What Gives the U.S. Constitution Its Power?

U.S. Constitution Day, September 17th

by John M. Hartvigsen

An older person blessed with exceptional health may be described as having a strong constitution, and the United States Constitution at the age of two hundred and thirty years certainly has a strong constitution.

What gives the U.S. Constitution its power?  That can be found in the wording found in two of the Nation’s founding documents; however, these clearly understandable phrases have deep meaning easily overlooked.

In early July of 1776, the Second Continental Congress announced to the world that thirteen British American Colonies declared independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain.  In Great Britain, as in other monarchies, declarations were made in the name of the king.  The traditional formula used read, “We, George III, declare. . . .”  The king or queen served as the “fount” or source of all power and authority within the realm.  American colonists had seen royal proclamations with this or similar wording.

The well-known opening words of the Declaration of Independence simply read, “In Congress, July 4, 1776”as an introduction to the declaration.  More significant, however, are a few phrases at the end of the document.

We. . . in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States . . . .

The United States became a republic not granted by a king but by the phrase “That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be Free and Independent States,” and this done “in the Name, and by the Authority of the good people of these Colonies.”

This new and powerful concept found clear explanation in the Declaration of Independence, but somewhat hidden in the longer document, it may not have been easily found or understood.  The new nation still had to win the declared independence and refine the way the new democratic republic would govern.

Thirteen years later, the new nation had won independence and prepared a charter establishing the rules and formulas of governance, the U.S. Constitution.  This document not only refined principles of government but its preamble explained the source of the Constitution’s power and authority in a more succinct and elegant phrase. Nevertheless, we may read the preamble of the document without noticing the deeper meaning of the first three words, “We the People.”  The power, strength and authority of our republic flows not from a monarch or dictator, but from the people.  Celebrate the United States Constitution’s 230th birthday by reading again the preamble and paying special attention to the beginning three words

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.

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