What the Constitution Means

The Constitution of the United States, written in 1787 and ratified in 1788, is a document that was crafted during the early, exciting and turbulent days of our nation. It sets out rules to live by and it unites all the states under the freedom and protection of one central government. The document is a tribute to the 39 men who drafted it, and who strove to put together the perfect words and ideas by which an entire country could be governed fairly. One can only wonder how much the writers of the Constitution pondered what rights were the most important to include in the ground-breaking guide that would, forever, be followed by their descendants. It is for this reason that we, the people who are fortunate enough to have inherited the freedoms that are provided for with its words, should interpret the Constitution correctly, and not twist or manipulate the words of the writers to suit a personal or financial agenda.

It is interesting to imagine how a man such as James Madison, one of the composers of the Bill of Rights began to compile all the ideas which were finally put together into one document. How many different inequities did he have to make note of so as not to forget to include protections against them in the massive document? With so many issues to consider, how did Madison and the other writers decide which should come first? It is no wonder that freedom of religion and freedom of speech were at the top of the list.

A quick perusal of the Bill of Rights shows that its writers were thoughtful, considerate men who were ahead of their time. They knew which rights were the most important to all people and they took care not to leave anything out. Being the forward-thinking men that they were, they created Article V of the Constitution, which allows for changes to be made to the document as needed.

Much like many things that are created and then later perfected, the Constitution of the United States was not the first constitution in America. The Articles of Confederation, originally known as the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was created by the 13 founding states of the United States of America, passed by the Continental Congress on November 15, 1777 and ratified on March 1, 1781. It was this same Continental Congress that created the Declaration of Independence in 1776. The Articles were written during the early stages of the American Revolution, and the document made the states sovereign, giving them power over themselves and limiting the powers of any federal government. This was done out of fear that a large all-controlling government, such as the British government, would attempt to take control.

Each state having control over itself proved to be a bad idea, as there were constant disagreements over larger states having to pay more taxes and smaller states not having enough representation. There were also disputes over who would control territories to the west and as a result the states eventually gave control of the western territories to the federal government. Another problem with each state being sovereign was that each had its own currency therefore money could not be borrowed inside or outside of the United States, and then there was the issue of taxes and who would tax who and how much.

The Articles of Confederation did not unite the 13 states under one banner; instead it kept each one separate and forced each to fend for itself. It didn’t take long for all to realize that separately there were too many weaknesses but together they were strong. The Articles were very much the opposite of the Constitution that we have today which unites the states under a federal government. There is no doubt that the drafters of our Constitution discovered, through trial and error, that the freedom enjoyed by each state under the Articles of Confederation did not afford them the power and protection they needed. It was because of all their tribulations that they finally arrived at the wonderful set of laws that we live by today. The Constitution is so much more than just a set of rules for everyone to follow. This document that we hold so dear unites all of the states and its citizens under a combined freedom and strength.