United States Government: Democracy in Action

Chapter 1: People and Government

Student Web Activity

Government is the institution through which a state maintains social order, provides public services, protects and preserves rights, and enforces decisions that are binding on all its residents. Yet the United States government is not just an institution—it is made up of people who are elected by and represent the rest of the country's citizens. Their voices are our voices. We often take for granted the power this gives Americans today. The early Founders of the Republic, however, did not take the right of representation lightly. In this activity, you will learn what Thomas Paine believed was the first principle of government, and why he believed so.

Destination Title: The Founders' Constitution

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• Click on "Contents" at the right side of the screen.
• Scroll down to "…establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare" and then click on "Representation" underneath this subhead.
• Scroll down to Document 40, "Thomas Paine, Dissertation on the First Principles of Government."
• Read through the document, taking notes as you do.

Use the information you found to answer the following questions.

What did Thomas Paine believe was the first principle of representative government?
Why did Paine believe that it was dangerous to make property ownership the basis for voting rights?
According to Paine, what protects all other rights?
With which idea does Paine believe that rights are or should be connected?
List 10 examples of how the U.S. government affects your daily life. Consider the principles of government—to maintain social order, provide public services, protect and preserve rights, and enforce decisions that are binding on all—as you compose your list.
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