“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
In the Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America we have, in a very eloquent manner, the foundation laid down by our Founding Fathers for the purpose and necessity of forming a union of States. This was and is somewhat commonly known, what is not commonly known is what “We the People” actually stood for and on which rests the Sovereign which is the power lender to the (at the time) newly formed Federal Government.
Who is “We the People”?
Patrick Henry, of “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” fame, inquired at the State Convention that gave us the U.S. Constitution this very question:
“And here I would make this enquiry of those of worthy characters who composed a part of the late Federal Convention. I am sure they were fully impressed with the necessity of forming a great consolidated Government, instead of a confederation. That that is a consolidated Government is demonstrably clear, and the danger of such a Government, is, to my mind, very striking, I have the highest veneration for those Gentlemen – but, Sir, give me leave to demand, what right had they to say, ―We, the people?‖ My political curiosity, exclusive of my anxious solicitude for the public welfare, leads me to ask, Who authorized them to speak the language of, ―We, the people,‖ instead of, ―We, the states?‖ States are the characteristics and the soul of a confederation. If the states be not the agents of this compact, it must be one great, consolidated, national government, of the people of all the states.”2
Henry, sharing my personal fear of the verbal ambiguity here, challenges the rendering of “We the People” stating that it is not the people that are adopting this document and forming this coalition but rather it is the States that are.
James Madison, however, responds to Henry:
“Who are the parties to it? The people—but not the people as composing one great body; but the people as composing thirteen sovereignties. Were it, as the gentleman asserts, a consolidated government, the assent of a majority of the people would be sufficient for its establishment; and, as a majority have adopted it already, the remaining states would be bound by the act of the majority, even if they unanimously rejected it…. But, sir, no state is bound by it, as it is, without its own consent. Should all the states adopt it, it will be then a government established by the thirteen states of America, not through the intervention of the legislatures, but by the people at large.”3
Madison, here responding to Henry states that “We the People” should not be understood in any other terms other than, in historical context, as the thirteen Sovereign States forming a union for mutual benefit and protection.
Patrick Henry in his objections, however, have been prophetic in that almost immediately the federal government started to usurp power from the States on the basis of public, not State, consent. This usurpation of State Sovereignty can be seen in its greatest and most violent expression in what is commonly called the Civil War. This can also be seen in the oppression of the State of California in a Federal Judge’s ruling and striking down of Proposition 8 which was a State Constitutional Amendment and not eligible for federal examination as this does not fall under any of the powers delegated to the federal government by the States.
We as members of the united States of America need to reclaim our heritage and our birth right and realize that we need to be citizens of State, which should be our Country and then people of America.
What do you think?
Kevin R. C. Gutzmman, J.D., Ph.D., The Politically Incorrect Guide to The Constitution.
Thomas E. Woods, Jr., Ph.D., The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.
1 The Constitution of the United States of America. Oak Harbor, Washington: Logos Research Systems, Inc.. 1998.
2 Kurland, Philip B. & Lerner, Ralph (ed.). The Founders’ Constitution (Vol. 1). Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press. 1987. (pg. 650).
3 Eliot, Jonathan (ed.). The Debates, Resolutions, and Other Proceedings, in Convention, on the Federal Convention (Vol. 2). Washington, DC. 1828. (pg. 57).