FREE Civic Literacy College Question and Answers

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Which is accurate in American legislative elections (whether state or congressional)?

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The Constitution does not specify specific protocols for legislative elections. Most states use a plurality system, where the candidate with the most votes wins, even without a majority. Some states have runoffs if no candidate gets a majority. Each state has the flexibility to determine its election rules.

After the Civil War, how did federalism change as a result of the Reconstruction Amendments?

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After the Civil War, the Reconstruction Amendments, particularly the Fourteenth Amendment, expanded the federal government's power to protect individual rights. However, the federal government's authority remained limited to its enumerated powers as outlined in the Constitution. The amendments aimed to ensure equal protection and due process for all citizens, but federalism, with its division of powers between the federal government and the states, was still preserved.

Why, in the opinion of the Declaration of Independence's authors, was it important to describe the offenses perpetrated by the British government in great detail?

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The Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson with input from others, including John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, was adopted on July 4, 1776. It was a formal statement declaring the American colonies' independence from British rule. In the document, the authors outlined a list of grievances against King George III and the British government, detailing the actions that they believed violated the rights and liberties of the American colonists. By providing a detailed account of these offenses, the authors aimed to demonstrate to the world that the American revolutionaries had tried peaceful means to address their grievances and had sought reconciliation with Great Britain, but their efforts were unsuccessful. The Declaration of Independence was a significant historical document that helped to justify the American Revolution and assert the colonies' right to establish their own independent nation based on the principles of individual rights, self-government, and popular sovereignty.

The United States is a federal, not a unitary, nation, in contrast to many other nations. What does it mean that the United States is a federal nation?

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The United States is a federal nation, which means its system of government is based on the division of powers between a central federal government and individual state governments. The federal government derives its authority from the people of the states and has limited, specified powers. Both the federal government and state governments have their respective spheres of authority, and the states retain their autonomy and governance within the boundaries set by the Constitution. Unlike a unitary nation, power is distributed between the federal and state levels, creating a balance of authority in the U.S. federal system.

Hamilton argues in Federalist No. 70 that there should be just one executive and many legislators, and that it would be wrong to have either a legislator or numerous executives. Why did the Founders intend for the legislative to be relatively ineffective and the executive to be more effective, at least for domestic policy?

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The Founders intended for the legislative process to be slow and deliberative in deciding policies, while the executive's role was to efficiently implement those policies. This division of powers ensures a careful examination of proposed laws while allowing the executive to act decisively in administration.

The proposed U.S. Constitution, according to constitutional detractors like "Brutus," would concentrate power in the hands of a potentially autocratic central authority. What was the response from the writers of the Federalist Papers?

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The response from the writers of the Federalist Papers, in particular Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, was that the Constitution did indeed carefully check power. They argued that the Constitution addressed the concerns raised by detractors like "Brutus" by limiting the powers of the federal government to specific enumerated powers and by dividing power among different branches of government.

What was the objective of the Ninth (9th) Amendment, according to its author James Madison and the majority of modern legal scholars?

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The Ninth Amendment was added to the U.S. Constitution to clarify that the existence of specific rights listed in the Bill of Rights does not mean that other unenumerated rights are not protected. It emphasizes that the federal government's powers are limited, and the people retain other fundamental rights beyond those explicitly stated.

Which of the following best encapsulates the Supreme Court's interpretation of the First Amendment's guarantees of free speech?

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The First Amendment protects the right to free speech, but it does have limitations. The Supreme Court has ruled that certain types of speech, such as obscenity and speech that incites imminent lawless action, are not protected by the First Amendment and can be subject to regulation or restriction. However, "hate speech" is generally protected under the First Amendment unless it directly incites violence or poses a true threat.

Why was there a movement to alter how United States Senators were chosen that started in the 1830s and culminated in the Seventeenth (17th) Amendment?

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The movement to alter how United States Senators were chosen started in the 1830s and culminated in the Seventeenth Amendment, which was ratified in 1913. This movement was driven by two main factors: State legislatures often faced difficulties in selecting senators, leading to issues like vacant Senate seats and reduced state representation in the Senate. The movement was part of a broader trend of increasing citizen participation and democratic reforms, aiming to give more direct voting power to the people and reduce corruption in the selection process. The Seventeenth Amendment changed the method of selecting U.S. Senators from appointment by state legislatures to direct election by the people of each state, making the Senate more accountable to the public.

Since the Founding, the way the Electoral College distributes votes to the states has been essentially unchanged, considering each state as an equal sovereign as well as representing its unique population. Which is accurate regarding how the Electoral College votes are distributed across the states?

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The Constitution allows each state's legislature to determine how to assign its Electors for the Electoral College. Most states use a winner-takes-all system, where the candidate who wins the popular vote in the state gets all of its electoral votes. However, Maine and Nebraska use a proportional system, allocating some electoral votes based on the popular vote in each congressional district. The District of Columbia also uses a proportional system.

According to John Marshall (Marbury v. Madison), Alexander Hamilton (Federalist 78), and other historical justifications of the authority of judicial review,

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According to historical justifications of the authority of judicial review, it ensures that the Constitution is supreme, and all branches of government must follow it. The judiciary has the power to review laws and actions to ensure they are constitutional. However, justices must not substitute their own opinions or preferences for the law, and their role is to interpret the Constitution and protect individual rights without undermining the policymaking authority of Congress and the executive branch.

Under the Constitution, Congress has less power to enact laws controlling federal territories or federal districts, like the District of Columbia, than it does to enact laws governing the states.

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Under the Constitution, Congress has lesser power to enact laws governing federal territories or federal districts, like the District of Columbia, compared to its power over the states. The Constitution includes additional limitations on Congress's ability to govern these areas, specifying protocols for their governance. The Bill of Rights also applies to federal territories and the District of Columbia, ensuring residents there have the same fundamental rights as those in the states.

Why does the Constitution establish the treaty protocol process that it does, for example, in The Federalist?

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The Constitution establishes a treaty protocol that involves both the executive and legislative branches. The President negotiates treaties with other countries, but they require ratification by a two-thirds vote of the Senate. This ensures checks and balances, deliberation, and representation of the people's interests in the treaty-making process.

Which of the following, as compared to the amendment processes for other constitutions, best represents the structure of the U.S. Constitution's amendment process?

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The U.S. Constitution's amendment process is designed to strike a balance between allowing for changes when necessary and preventing hasty or radical alterations. It ensures a relative consensus across the diverse United States and requires amendments to be supported by two-thirds of both houses of Congress or by a convention called by two-thirds of state legislatures. This prevents a narrow majority from imposing sweeping changes. The process respects the sovereignty of the states while preventing a small group of states from obstructing changes desired by others. Additionally, citizens cannot directly propose changes to the Constitution; amendments must come through Congress or a convention called by state legislators, adding an extra layer of deliberation.

All of the following describe Abraham Lincoln's views on the American Revolution and slavery, EXCEPT

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This statement does not accurately reflect Lincoln's views on the Fugitive Slave Act or his stance on black citizenship. Lincoln, while opposed to slavery, respected the Constitution and the rule of law. He did not advocate for violating the Constitution or congressional laws to suppress slavery, nor did he openly pledge not to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act. Additionally, while he believed that a faithful reading of the Constitution allowed anti-slavery policies, he did not take a position on black citizenship in the context described in the statement.

Which best encapsulates the Founders' philosophical interpretation of the phrase "all men are created equal" from the Declaration?

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The phrase "all men are created equal" from the Declaration of Independence, written primarily by Thomas Jefferson, asserts the principle of equality in the context of natural rights. It means that all individuals are inherently endowed with certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These rights are not dependent on social status, wealth, or other attributes, and they apply to all people equally.

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