general
relating to or including all members

Indictment
a formal written charge against one or more people presented to a court

Inestimable
too valuable or precious to be properly measured or estimated

Inevitably
unavoidably

Infamous crime
one which is punishable by imprisonment or death

Inferior officers
government officials of lower rank than ambassadors, Supreme Court judges, etc.

Instituted
established

Instrument
someone or something used as a means for accomplishing a specific purpose

Insurrections
violent uprising against authority or government

Invested
provided with something

Involuntary servitude
a slave-like condition. Sometimes British criminals were sold to American colonists to labor for them during the term of their sentence.

Judicial
refers to judges, courts or their functions

Judiciary
dealing with courts of law

Junction
act of joining

Jurisdiction
1) the power to make, declare or apply the law; 2) the power to govern

Just
honest; conforming to moral and proper principles of social conduct

Justice
1) behavior or treatment based on what is morally right or fair; 2) the administration of the law or authority in maintaining this; 3) a judge on the Supreme Court

Kindred
relationship by blood

Laid
imposed a burden or penalty

Law
rules established by governments for regulating people’s actions.

Law of nations
rules that regulate dealings between nations coming from principles of justice, customs or agreements between nations

Laws of Nature
nature is the entire universe; or the creator of all things or the operation of the power that creates all things. The Laws of Nature include the idea of unchanging moral principles that form the basis for human conduct.

Lay
to set or impose (to lay and collect taxes)

Legislative
the power to make laws

Legislature
a group of persons given the power and responsibility to make laws for a country or state. The Parliament in Great Britain and the federal Congress in the United States are both legislatures.

Letters of Marque and Reprisal
government documents authorizing an individual to arm a ship and capture enemy merchant ships and cargo. Letters of marque and reprisal are no longer used.

Levying
making (levying war)

Liberty
1) free from the arbitrary [based on random choice or personal whim] control of others; 2) release or freedom from slavery, imprisonment or other restrictions. It comes from a root word meaning “belonging to the people, free” and also “to grow up, rise.” See also natural liberty, civil liberty

Life
the condition in which a plant’s, an animal’s or a human being’s natural functions and motions are performed. In humankind, that state of being in which the spirit, intellect and body are united we identify as life. The source of the word “life” goes back to a meaning of “to be.” So when we say “life” we are speaking about our right to be and to regulate or conduct our own existence.

Magazines
places of storage or military supply depots

Magnanimity
the quality of being noble and generous in one’s conduct and rising above pettiness or meanness

Majority
more than half

Manly
brave

Measures
1) inches, feet, yards, acres, etc.; 2) actions to be taken

Mercenaries
hired soldiers

Militia
body of soldiers organized from the civilian population in times of emergencies. When they are not needed for military duties, they pursue their usual occupations.

Misconstruction
mistaking the true meaning

Misdemeanors
offenses less serious than crimes

Mock
imitating reality but not real

Mode
manner; method

Native
produced by nature; natural

Natural liberty
the power to act as one thinks fit without any restraint or control except from the laws of nature

Naturalization
giving to a person of foreign birth the rights of citizenship in a new country

Nay
a “no” vote

Net
remaining from an amount of money after all deductions have been made

Notwithstanding
without being affected by the particular factor mentioned

Oath
a formal declaration with an appeal to God for the truth of what is being declared

Object
aim or goal

Office
a particular duty or employment

Officers
1) people appointed to positions of authority in a government; 2) people appointed to positions of rank and authority in the armed services

Ordain
officially order

Original jurisdiction
the authority to try a case from its beginning

Other officers
people appointed to positions of responsibility in the government

Other public ministers
government officials representing their own government in another country and ranking below an ambassador

Overt act
“overt” means open or public. An “overt act” is a legal term meaning an actual open and outward action taken to further a crime. For example, thinking about pulling out a gun and robbing someone would not be an overt act, but actually pulling out a gun and robbing someone would be.

Paralleled
equaled

Pardon
lessening or setting aside the punishment for a crime

Parliament
a group of people that make the laws for a country

Peace
that quiet, order and security which is guaranteed by the laws

People
the group of persons who make up a nation

Perfidy
treachery

Petitioned
made a formal request

Political
relating to government or public affairs

Poll tax
1) a tax per “head”; 2) a tax on each person collected before they may vote. The old English meaning of “poll” was a person’s “head.”

Post roads
roads over which mail is carried

Posterity
all of a person’s descendants; all future generations or future mankind

Powers
1) influential countries; 2) rights or authorities

Prejudice
to injure, or harm because of some action

Prescribe
order or direct

Presentment
a report made by a grand jury of an offense that the grand jury observed or learned during their investigations

President pro tempore
a senator who presides over the U.S. Senate in the absence of the vice president. The vice president of the United States is the official presiding officer of the Senate, but in modern times generally presides over the Senate only on ceremonial occasions or when a tie-breaking vote is needed.

Primary election
a state election to choose candidates for public office. The word “primary” means first. These elections are followed by the election where the final choice is made.

Privileged
exempted

Pro tempore
temporary

Probable cause
a valid reason in presuming someone is guilty of some illegal act

Produce
that which is yielded

Provide
1) make available for use; 2) make adequate preparation; enable or allow

Provided
“provided” is used in legal documents to introduce a condition or requirement

Providence
God or the protective care of nature as a spiritual power

Prudence
good judgment

Public
in open view

Publish
formally announce

Pursuance
the carrying out of something in the way that is expected or required

Quartering
lodging

Quorum
the minimum number of members of an assembly required to be present to make the actions of that assembly valid

Ratify
to give formal approval to something

Recess
suspension of business

Rectitude
correctness of behavior

Redress
the setting right of what is wrong; satisfaction or compensation for a wrong or injury

Reformation
the correction of anything corrupt

Render
cause to be; make

Representative houses
legislatures. They are composed of representatives of the people who meet and make laws. The House of Lords and the House of Commons in Great Britain and the Senate and the House of Representatives in the United States are representative houses.

Reprieves
postponements of punishments

Republic
a form of government in which supreme power rests with all the people and their elected representatives, and which has an elected president rather than a king or queen

Requisite
required or necessary

Reserving
retaining

Resolution
formal statement of opinion or intention by a legislature

Respect
1) that positive view or honor in which we hold the good qualities of others; 2) in view of; considering, regarding

Respecting
regarding

Respectively
separately or individually

Returns
reports on the count of votes at polling places

Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
the name of four early settlements in what is now Rhode Island

Right
1) a power or privilege which correctly belongs to one by law, nature or tradition; 2) verb to relieve from wrong; restore to normal or correct condition; 3) of right as a result of having a moral or legal claim

Seat
1) location or site; Washington, D.C. is the seat of the national government; 2) a place in an elected legislature or other body

Secure
to make certain, to make safe, to guard effectively from danger

Securities
IOUs, such as savings bonds issued by the U.S. government

Self-evident
producing certainty or clear conviction upon direct observation

Several
individual, separate or distinct. The several states would be the separate, individual states, such as New York, Virginia, Georgia, etc.

Sitting
engaged in its business

Speaker
the officer presiding over a lawmaking body, such as the House of Representatives

Standing
remaining permanently in existence

Station
position or rank

Subscribed
signed at the end of a document

Substance
means of living

Sufferable
able to be tolerated

Sufferance
tolerance; endurance, such as of pain or misery

Suffrage
the right to vote

Tenure
the duration, act, manner, or right of holding something, such as an elected office or other position

Thereby
by or through that

Therefore
for that reason

Therein
in that place

Thereof
of that

Train
a series

Tranquility
calmness

Transient
short duration; not lasting

Treatise
a written work dealing formally and systematically with a subject

Tribunals
courts

Try
examine according to law, as in a court

Tyranny
oppressive or unjust government

Unalienable
not capable of being sold, separated or

Undistinguished
not making a distinction among or between

Union
1) a group of independent states joined together for some specific purpose; 2) the United States of America

Unwarrantable
unjustified

Usurpation
the wrongful or forceful taking of a right or power

Vest
place in the control of a person or group

Viz
a contraction of a Latin word meaning “that is to say”

Wanting
lacking

Weights
ounces, pounds, etc.

Welfare
prosperity and happiness

Whatsoever
of any kind

Works
actions, deeds, achievements

Writ
a formal legal document ordering some action

Writ of Habeas Corpus
see habeas corpus

Writs of election
formal written documents ordering elections

Yea
a “yes” vote


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