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How We Became 'We the People'

by Countable | 5.13.17

A new, interactive website makes it possible for anyone to track the evolution of the U.S. Constitution -- from the original Convention to its ratification.

The National Constitution Center now displays the original documents drafted by the Framers of the Constitution in its earliest days. Can’t get to Philadelphia to see it in person? No problem.

Five original documents trace the earliest drafts of the Constitution, from the Report of the Constitutional Convention’s Resolutions in July of 1787, to the Official Printing of the final version, which was signed September 17, 1787.

The documentation reveals, for example, how the iconic Preamble to the Constitution evolved. The original version started with this phrase:

"RESOLVED: That the Government of the United States ought to consist of a Supreme Legislative, Judiciary and Executive..."

The next iteration, just days later, reads:

"We the People of the States of New-Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode-Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North. Carolina, South. Carolina and Georgia do ordain, declare and establish the following Constitution for the Government of ourselves and of our Posterity"

And the final version, of course, reads:

"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."

That last change, to "We the People..." was initiated by James Wilson, a Founding Father and later one of the first Supreme Court Justices. Jeffrey Rosen, CEO of the National Constitution Center, said Wilson "is under-appreciated, but his huge contribution to the Constitution was to insist that the people, rather than the states, were sovereign”

This foundational idea later had lasting impacts on the U.S. For example, Abraham Lincoln refused the Southern states' declaration of secession because of that Preamble. Lincoln argued that a majority of the people would have to vote to allow that action.

What strikes you about the evolution of the Constitution and its early drafts? Do you consider it's foundational philosophies in your every day political thought? Let us know! Send us an email and we'll feature some of your thoughts on Countable!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(30)
  • Sandra
    05/14/2017
    ···

    'We the people' is an idea, a grand experiment, with the first constitution of its kind. It is not a thing, a language, or even a flag. It is something even greater. It is the realization that together we are stronger than we are divided. It respects our differences while also celebrating our similarities. It commits us to the ideals of justice and liberty for all, to fight for the common welfare. We, as citizens, are joined as a country for the good of all. Incorporated into our constitution are clear guidelines for majority rule with a government elected by the people. However, the constitution also protects the rights of the people and minorities. This has evolved over time with the addition of amendments. In fact, our first amendment protects religious freedom, and yes ALL religions or even the absence of religion. The constitution does not name a common religion or a common language. It does not tell people to leave their customs and culture behind. It does not tell its citizens that they must think the same, act the same, and talk the same. We are all diverse in America and that is what truly makes our country great. All languages and all cultures are welcome here and only add to our strength as a nation.

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  • Scott
    05/14/2017
    ···

    We the People: We are a nation of immigrants and descendants of immigrants. That is what defines the United States as a melting pot. The US is enriched by each new wave of immigration brought new things (diversity) to America. What immigrants share with every US citizen is love of freedom. Where they come from does not have freedom as we know it. They left war, famine, pestilence and oppression to have the chance to have freedom. Loraki, it is likely your ancestors faced the same things current immigrants face. Mine did. They likely faced bigotry, humiliation and segregation here upon arrival. Mine did. Yet as generations have past, your ancestors' trials have likely been forgotten (we haven't) and now here you are, a real live American citizen ready to keep those same traditions going. How proud you must be.

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  • Loraki
    05/13/2017
    ···

    "We the People" implies that we are a united amalgam of races, religions, sexes, and occupations. It requires a common allegiance to our country, flag, and Constitution! It SHOULD imply a common language and culture, but thanks to the globalists, socialists, Communists, and other misguided liberals, we are not the melting pot we once were. That we're not is because of their concerted effort to destroy our national identity and sovereignty. WE MUST OUTLAW THE PRACTICE OF SHARIAH LAW AND STOP THE ISLAMIZATION OF AMERICA! ALSO, WE MUST MAKE ENGLISH OUR NATIONAL LANGUAGE, AND STOP WORSHIPPING THE FALSE "god" OF DIVERSITY! I'm not against people having pride in their ethnic background, but once you become an AMERICAN CITIZEN, that should take second place to your pride in being an American and being one of We the People, not some segregated, unassimilated group with divided loyalties! And I REALLY RESENT our government's policy of printing everything in umpteen different languages! THAT DOES NOT PROMOTE UNITY!!!

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  • Lee
    05/14/2017
    ···

    When we blame a person or groups of people, we add to the divide. Instead of blaming the liberals or conservatives, I hope that we can be so bold as so sit and listen to someone with different views than our own. Open borders, open minds, economic justice, social justice.

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  • Mark
    05/13/2017
    ···

    "We the People" - a Virtue to aspire too. We lost this aspiration when we decided that We the Party trumps our collective good. Sad, but that's reality today.

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  • Thomas
    05/14/2017
    ···

    Loraki is at it again...we do have a common language, English, try getting anywhere without knowing some English. Just because people know other languages, doesn't mean English is somehow not the common language. America is not being islamized, sharia is not legal in the US. We are still a melting pot, in spite of conservative efforts at fear-mongering and demonizing minorities. US sovereignty is not being threatened, if you have the delusion that the US is losing its sovereignty you should reexamine your life. The trend towards globalization is not a bad thing. Loraki espouses fascist and divisive views. Fascism is a cancer, slowly growing until it can't be stopped.

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  • DrCindyBean
    05/14/2017
    ···

    Impeach Donald J tRump. Impeach. Impeach. Impeach. Impeach. Impeach.

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  • Bob
    05/14/2017
    ···

    Our country has moved to a point where we have a privileged class in DC and state governments and we the people are the slaves providing their wealth and power!

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  • M
    05/14/2017
    ···

    Loraki, your version of America sounds like a totalitarian state. Take your holier than thou attitude and reread the New Testament. Pretty sure it preachers understanding and love. Also, your white driven American ideals are false and built on the graves of natives and immigrants.

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  • Abigail
    05/14/2017
    ···

    Loraki, you said this country isn't the "melting pot it once was?" Well, your absolutely correct. Because it's BETTER now! Who are you to say don't celebrate diversity?! People should be who they want to be, who they are comfortable with. Not what all your crazy conservatives want them to be. Ever heard of FREEDOM OF RELIGION?! Hm?! Go tell that to your "We the People."

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  • Ticktock
    05/14/2017
    ···

    The evolution of the Preamble and the Constitution did not begin with colonies in North America and no one race, nationality, religion or people can claim sole ownership of either document. It was an amalgamation of Native American, English, and middle eastern documents. The writers of these documents were well educated in philosophy, history, religion and in life in general. The people who fought in the Revolutionary War included people of many races, religions (including Islam) and ethnic origins. The Preamble nor the Constitution was written in order to discriminate but to protect our liberties and not place one group over another although there was one glaring omission, Slavery. It is a disgrace to see these documents used to support discrimination of any kind. People need to know more about the documents and Amendments that are the underpinnings of our Democracy.

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  • JaredThePoet
    05/14/2017
    ···

    We The People - Encompasses every American, regardless of their differences in skin color, sex, or otherwise. By using this phrase we stand united under this document and it's words, and the America it represents. When the America we love is threatened by an outside force or a domestic one, we must stand together, united, to defend it. If our representatives in federal and local governments all followed this rule, we would not be in the predicament we are in today, investigate Trump, take necessary precautions against Russia, it's that easy.

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  • Norm
    05/14/2017
    ···

    We the people are in trouble. Doubt has ruined and collapsed many a nation over time. And Don Trump is ruining us, entertaining us, telling us just enough so we don't trust our neighbors. My dear representatives you must relieve this man as president. "Make_America_for_Everyone_Again" is the new motto. Not the Sessions model of Divide_America_Again_Y'all. Representatives reaching across the isle won't nearly be as painful as when Trump steals the treasury and the swamp and says: see I drained it!

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  • Pete
    05/14/2017
    ···

    Loraki everything you say is hilariously flawed. Thanks for the laugh.

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  • StartingOut
    05/15/2017
    ···

    The US "Grand experiment" was never about multiculturalism. Hate to break it to you, but that's a recent mutilation of formerly solid ideals. Multiculturalism is weakness, not meaning your background matters, but that what you hold in your heart should be in the best interest of your country, your state, your family, you, then the world. If your goal in life while in America is to make it like the place you came from, you have ultimately failed to become a respectable citizen. Yes, we are a nation of immigrants. A nation of immigrants that wanted to make a difference and found a nation far better then the one they had left. A nation of immigrants that came over to work and strengthen this country when their own failed them. Not a nation of immigrants that want to mold this country into a 3rd world hellhole so others will be forced to suffer as they had. Freedom of Religion does not extend to the point of interfering with our other freedoms, as Islam comes dangerously close to doing even here in America.

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  • Al
    05/13/2017
    ···

    Better question when did we become we the Kremlin tools?

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  • Janene
    05/13/2017
    ···

    I agree with Lorakai..."We the People" implies that we are a united amalgam of races, religions, sexes, and occupations. It requires a common allegiance to our country, flag, and Constitution! It SHOULD imply a common language and culture, but thanks to the globalists, socialists, Communists, and other misguided liberals, we are not the melting pot we once were. That we're not is because of a concerted effort to destroy our national identity and sovereignty. WE MUST OUTLAW THE PRACTICE OF SHARIAH LAW AND STOP THE ISLAMIZATION OF AMERICA! ALSO, MAKE ENGLISH OUR NATIONAL LANGUAGE, AND STOP WORSHIPPING THE FALSE "god" OF DIVERSITY! I'm not against people having pride in their ethnic background, but once you become an AMERICAN CITIZEN, that should take second place to your pride in being an American and being one of We the People, not some segregated, unassimilated group with divided loyalties! And I REALLY RESENT our government's policy of printing everything in umpteen different languages! THAT DOES NOT PROMOTE UNITY!!!

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  • DrCindyBean
    05/14/2017
    ···

    TRump must be removed from office. Impeach. Impeach. Impeach.

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  • Dave
    05/15/2017
    ···

    It is "we the people" not we the corporations, we the religion or I and my beliefs!

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  • operaman
    05/14/2017
    ···

    We the people of today are definitely not the hardy forefathers of the 1780s. They were still living under the yoke of Europe and the rule of monarchy while we seek the rule of European monarchy and the benefits of socialism and oppression of personal freedoms. When people talk about time machine, do they wish the past or the future? Learning history delineates the path. Picking up a shovel and using it can create, thinking about a shovel does nothing constructive.

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