by Larry Peterson
The following is a Primer on the basics of the United States Constitution. There is much more detailed and insightful information available on-line and in libraries and text-books. I am posting this primarily for young people so they might get an overview of where the laws in America come from.
226 years ago today The Constitution of the United States of America was ratified. Congress has declared this day, CONSTITUTION DAY and the period form September 17 thru September 23 of each year as CONSTITUTION WEEK. Below is the Preamble to this magnificent document:
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”.
The Constitution, was signed in 1787 and had VII (7) Articles with Articles I thru IV having different Sections that stipulated certain laws. For example; Article I has ten (10) Sections. Section 1 states that “All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives. The other nine (9) Sections define other laws. Articles V thru VII have no Sections as they are straight forward as written.
The Bill of Rights are the first Ten Amendments to the Constitution. They were proposed in August of 1789, adopted on September 25, 1789 and went into effect on December 15, 1789.
Since then an additional 17 Amendments have been added, the last one on May 7, 1992. The 18th Amendment, also known as the Volstead Act, prohibited the sale and manufacture of alcohol and was ratified in 1919. The period of time in our history was known as “Prohibition”. This amendment was repealed in 1933 when the 21st Amendment was passed, overturning it.
Article I; Section 8 of The Constitution is known as the “elastic clause”. This Section spells out the powers of Congress. It might be the most important clause in the Constitution as it gives Congress broad power to enact laws that might usurp the freedoms given the people. This is why it is so important for citizens to stay informed and vote for people they feel represent the freedoms spelled out in the Constitution.
Here are quotes from two of the signers of this document:
“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. John Adams, the 2nd President of the United States
“The adoption of the Constitution will demonstrate as visibly the finger of Providence as any possible event in the course of human affairs can ever designate it.” George Washington
Every citizen should read through the Constitution. It is a magnificent document created by magnificent minds who trusted in a Divine Craftsman to oversee their work. The Father of our Country, George Washington, confirmed that belief. The Constitution has changed over the 226 years of its existence with the abolition of slavery, giving citizenship to all people regardless of race, giving equal rights to women, and so forth. It was never perfect but it was flexible enough where, as society changed, wrongs could be addressed and corrected. We will always have room for improvement.
We should never lose respect or disrespect this document for its intended purpose was foremost ,’For the People’. It is NOT for those we entrust the power to, to do what is politically expedient for them. Those empowered by the people have a sacred trust to do what is best for their constituents. It reads, “WE the people’, not “Me, your President, senator or congressman.”