Monday, October 3, 2011

Exploring the Constitution (Part 1)

Last week at the Citizens' Police Academy, we discussed the Constitution of the United States. The detective leading the course has such passion and such conviction about this document I was inspired to explore and study it on my own. He said, "Don't let ANYONE tell you what is in the Constitution. Read it for yourself, study it, learn it, and interpret it to the best of your best ability. It doesn't take a law degree to do it, and if you are a citizen of this country, YOU need to know what it says."

So we're going to do that here every Monday. Section by section, we'll read the document in its original wording and spelling, then research it and discuss it. I encourage you to join in the discussion, but please, play nice.

The Preamble

When I was a child, we had a decoupage copy of the Constitution hanging in our house. It was a replica of the original document, and difficult to read past the first three words. But at some point in school, we were taught the introduction, also known unofficially as the 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.

Let's break it down.

We the People ... - the founding fathers most likely could not imagine the scope that these three words would eventually encompass. Women and slaves were not involved in the drafting of this document, yet, in its brilliance, it is inclusive after all these years. It's also important to note that they did not write "We the Government" or "We the office of the King" or "We the States" or other such limitations. The people - you and I - are the key to the success, or the failure, of our government.

... of the United States, ... - early drafts of the Constitution actually listed all thirteen original states individually, but Gouverneur Morris was chief draftsman and suggested a rewrite to be all inclusive.

... in order to form a more perfect Union, ... - the founding fathers wanted a better, stronger government than the Articles of Confederation established. The Articles gave most of the power to the states, but power given to the federal government was weak.

... 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, ... - this is the heart of the Preamble and of the Constitution as a whole - the thesis statement, so to speak. The founding fathers laid out the purpose of the Constitution in this succinct segment, and everything that follows points back to these principles. It also provides a roadmap for future generations with the phrase "and our Posterity."

... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. - The founding fathers established with this document a government that has, thus far, lasted longer than any other government ever formed.


We'll tackle Article 1 next Monday, so I hope you'll come back and join the discussion.

Reference List and For Further Reading:

Charters of Freedom
The People's Guide to the United States Constitution
The Words We Live By

4 comments:

Genia said...

Thanks for taking the time to refresh us on our constitution. As I read the preamble, the once-memorized words came back to me, but the meaning of them is so much clearer than when I learned them as a child. In spite of all that is wrong with our country, we are still blessed to be citizens of this great nation. I look forward to recalling its constitution. It's a wonderful idea. Thanks

Tracy Ruckman said...

Thanks, Genia. I'm enjoying the research. There's so much we should know, and so much that we take for granted.

Jennifer said...

Have you seen the Hillsdale College free web classes on the constitution? I hear they are awesome!

Tracy Ruckman said...

Jennifer, no, I haven't seen those classes. I'll check them out. Thanks so much!