We the People… (Preamble)

We the People

of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

This is the preamble to the Constitution.  The preamble, by definition, states the purpose of the Constitution.  In so doing, with the very first words, “We the People,” it also sets the tone for the government whose rules it will lay out.

By and large, the contributors to the Constitution were some of the brightest minds of their – or any – time.  These were men who were educated by way of – and grew up discussing – the classics created by the likes of Aristotle, Plato, Locke, and de Vattel.  (Call your Congressman and ask if he knows what Emer de Vattel’s impact was on the United States – but don’t give him time to look it up.)  It should be no surprise that this creation of theirs, the Constitution of the United States, has lasted so long.  I daresay it could last forever if we, as individuals, just demand that our elected representatives adhere to it – to the letter.

As great as these men were, the Constitution was not just about them.  It was – and remains – about all of us.  The Constitution doesn’t start right out with, “In order to form a more perfect union…”  Nor does it begin with a haughty, “We, the undersigned…”  No, it starts with “We the People”, in big, bold letters.  Our founding fathers meant to make it perfectly clear from the very first words that the Constitution is a document by citizens of the United States – not some declaration passed down from self-important politicians.  It is a document that is meant to serve the people of the United States – not those in positions of power and influence.  The Constitution belongs to all of the people and serves all of the people.

Now that the tone was set, the purposes of the Constitution were laid out.  These are not laws; those after the preamble, in the Articles and later Amendments.  The preamble simply points out that the Constitution’s goals are:

  • “to form a more perfect Union”  The United States were originally bound together by the Articles of Confederation.  It had become apparent early on, however, that the federal government was too weak to last under the Articles, so the Constitution was put forth as the solution “to form a more perfect union.”
  • “establish Justice” The very act of creating the Constitution was an establishment of justice in that it provides for legislation, legal authority, and judicial procedure.
  • “insure domestic Tranquility” Justice, common defense, guaranteed liberties, and cooperation among the states, and more – all contribute to tranquility.
  • “provide for the common defence” [sic] Rules are laid out for the handling, equipping, and funding of the militia, a standing Army, and the Navy.
  • “promote the general Welfare” It is to be hoped that all of the above, plus the protection of individual liberties and fair regulation of commerce, would have the effect of promoting the general welfare of the nation.
  • secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” Individual liberty was an important part of the Constitution, even before the Bill of Rights was created in order to enumerate some of them.  (In fact, because of the limits on power vested in the government via the Constitution, many did not feel the Bill of Rights was necessary.)

There was, of course, a rather huge problem that was not corrected in the Constitution: slavery.  Indeed, many of the Founding Fathers abhorred slavery and wanted it abolished via the original Constitution.  Sadly, they were not able to convince representatives of the southern states to agree to abolition of the business.  Fearing that the southern states would back out of the confederation if abolition were insisted upon, they left it out of the Constitution; the reasoning was that they were not going to be able to eliminate it for awhile anyway – but if they brought the South into the nation, they would have later opportunities to work on abolition..  It took much too long, but slavery was finally abolished in 1865 via the 13th Amendment.

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