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.
This is the Preamble to the Constitution. Its intent is to describe the scope and purpose of the entire document. Therefore, the entire text of the Constitution must be evaluated with the meaning of this paragraph in mind.
The goals are clearly defined, and all subsequent sections can be seen as the means of attaining these goals. Here are the six goals:
- To form a more perfect union. As we have seen, the Articles of Confederation were less of a device to form a nation than a treaty to bind several separate nations together. As a result, there were severe problems in the relations between the erstwhile colonies, and this was seen as a prelude to the dissolution of the union.
- To establish justice. This was another drawback to the Articles, that justice was not uniform amongst the separate states. It was seen as necessary that a common system of justice be established.
- To ensure domestic tranquility. The states simply did not get along well at all times, especially in trade, and a device was sought to regulate their interactions.
- Provide for the common defense. Prior to this there was no mechanism to guarantee coordination in the effort of defense from foreign aggression. Each state would essentially field its own separate army, or none at all, at its own discretion and with little regard for strategic considerations pertaining to other states. There was simply no authority vested in the Congress strong enough to mandate this level of cooperation.
- Promote the general welfare. This may be the most commonly misinterpreted phrase in the entire document, so here we must go back for clarification to the Declaration of Independence, where the concept of general welfare is better explained. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” The government is to promote the general welfare by ensuring that all are treated equally and that their rights are protected.
- To secure the blessings of liberty. The blessings of liberty can best be described as the benefits that free people can attain for themselves by being allowed to freely experience their rights. This requires the government to see to it that no one, including the government itself, violates or infringes upon the rights of each individual person.
Clearly, by listing these goals and their attendant requirements, I have described a government somewhat different than the one we know now in the 21st century, but nevertheless, this was the point at which it began.