The Constitution’s Real Purpose
Many people get it wrong.
May 16, 2020
Somehow, many Americans created the notion that our founders wrote the constitution to restrict government power. They’re wrong. And that hurts all of us.
“America” began with the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Declaration is not a law. It was a letter to King George III from the colonial Continental Congress announcing their intention to secede from the British Empire and create their own nation. When the King objected, the Revolutionary War ensued, until the Treaty of Paris in 1784.
In 1781, the founders adopted the Articles of Confederation to govern the new United States of America. The Articles failed because they left the federal government too weak to manage the country.
So, they convened in Philadelphia in 1787 to revise the Articles. That just didn’t work, so they scrapped the Articles and started over. They completed and ratified the new United States Constitution in 1788 and held the first presidential election in 1789. They called it the Noble Experiment.
The general purpose of every constitution is to establish a government. It defines the government’s structure and power. It creates public offices, establishes who can hold those offices, assigns powers and duties to those officials, determines how laws are made, enforced, and interpreted; and how finances are handled. A constitution could give absolute power to a government, or it could give no power. Ours lands between the two extremes.
The founders specifically wrote our constitution because the Articles of Confederation were so weak that the federal government had no power at all, and the country couldn’t function as a single entity. They wrote the constitution to make the federal government bigger and stronger, not to strengthen the individual states.
The six specific purposes of the United States Constitution are clearly stated in the Preamble:
Those are big things. They don’t lend themselves to small government.
WHY IT MATTERS
Our founders were flawed, but brilliant. The Constitution is superb in both its simplicity and its complexity. After the Preamble, there are seven articles and 27 amendments. That’s all. It only takes an hour to read it. But you won’t understand it unless you read all of the words; they’re connected. Then read it again.
Every aspect of the United States flows from this document. It controls every law, every program, every tax – from who can serve as president, to your income taxes, to your state government, to how much power your local schools have, to your town’s parking ordinances. Everything in this country must be constitutional.
Successful sports coaches stress fundamentals. Athletes must know how to bat, throw, pitch, shoot, serve, run, pass, block, catch, tackle, and play by the rules. When a team falters, a good coach starts over with those fundamentals.
I’ve seen arguments that the federal government only has power in war time, that the Constitution’s purpose is to give all power to the states. These faulty notions thrive because we allow our schools to teach civics wrong, when they bother to teach it at all. America is supposed to be “of, by, and for the people”. When we don’t know how our government is supposed to work, then we can’t make it work right.
Our constitution is the rule book for our government. If you want to understand what’s going on in government, and influence it, you have to know what the rules are, and how things work. Then you can use them to your advantage. When you do that, it’s called lobbying. And that’s a good thing. But that’s another story.
Americans need to learn what our schools refuse to teach.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
America’s First Constitution
Read the Articles of Confederation
Read the Constitution
Why We Need More Lobbyists
Social Policy & Programs Consulting
Training and Services for agencies working toward social and economic justice
Patricia A. O'Malley
Social Policy & Programs Consulting ~ Community Matters
P.O. Box 97803 ~ Pittsburgh, PA 15227 ~ 412-310-4886 ~ email@example.com
Copyright Patricia A. O'Malley ~ All rights reserved
We the People of the United States, in Order to:
1. form a more perfect Union,
2. establish Justice,
3. insure domestic Tranquility,
4. provide for the common defense,
5. promote the general Welfare, and
6. secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity,
do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.