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THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES.
E, the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, 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.
This first sentence of the Constitution is often called a "preamble." But that term was not applied to it by those who framed the Constitution, and is not found in the The Enacting Clause Not a original manuscript. It is not a preamble, either Preamble. in form or substance, but is the enacting clause— an integral part of the Constitution itself A preamble gives reasons why a resolution should be adopted or an enactment made, but it is no part of the resolution or enactment. The enacting clause, on the contrary, is mandatory. No other part of a statute is more important. Such is the introductory sentence of the Constitution. "We, the People of the United States, " for certain purposes, "do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
"Here is no transient compact between parties: it is the institution of government by an act of the highest sovereignty; the decree of many who are yet one; their law of laws, inviolably supreme, and not to be changed except in the way which their forecast has provided.”1
1 Bancroft, II. 208.
We have here (1) the authority-We, the People of the United States; (2) the ends for which the Constitution is made, in six particulars; (3) the explicit ordaining of this Constitution, including this introductory clause; (4) the Nation for whom it is made the United States of America.
The Constitution was ordained by the people of the United States as a Nation. The language presupposes the unity, the nationality, and the sovereignty of the people.
Ordain the Constitution.
The Nation began to exist on the 4th of July, 1776. The people then cast off their allegiance to Great Britain and became a separate Nation, possessing the rightful sovereignty of the country. They became united in a national corporate capacity, as one people, and took for their national designation the name, the "United States of America.” From that day to the present they have been known to the world by this name. Wherever in the Constitution these words occur, or the briefer form, the "United States," they signify the Nation as a whole; wherever the word "States occurs it signifies the States considered separately, or as distinguished from the Nation.
The purposes for which the Constitution was formed are admirably stated: "To form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, provide for Its Purposes. the common defense, promote the general welfare,
and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."
The Congress of the Confederation called the Constitutional Convention for the purpose of forming "a firm national government ... adequate to the exigencies of government and the preservation of the Union." Government The Union under the Confederation was imperfect and unsatisfactory, and the framers of the Constitution determined to submit to the people an instrument which should be
1 Jour. Cont. Cong., XII. page 14.
more efficient than the Articles of Confederation. It was a union of the people of all parts of the country, as constituting one Nation, which they wished to secure, instead of a mere league of States. Under the Articles of Confederation there was no distinct judicial department, as there was no executive, while the new Constitution provided for both. The domestic tranquillity had been greatly interfered with because of the power given to the individual States; the central government having little more than the power to recommend. The national government would insure this domestic tranquillity. The words "common defense" and "general welfare" were intro ́duced near the close of the Convention, but they met with no opposition. No language could be more comprehensive than this, "to promote the general welfare."
For these various purposes the people of the United States ordain this Constitution for themselves. It is the organic, fundamental law for the whole people of the country whose corporate name is the United States of America. The Nation, as such, establishes this Constitution, making it sufficient for all the exigencies of government. As the organic law of the nation, it is every-where supreme. Subordinate governments may continue and new ones be established, but always in conformity with this.
The Constitution contains seven articles, which are subdivided into sections. In the original there are Articles. no headings to the articles. Both articles and sections are numbered.
Article 1st relates to the Legislative power.
Article 2d, to the Executive power.
Article 3d, to the Judicial power.
Article 4th, to various subjects.
Article 5th, to the mode of amending the Constitution.
Article 6th, to the validity of debts contracted before the adoption of the Constitution, and to its supremacy.
Article 7th, to the mode of its ratification.
Besides these seven articles, fifteen amendments have been made to the Constitution, which are as binding as the original articles.
THE LEGISLATIVE DEPARTMENT.
Sec. 1. 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.
Under the Confederation, the whole governmental authority was vested in Congress. There was no Executive department, and no Judicial. The first resolution adopted in the Constitutional Convention was that a National government ought to be formed, consisting of supreme Legislative, Executive, and Judicial departments. Most legislative bodies have two houses. This is true of all the existing State governments, and was true of all at the time the Constitution was framed, except Pennsylvania and Georgia, which had but one each.1 The Continental Congress had but one house. While there is a general distribution of powers among the three great departments of the government, the exercise of these powers is not absolutely exclusive. We shall see that the President has a qualified veto on legislation, and that the Senate sometimes acts as a court, and sometimes transacts executive business.
Sec. 2, Clause 1.-The House of Representatives shall be composed of members chosen every second year by the people of the several States; and the electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislature.
1 The constitution of Georgia, adopted in 1789, provided for two houses; as did that of Pennsylvania, adopted in 1790.
Under the Confederation, the members of Congress were chosen annually, and as the legislature of each State should Representa- direct. They could also be recalled. The Con
tives. stitution makes the term of service of the Representatives two years, and requires that the election shall be by "the people." A parliament of England expires at the end of seven years unless sooner dissolved.
Those who vote for Representatives to Congress must have the qualifications requisite to enable them to vote for members of the lower house of the State legislature, but it is By Whom not clear by whom these qualifications are to be prescribed. The common opinion has been that the State prescribes them. The Constitution says simply that the qualifications must be the same; so that whoever can vote for the State representative can vote for the National one also, and vice versa. The Constitution does say that Representatives to Congress shall be elected by the people, thus virtually saying that the members of the most numerous branch of the State legislature shall also be elected by the people. Under the Articles of Confederation, the delegates in all the States but two were elected by the legislature.1
Clause 2. No person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the age of twenty-five years, and been seven years a citizen of the United States, and who shall not, when elected, be an inhabitant of that State in which he shall be chosen.
The qualifications of a Representative relate to age, citizenship, and inhabitancy; he must be twenty-five years old, a citizen of the United States for seven years, and an Qualifications. inhabitant of the State where he is elected. It has been decided that the States can not prescribe additional qualifications.
1 Federalist, No. 40.