How are the major principles of the U.S. Constitution related to one another?

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Different sources tend to list different numbers of “major principles” of the Constitution.  I have seen lists of four, five, six, and seven major principles.  In this answer, I will use the list of seven principles found in the link below.  Here is the list:

  1. Popular sovereignty, meaning rule by the people
  2. Republicanism, meaning the right to vote for representatives
  3. Federalism meaning power is shared between the national and state governments
  4. Separation of powers into branches that make, enforce or interpret laws
  5. Balance of Power - controls (checks) can be made on the other branches
  6. Limited government - everyone is bound by the US Constitution
  7. Individual rights - personal freedoms are guaranteed by the Bill of Rights

Let us look at some of the connections between these principles. 

First, Principles 1 and 2 are very closely related.  If the people are going to rule, they will have to be able to vote for representatives.  In theory, you could have a direct democracy in which the people as a mass get to vote on everything, but that could never work in anything larger than a very small town.  In order for us to be sovereign, we need to have the right to vote for the people who make our laws.

Second, Principles 3, 4, and 5 are also closely related.  All of these principles are meant to ensure that no part of government gets to be too powerful.  We have federalism so that neither the state governments nor the federal government will become too strong.  We have separation of powers so that no part of the federal government will become too strong. We have a balance of power between the various branches so that they can each prevent the others from acting.  This ensures that no one branch can become much stronger than the others.  The Framers included these principles in the Constitution because they were worried about what would happen if the government became too strong.

Finally, we have Principles 6 and 7, which are also closely related.  The government exists in order to protect our rights.  If the government is going to protect our rights, we also have to be sure that it will not take away those rights. Therefore, we have to make sure that there are limits on what the government can do.  We have to make sure that it is not allowed to infringe on our rights.

These are the main connections between these seven principles of the Constitution.