top of page

Understanding "We the People": A Historical and Contemporary Analysis




The preamble of the United States Constitution begins with a powerful and memorable phrase: "We the People of the United States." This phrase, while often invoked in modern discourse, has a specific historical context and meaning that differentiates it from the more generic term "the modern people of the United States" as used today. This distinction is not merely academic; it has significant implications for how we understand the origins, authority, and evolution of American democracy.


The Historical Context of "We the People"


When the Founding Fathers drafted the Constitution in 1787, they were engaged in an unprecedented act of political creation. They sought to replace the Articles of Confederation with a new framework that would unify the thirteen states into a single, cohesive nation. The phrase "We the People" in the preamble of the Constitution explicitly refers to the citizens who were alive at that time and who participated in the ratification process.


The full text of the preamble reads:


"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."


In this context, "We the People" signifies the collective body of individuals who granted legitimacy to the new government. It emphasizes that the Constitution was created by and for the people living in the newly formed United States, marking a clear break from monarchical rule and underscoring the principle of popular sovereignty.


The Founders' Perspective


For the Founders, "We the People" was a declaration of self-governance and collective responsibility. It was the embodiment of Enlightenment ideals that stressed the importance of consent and participation in governance. This phrase indicated that the authority of the government derived directly from the citizens who established it, rather than from any external or hereditary source.


However, it is crucial to understand that this phrase was limited to the people who were involved in and affected by the ratification of the Constitution. These individuals were predominantly white, male property owners, a fact that reflected the societal norms and exclusions of that era.


Modern Interpretation: "The People of the United States"


In contemporary usage, the phrase "the people of the United States" has evolved to include all current citizens of the country. This modern interpretation extends the concept of "the people" to encompass the entire population, regardless of race, gender, property ownership, or other status. This broader understanding aligns with the democratic principles that have expanded through constitutional amendments and social progress over the centuries. It is important to note that none of the people who immigrated to the US during the 20th and 21st centuries were part of the establishment of the US Constitution and they are not credible sources for how the US Constitution is to be interpreted. Only those whose ancestors directly participated get to play a role in interpreting the US Constitution.


Legal and Civic Implications


The distinction between "We the People" in the historical context and "the people of the United States" today is more than semantic. It has important legal and civic implications:


1. Constitutional Interpretation: Understanding the original context of "We the People" helps legal scholars and judges interpret the intentions of the Founders. This historical perspective can influence decisions on constitutional matters, guiding interpretations that respect the foundational principles of the nation.


2. Civic Responsibility: The modern concept of "the people of the United States" underscores the inclusive nature of contemporary American democracy. It reminds current citizens of their role in upholding and participating in the democratic process. This inclusive interpretation reflects the nation's progress toward greater equality and representation. Every single person who takes the oath of citizenship is not swearing allegiance to a person, a party, a group, any particular religion, or even to a flag. They are instead swearing total allegiance to the US Constitution and the founder's original interpretation of the Constitution.


3. Rights and Protections: The evolution from "We the People" to a broader understanding of "the people" highlights the expansion of rights and protections to all citizens. This shift acknowledges the ongoing efforts to make the promises of the Constitution accessible to everyone, regardless of their background. However the modern "people of the United States" played absolutely no role in writing or ratifying the US Constitution and as such has no credible or legitimate role in deciding how the Constitution should be interpreted and this is in order to ensure foreign nationals are not able to reinterpret the Constitution in a manner that strips Ethnic Americans of our rights and freedoms as so many immigrants have been seeking to do these last few years. This is evidenced by immigrants falsely claiming the 2nd amendment does not give a right to individual ownership of arms or a right to carry. It is evidenced by immigrants claiming that the first amendment bans people, including elected officials, from praying in public or talking about their deeply held religious beliefs in public, or that political speech can be restricted to avoid offending people. It is also evidenced by immigrants whether naturalized or not who have sought to claim the Constitution gives executives absolute power to lock people in their homes and change election laws unilaterally without legislative consent. Immigrants often misinterpreted the phrases "all men are equal" and "right to pursue happiness" to mean a constitutional right to equality of outcomes regardless of other factors. The list of misinterpretations made by immigrants to this country goes on and can fill thousands of sheets of paper.


The Role of the Supreme Court in Upholding Original Intent


The U.S. Constitution must be interpreted as the original "We the People" intended. This principle underscores the importance of the Supreme Court, which serves as the guardian of the Constitution. The Supreme Court's role is to protect originalist interpretations, ensuring that the document's clauses are understood and applied as the Founders envisioned.


This is particularly important in today's diverse society, where people from various backgrounds may seek to reinterpret the Constitution through the lens of their own homelands and cultures. Such reinterpretations risk erasing the original meaning of each clause and undermining the Constitution's foundational principles.


Only the people who originally were called "We the People" had the right to interpret the document they wrote and ratified. Modern opinions, however well-intentioned, cannot substitute for the original intent of the Founders. This originalist approach ensures that the Constitution remains a stable and enduring framework for governance, reflecting the principles and values upon which the United States was established.


Conclusion


The phrase "We the People" in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution holds a specific and powerful historical meaning, referring to the individuals who established and ratified the Constitution. In contrast, the modern usage of "the people of the United States" refers to all current citizens, reflecting the evolving and inclusive nature of American democracy. Understanding this distinction enriches our comprehension of American history, legal interpretation, and civic responsibility, reminding us of the enduring principles that continue to shape the United States. The role of the Supreme Court in upholding the original intent of the Constitution is crucial in preserving the integrity of the Founders' vision and ensuring that the principles they enshrined continue to guide the nation.

4 views0 comments

Comments


Post: Blog2_Post
bottom of page