Recent events have caused me to think hard on an oath I took back in 1990:
I, Noel Figart, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.
As I was thinking harder about it, I realized that while I’ve read the US Constitution, I certainly have not analyzed it in any great detail. Over the next several months, I am going to be taking the Constitution article by article, analyzing it and then giving my opinion about what is meant.
I am a lawyer? Nope. I am an absolute layman. If you read this series, please keep in mind that while I’m bright enough and a history buff, I am neither a professional historian nor legal scholar. I earn a vast majority of my living as a tech editor and computer applications instructor. This is going to be the Layman’s Interpretation of the US Constitution.
I am taking the text of the US Constitution from the National Archives. (Hey, a childhood spent in a Southern Baptist Church really did encourage citing versions for text analysis!)
Today we’re going to start simply – The Preamble. This part, like most people of my age group, I do have memorized. Hurrah for, Schoolhouse Rock!
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.
We the People of the United States is an interesting way to start this. Was People a narrower definition than “human being within our geographic confines?” Yeah, it was. But it was a defiance and a change, nonetheless. In breaking from England, we were saying that we are no longer subjects of a higher power – specifically a monarchy. We, collectively as the humans here, are making this statement and deciding for ourselves what we want to happen. This, my friends, is very much a national mission statement.
What is the mission statement for the United States of America?
- We want to perfect our government. The “more perfect union” was acknowledging that the Articles of Confederation that preceded the US Constitution wasn’t working out so well. That whole Union of States thing needed some help. This document is meant to help perfect that. This, to me, does mean that yeah, the US Constitution is meant to be dynamic. As our knowledge and understanding improves, we can perfect how we govern ourselves.
- We want to establish justice. One of the goals of our nation and government, in the first twenty words, is that we are to be a just nation. Do we ever fail at this? Yes. Circle back to the first part. The intention is that we continually try for a more perfect union.
- We want to ensure domestic tranquility. War on our shores an in our land was in recent memory. After justice, we want peace.
- We want to mutually defend each other and create a means by which to do so. We want to mutually protect ourselves from threats. “Defence” is not defined here, and at the time this really meant physical defense. The New World was a hot and lucrative property. We claimed it, nobody else was allowed to come take it. (Sorry, this ain’t all pretty.)
- We want to promote the general welfare.
We want to make sure that We the People of the United States are doing okay. Welfare did have a standard of living connotation. The population should have enough to eat and opportunities for personal betterment. And frankly, content populations don’t riot. Hunger riots were in recent memory. (See Boston Bread Riot as an example)
- We want the advantages of a free society for ourselves and the future generations. What we decide, how we vote, what we choose should be done with an eye to those who come after us. What do we want for future generations?
- We want to use what we’ve written down here in this little document (it’s fewer than 5,000 words…) to be used to accomplish this. We are saying that we’ve put down what we’re trying to accomplish and we’re going to use the Constitution as a foundation document to do so.
That’s the first analysis. This is going to be a weekly column for a while, as I expect to be heading down the research rabbit hole once or twice. I’m going to try to keep this in small, digestible chunks – going by articles and sections before we get to individual amendments.