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We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.

The stated primary purpose (goal, aim) was to form/create a more perfect union - in comparison to the less perfect union which then regulated the United States of America which the colonial leaders had formed to fight the British.

The Constitution - for that matter the whole concept of uniting the existing political states - did not spring like a phoenix from the ashes of a previously destroyed system of government.

To truly and fully understand the Founders' compulsion to create a union - as opposed to the leaders being content with the then existing several political states (each with different traditions and ethnic/religious sects) which had successfully thrown off the yoke of Great Britain's Parliament and King - and to understand their understandings of the concepts of 'justice,' 'tranquility,' 'general welfare,' and 'liberty' we can read and study what they read and studied.

Twentieth and 21st century meanings of those key words/concepts are quite different than in the 18th century.

EDIT: I'm re-posting the Preamble with the original capitalization, and noting that "We the People" was in super large size on the original:

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.


Why did they form a union? - when the rest of the American colonies throughout South, Central and the southern/western/northern rest of North America and the Caribbean did not?

I offer one answer to the question I posed in the last post - as the "bottom line" is a fundamental motivator for all human actions.

The Land Ordinance of 1785 required a union of the separate states as necessary in order for the "Congress assembled" to sell off the Northwest Territories to pay the debts to the private American and foreign individuals and corporations who had financed the Revolutionary War. Remember the first Continental Congress of the United States had no means to tax anyone for anything!

"Be it ordained by the United States in Congress assembled, that the territory ceded by individual states to the United States, which has been purchased of the Indian inhabitants, shall be disposed of in the following manner:

"A surveyor from each state shall be appointed by Congress or a Committee of the States, who shall take. an oath for the faithful discharge of his duty, before the Geographer of the United States ...

"The surveyors, as they are respectively qualified, shall proceed to divide the said territory into townships of six miles square, by lines running due north and south, and others crossing these at right angles, as near as may be ....

"The Geographer shall personally attend to the running of the first east and west line; and shall take the latitude of the extremes of the first north and south line, and of the mouths of the principal rivers.

"The lines shall be measured with a chain; shall be plainly marked by chaps on the trees, and exactly described on a plat, whereon shall be noted by the surveyor, at their proper distances, all mines, salt-springs, salt-licks, and mill-seats, that shall come to his knowledge, and all water-courses, mountains and other remarkable and permanent things, over and near which such lines shall pass, and also the quality of the lands.

"The plats of the townships respectively, shall be marked by subdivisions into lots of one mile square, or 640 acres, in the same direction as the external lines, and numbered from I to 36; always beginning the succeeding range of the lots with the number next to that with which the preceding one concluded ...

... And the geographer shall make ... returns, from time to time, of every seven ranges as they may be surveyed. The Secretary of War shall have recourse thereto, and shall take by lot therefrom, a number of townships ... as will be equal to one seventh part of the whole of such seven ranges ... for the use of the late Continental army ....

"The board of treasury shall transmit a copy of the original plats, previously noting thereon the townships and fractional parts of townships, which shall have fallen to the several states, by the distribution aforesaid, to the commissioners of the loan-office of the several states, who, after giving notice ... shall proceed to sell the townships or fractional parts of townships, at public venue, in the following manner, viz.: ... that none of the lands, within the said territory be sold under the price of one dollar the acre, to be paid in specie, or loan office certificates, reduced to specie value, by the scale of depreciation, or certificates of liquidated debts of the United States, including interest, besides the expense of the survey and other charges thereon, which are hereby rated at thirty-six dollars the township ... on failure of which payment, the said lands shall again be offered for sale.

"There shall be reserved for the United States out of every township the our lots being numbered 8, 11, 26, 29, and out of every fractional part of a township, so many lots of the same number as shall be bound thereon, for future sale ... also one third part of all gold, silver, lead and copper mines, to be sold, or otherwise disposed of as Congress shall hereafter direct ...."


Florida trivia: Most of Anastasia Island between the Lighthouse south to Matanzas Inlet - including Biera Mar - remained unsold marsh and timberland until the Florida Land Boom in the 1920s when several investers convinced the federal government to hold an auction and sell the ranges to private citizens.

here's a link to the national archives

good thread coe...and bier.

Why a Union? Hamilton's rationale.

In further comment on why "a more perfect Union" is the goal cited in the Preamble, I note that there is another thread in this Forum; "the federalist papers."

Hamilton, writing as Publius In Federalist #1, the Introduction - quoted in full on the other thread, ended with:

"For nothing can be more evident, to those who are able to take an enlarged view of the subject, than the alternative of an adoption of the new Constitution or a dismemberment of the Union. It will therefore be of use to begin by examining the advantages of that Union, the certain evils, and the probable dangers, to which every State will be exposed from its dissolution. This shall accordingly constitute the subject of my next address."

Federalist #2 through #5 were written by John Jay as Publius, so the "next address" by Hamilton is Federalist #6, where he summarized his fundamental rationale for a Union - a United States:

"...would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive and rapacious.  To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages."

Federalist #7&ff include Hamilton's arguments on the dangers of independent States and the advantages of a United States.

All the Federalist essays are linked here:

And the Anti-Federalist's are here:

Moving on from "a more perfect Union" my machine (or maybe it's me) doesn't have the capability of diagramming the words, phrases and clauses of the Preamble, so I'll just summarize the three ways grammarians and constitutional scholars have diagrammed it, and comment on each construction's impact on "ourselves and our Posterity":

1. Six independent clauses;
- (form a more perfect union),
- (establish justice),
- (insure domestic tranquillity),
- (provide for the common defense), - (promote the general welfare),
- (secure the blessings of liberty).

ALL apply ALL goals and objectives of the Constitution to ALL of us.

2. Five independent clauses, and a summary clause;
- (form a more perfect union),
- (establish justice),
- (insure domestic tranquillity),
- (provide for the common defense), - (promote the general welfare),
and in summary,
- (secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity).

This opens up "blessings of liberty" to more than just the specifics in the Preamble and the body of the Constitution, but like in the first ALL actions of government are for ALL.

3. Five independent clauses, plus one non-summary stand-alone independent clause (same listing as in 2, above).

This grammatical construction leads to significantly different repercussions for us, as ONLY the "blessings of liberty" - as defined in the substantive provisions in body of the Constitution - are for "ourselves and our Posterity," with the first five clauses just goals, not guaranteed rights.

There has been only one SCOTUS decision which addressed the Preamble in regard to the meaning of the clauses - Jacobson v. Com. of Massachusetts 197 U.S.11 (1905).


Although that preamble indicates the general purposes for which the people ordained and established the Constitution, it has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the government of the United States, or on any of its departments. Such powers embrace only those expressly granted in the body of the Constitution, and such as may be implied from those so granted.

Although, therefore, one of the declared objects of the Constitution was to secure the blessings of liberty to all under the sovereign jurisdiction and authority of the United States, no power can be exerted to that end by the United States, unless, apart from the preamble, it be found in some express delegation of power, or in some power to be properly implied therefrom.


Undoubtedly, as observed by Chief Justice Marshall, speaking for the court in Sturges v. Crowninshield,  'the spirit of an instrument, especially of a constitution, is to be respected not less than its letter; yet the spirit is to be collected chiefly from its words.'


...the liberty secured by the Constitution of the United States to every person within its jurisdiction does not import an absolute right in each person to be, at all times and in all circumstances, wholly freed from restraint. There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good.

On any other basis organized society could not exist with safety to its members.

Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy.

Real liberty for all could not exist under the operation of a principle which recognizes the right of each individual person to use his own, whether in respect of his person or his property, regardless of the injury that may be done to others.

This court has more than once recognized it as a fundamental principle that 'persons and property are subjected to all kinds of restraints and burdens in order to secure the general comfort, health, and prosperity of the state.'

'The possession and enjoyment of all rights are subject to such reasonable conditions as may be deemed by the governing authority of the country essential to the safety, health, peace, good order, and morals of the community.

'Even liberty itself, the greatest of all rights, is not unrestricted license to act according to one's own will. It is only freedom from restraint under conditions essential to the equal enjoyment of the same right by others. It is, then, liberty regulated by law.'

A reminder, for some time when one has time to really see what the Founders' thought as they wrote the Constitution - or when in an argument about what something in it really means - we can always read the debate Notes - as separated by subject within each Article, Section and Clause of the Constitution: Forum Index -> We the People
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