On September 17, 1787, the United States Constitution was signed and we became a new nation. Previous to this, we lived under the Articles of Confederation. These articles gave all power to each individual state, but none to the confederation. Without a federal government, issues like common defense, treaties, interstate commerce, and a common currency were not possible. Under the threats of economic collapse and other nations waiting to take over weak states, the Continental Congress gathered. They initially gathered to patch up the Articles of Confederation, but it was soon agreed upon to scrap them and start fresh. Six weeks later, the draft was completed and sent to committee to finish it.
Over the next few months, I’ll be discussing the Constitution, article by article. Others are also encouraged to write posts on the Constitution.
Today, we’ll look at 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.”
1. We the People of the United States – this is the first nation in modern history created and approved by the people. No kings, lords, nor authoritarians imposed their will on the people.
2. In order to form a more perfect union – the Articles of Confederation failed to hold the individual states together. “Not worth a Continental” described the federal government.
3. establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare – herein lies the main purposes for the Constitution. Provide a federal judiciary, handle interstate commerce and disagreements, defense department, and PROMOTE general welfare.
Note that the Constitution and its Amendments constrain the federal government to a certain number of things it can do. The states and local communities are better able to handle most challenges, not as a one-size-fits-all federal program (most of which have grown out of control, are costly, and do not help individuals very well.
To promote general welfare is not the same as providing general welfare. To promote it means to open up the free markets, between states and with other nations. It means having a Federal government that does not overregulate anything and everything.
Also note that the Fed is to promote GENERAL welfare, not specific welfare. This opens up the question of why the Fed is involved in specific welfare issues like healthcare, retirement, education and welfare? Should the Fed be so deeply involved in these, or should they be left to communities and states? Such questions continue in Congress and statehouses, even though many of our federal programs are generations old.
As we look at the articles of the Constitution over the next several weeks, we’ll see exactly what the federal government is expected to do, and what things may be prohibited. Please share your thoughts in the comments.