Thursday, December 30, 2010

U.S. Constitution: The Preamble

By Douglas V. Gibbs

The Preamble is an introduction, and holds no legal authority. As the opening paragraph of the United States Constitution, it serves to establish who is granting the authority to create a new federal government, and the reasons for the decision.

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 American.

We the people of the United States - The people of the states that are united. . . do ordain and establish this Constitution. As with the many quotes by the Founding Fathers, the United States in this instance is there as a plural, not a nationalistic statement. The people in the states that united for the purpose of survival proposed the contract called the United States Constitution in order to create a federal government, grant to it limited authorities, and ensure that it remained limited so as to not infringe on the individual rights of the sovereign states, and the people who resided in those states.

As was customary of the founders, the reasons for forming the federal government are listed in order of importance: . . .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. . .

The most important reason for the formation of the federal government, the main purpose of the U.S. Constitution, was “in Order to form a more perfect Union.” A union already existed under the Articles of Confederation, but it was too weak to protect itself. The founders wanted to form a more perfect union, one with more authorities, while remaining limited in its power and scope. And as you read the Constitution, you will notice that all of the authorities granted to the federal government are limited to the union. The federal government is granted the authority to maintain an army and navy in order to protect the union from invasion, to collect taxes in order to pay for that military and the functions for preserving the union, to regulate commerce by acting as a mediator between the States so that the flow of commerce flows regularly in order to encourage a growing economy for the union, establish a uniform rule of naturalization for the purpose of ensuring the union grows through regulated immigration, to establish post offices so that the parts of the union can remain in contact, and so on and so forth.

The second reason for the creation of the federal government through the ratification of the U.S. Constitution was to “establish Justice.” Note that the word “establish” indicates that there was no justice prior to the writing of the founding document. However, we are well aware that justice did already exist in each of the States. Therefore, it is apparent that the U.S. Constitution was not written to establish justice in the States, but to establish justice at the federal level where a judicial system had not previously existed. Once again, language has provided for us a clue to the original intention of the Founding Fathers.

The first two reasons for the writing of the U.S. Constitution, according to the Preamble, was to form a more perfect union through the formation of a federal government, and to establish justice by creating a federal judicial system. Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that the Constitution was not written for the States, but directly for the purpose of creating and limiting the newly formed federal government, which was designed to serve the states by protecting them, and preserving the union they enjoyed. You see, before the States delegated some of their own powers to the federal government through the Constitution, those powers belonged to the States. The States, however, only granted "some" of their powers to the federal government, retaining most of the powers for themselves.

The U.S. Constitution, and all language within the document, is then directed to the federal government, not to the States, unless specifically indicated to be so. This is because the States essentially “hired” the federal government to protect and preserve the union, and the contract that authorizes the federal government to do so is the Constitution. Therefore, it would be foolish to assume that the provisions of the Constitution are to be applied to the States as much as it is foolish to believe that a contract between you and a contractor to build an addition to your house requires "you" to use grade 8 bolts.

This also means that it is the States' responsibility to ensure the federal government acts in a constitutional manner. That would mean that it is not the federal court system’s duty to do so. The power that the federal courts have to interpret the Constitution is called Judicial Review, and that authority was not granted to the federal courts by the Constitution. Therefore, Judicial Review is unconstitutional. More on that, however, when we go into Article III.

Back to the Preamble, we have to remember that the union was fragile. The States, as colonies, or as states, never got along too well. They had their own culture, religion, and laws. They fought over turf, commerce, and anything else you could think of. The States were much like siblings, fighting over everything under the sun; but when it came down to brass tacks, they were united when it came to defending each other.

The bickering between the States created an atmosphere that placed the union at risk. Therefore, when it came to creating a more perfect union, it meant that the task of the federal government was to ensure the States got along, too. Hence, the reason for the Preamble also indicating that the Constitution was written to also “insure domestic Tranquility” and to “promote the general welfare.”

What those two phrases meant was that because the States didn’t seem to get along too well, the federal government was expected to ensure there was tranquility between the States by acting as a mediator in disputes. Part of that task by the federal government was to also promote the general welfare of the republic. In other words, make sure the squabbles did not place the welfare of the union in jeopardy.

For those of the liberal persuasion, if the founders had meant for the federal government to create a nanny state of entitlement programs with the term “General Welfare,” not only would they have then created a system of that sort back then, but they would also have changed the wording to read “individual welfare.”

Tucked between “insure domestic Tranquility” and “promote the general Welfare” in the Preamble is the phrase: “provide for the common defence.” In other words, almost as important as ensuring peaceful cooperation between the States, and slightly more important than promoting the general Welfare of the republic, was the duty of the federal government to provide protection for the union through a military. Defending this nation was not listed at the top because a country that places too much importance on a military is doomed to become a police state; but defending this nation was not placed at the bottom of the list because a nation that refuses to defend itself ultimately becomes a conquered entity that is subject to the authority of a foreign government. However, one of the primary reasons for creating the federal government in the first place was to indeed protect the union militarily. That is why “provide for the common defence” is listed in the Preamble.

The final reason for the writing of the Constitution is to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Sometimes, when I ask somebody what the main reason the Constitution was written for was, more often than not the response will be: “To protect our rights, liberty, and property.”

Wrong. Though it is one of the reasons, it is not the main reason.

You see, as indicated in the Preamble, the primary reason for the Constitution is The Union. However, by creating a federal government, the Founding Fathers realized that they were opening up the potential for the governmental system to become a tyranny. Therefore, in order to protect the rights, liberty and property of the people (more specifically to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”), the federal government would need to be limited in its authorities by the rule of law. The law of the land in which the governmental system is limited to, in the case of the United States, is the U.S. Constitution.

Understand, the Constitution does not give you rights. If government gave you your rights, then it would be reasonable to assume that the government could take them away. Therefore, your rights are “God-given.” The Constitution, in turn, protects your inalienable, God-given, rights by limiting the powers of the federal government.

So, because of the Constitution, the States and the people have all the rights, except those specifically delegated to the federal government by the Constitution.

-- Political Pistachio Conservative News and Commentary

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