Study Guide: Government


SSCG1 The student will demonstrate knowledge of the political philosophies that

shaped the development of United States constitutional government.

a. Analyze key ideas of limited government and the rule of law as seen in the Magna

Carta, the Petition of Rights, and the English Bill of Rights.







Key Ideas

Magna Carta


Agreement between King John and his barons to limit his rights; latter applied to commoners

No freeman shall be taken, imprisoned,...or in any other way destroyed...except by the lawful judgment of his peers, or by the law of the land. To none will we deny or delay, right or justice.

Petition of Rights


Limit the powers of King Charles I shortly before the English Civil War

# Forced loans

# Arbitrary arrest

# Imprisonment contrary to Magna Carta

# Arbitrary interference with property rights

# Unenforcement of habeas corpus

# Forced billetting of troops

# Imposition of martial law

# Exemption of officials from due process

English Bill of Rights


Signed by William of Orange after overthrow of James II in the Glorious Revolution

# freedom from royal interference with the law

# freedom from taxation by royal prerogative, without agreement by Parliament

# freedom to petition the king

# freedom to bear arms for self-defense

# freedom to elect members of Parliament

# the freedom of speech in Parliament

# freedom from cruel and unusual punishments

# freedom from fines and forfeitures without trial








b. Analyze the writings of Hobbes (Leviathan), Locke (Second Treatise on

Government), and Montesquieu (The Spirit of Laws) as they affect our concept of






Thomas Hobbes


  1. 1.State of Nature: no government; violence and fear led to government 

  2. 2.Social Contract: giving up freedom to a sovereign to provide protection to life and property 

  3. 3.Hobbes believed in the “ultimate sovereign” 

John Locke

Second Treatise of Government

  1. 1.Agreed with Hobbes on the State of Nature and the need for a Social Contract 

  2. 2.Locke argued, individuals would grant authority to a government so long as it provided for the common good--protection from the dangers of the state of nature. 

  3. 3.The purpose of government, then, was to provide enough protection of life, liberty and property that individuals could enjoy them. 

  4. 4.People are the Source of the government’s power 

Baron de Montesquieu

The Spirit of Laws

  1. 1.Separation of Powers into 3 branches 

  2. 2.Legislative to make laws 

  3. 3.Executive to enforce the law 

  4. 4.Judicial to interpret and apply the law