“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 Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America. One of the most famous documents in the world, and one of – if not the – most important. But what does it really mean? What were the Founding Fathers trying to tell us? And what can we learn about what our country originally meant by listening to them? Let us take a closer look:
“We the people…”
The Founding Fathers meant for this to be a nation where the people were in control, not the government. They had revolted against a tyrannical British government, one that had given them no voice but expected to gain from their labors. In this, the first words of one of the most important documents ever penned by the hand of man, they firmly establish that it is the people’s voice that is being heard, not the government’s.
“…of the United States…”
This was a conglomeration of states, not a single entity. The Founders intended the governmental power to be held with the States and not with an all-powerful Federal government. The very fact that they maintained the separation of the States instead of following what would be the common practice of the time and fusing them into one mass speaks to this fact. The Supreme Court has ignored this fact by arguing that the Preamble is not a binding part of the Constitution, which is much like arguing that an overture is not part of the opera.
“…in order to form a more perfect union,…”
The States were already loosely confederated at this time, but not officially combined into one power. The Founders understood that it would be more beneficial in dealing with other nations to act as a single entity instead of each State acting individually. They also knew that in order to better protect our fledgling nation, and to maintain the freedom that had just been bought with the blood of patriots, the union between the States would need to be strengthened and solidified. This would allow for a military to be established under the control of the President as Commander in Chief, instead of simply relying on the militias of the individual States.
This is the beginning of the enumeration of the powers of the Federal government. Every power that has been taken by the government of the United States should fall under these specific items, starting with the establishment of a Supreme Court as a place for hearing disputes against laws that were intruding into individual rights. The Supreme Court was never established as a usurper of State’s rights as it is currently being used, but as a stop gap to the Federal government become more and more a detriment to the freedoms enjoyed by the people.
“…insure domestic tranquility,…”
In other words, to settle disputes between the States. The founders had already seen some infighting occurring between the States, and knew that if there was no party to oversee these disputes that our country would very quickly self-destruct.
“…provide for the common defense,…”
The most important thing that the Constitution did was establish a military presence under the control of the Federal government, so that the States would not have to rely only on their and their neighbor’s militias, but could depend on a strong central force that would come to the common aid of all.
“…promote the general welfare,…”
This is not the modern word that we think of as “welfare.” To promote the general welfare is to protect the individual’s right to live his or her life as he or she would like, without worry over things such as a tyrannical government. It also establishes the Federal government as an entity that could negotiate with other nations in trade issues, so as to garner the most favorable exchanges possible for the American people in trade issues.
“…and secure the blessings of liberty…”
Liberty is fought for by man, but the blessings that come with that liberty do not originate from the hand of man, but are a blessing from God. The Founders knew that the only way to secure these blessings, and not have them eroded away over time was to construct a document that gathered together these freedoms on paper in such a way that there would never be any question as to their legitimacy. The Constitution was established as a limiter of the Federal government in this respect, instead of a limiter of the freedoms of the American people.
“…to ourselves and our posterity,…”
This was a document the likes of which had never been seen in all of history. It was a document establishing a government that, for the first time, instead of enslaving people and treating people as a resource to be exploited, was meant as a servant to the people and a protector of their freedoms. The Founders envisioned a libertarian environment where the individual would be free to grow and succeed to the best of their ability, and where the generations to follow would benefit from the actions of the Founders.
“…do ordain and establish…”
This line seems redundant until you put yourself in the shoes of the Founding Fathers. The Constitution established the United States of America, but the Founders saw it as something greater than that. This was a country that had no precedent ever in the history of man. The freedoms that were available in America were nowhere else to be found, and that is still true today. To think of these things as being possible not only flew in the face of human history, but was seen by the Founders as being a miracle, a gift from God, necessitating not only establishment but also ordination as a holy work.
“…this Constititution for the United States of America.”
The final line, firmly setting the cornerstone of our nation. The Founders meant this document to be the great protector of freedom, a beacon to the world that man was not created to be a slave to the State, but to live free and enjoy the blessings bestowed upon him by God. Instead, through the mechanisms of political correctness and an ever increasing Federal government, it has been mutilated and twisted into a limiter of those blessings, turning the government from a servant of the people into an overlord. The Founding Fathers would weep to see it.