What Is the Purpose of the Preamble to the Constitution

Learn the purpose of the preamble to the constitution, as discussed by experts.

Here are their insights:

Paul Engel

Paul Engel

Author | Speaker | Founder, The Constitution Study

The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States, like any other preface or prologue, is an introduction to the document.

It describes the purpose the Framers had in creating it and the goals they had for it

We, the People of the United States, – It is important to note that while We the People created the Constitution, we did not do so directly, we did so through the states we had created. That is why it was the states that ratified the Constitution and why only the states can change it.

in Order to form a more perfect Union, – After the Declaration of Independence, the states agreed to unite under the Articles of Confederation. However, problems with that agreement and the union it created soon came to light. The first purpose for drafting this Constitution was to make the union better.

Related: What Is the Purpose of the Constitution?

establish Justice, – Not Social Justice, Racial Justice, or Economic Justice, the Constitution was established to bring justice to everyone. While there are plenty of examples of our failure to live up to this goal, history has shown that America has not only brought justice to more of its citizens than any other nation but continues to strive for justice for all.

insure domestic Tranquility, – What happens when you take thirteen free and independent states and put them in close proximity? Europe’s history shows that strife, antagonism, and even war are frequent outcomes. To prevent that, the Constitution was created to help keep tranquility between the states.

provide for the common defence, – I believe it was Benjamin Franklin who said we must all hang together, or we will certainly hang separately. As newly created states, they would stand little chance repelling an invasion from England, France, or Spain. However, by providing a way for the states to jointly defend themselves from foreign invasion, they would stand a better chance of survival.

promote the general Welfare, Sometimes confused with the “General Welfare” clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 1), these words show that part of the reason the Framers drafted the Constitution was for the general welfare of the new states. However, it is important to note that the Constitution was to PROMOTE the general welfare, not provide it as with the common defense.

and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, – In my mind the most important reason for drafting the Constitution was to secure the blessings of liberty. And not just for themselves, but for us as well. So whenever someone in government violates the Constitution, whatever the reason, they are diminishing the blessings of liberty for us, our children, and our grandchildren.

do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – This Constitution is not simply a document, and it is not simply the supreme law of the land (Article VI, Clause 2).

This Constitution created the union of states we now enjoy, it created the central government, what we now call the federal government, and it was done so in the name of and by the authority of We the People.

If you study the Constitution, you find that the governments, both at the state and federal level, were created to serve the people, not rule them. That the people placed limits and boundaries around these governments, limits which those in government routinely ignore.

As an introduction to the Constitution and an explanation as to why it was drafted, the Preamble not only sets the stage for the document that follows, it is a critical tool in understanding not only what the Framers created, but why.

Tim Berg

Tim Berg

Director, Fennemore Law

The purpose of the Preamble can be viewed in two ways. What was its purpose when it was drafted and what is its purpose today.

The original purpose of the Preamble was at least in part to explain why a group of delegates sent to revise the Articles of Confederation instead drafted an entirely new and different constitution.

It emphasized that the source of this new government was the people of the United States that were creating the republic envisioned by the constitution. The Preamble also sets forth what was perceived at the time to be the goals of a just government:

  1. establish justice
  2. insure domestic tranquility
  3. provide for the common defense
  4. promote the general welfare
  5. secure liberty and a democratic national government

In a sense, much like the Declaration of Independence, the purpose of the Preamble was to tell both our citizens and the world what this new government was intended to be and to do.

Andrew Winters

Andrew Winters

Attorney | Co-Founder, Cohen & Winters

The preamble holds some of the most well-known and important words for the United States of America. It has set a precedent for the standards and culture of our country.

The preamble, at a basic level, laid out exactly what our forefathers were aiming to put in place with the writing of the constitution.

It is the introduction to one of the greatest statements of liberty and the founding of a new nation.

You can think of it in a similar fashion to the introduction of a research paper; an effort to explain to readers what will be covered and what they can expect in the following pages and paragraphs.

Dwayne Allen Thomas

Dwayne Allen Thomas

Writer | Speaker | Attorney

Many laws in the United States begin with a preamble. The Constitution is no exception. What’s different about the Constitution is that a lot more people are familiar with the Constitution and its preamble.

A preamble is an introduction, stating the purposes of the law in question

It has no legal effect, but courts sometimes use preambles and other documents to determine what a legislature intended by law. This helps the court to find the right answer in cases where the text of the law doesn’t fully account for a situation that arises under the law.

A constitution is slightly different from law, as it outlines the basic principles of a nation. But it still starts with a preamble. The first purpose stated is “to form a more perfect union.”

This is because the Constitution amends and abrogates the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union of 1781, one of the nation’s founding documents.

Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Public Policy Expert (Expertise in Permanent Residency, & Family Sponsorship) | CEO, Tudor Housing Consulting

The Preamble to the constitution is written to communicate the purpose of the document

What the document is, who is it for, the government’s goals, etc. The Preamble also mentions that the real authority comes from the people of the country and not from the people in power.

This is to reassure the people of the country about their values and importance.

The Preamble is still communicated as originally written by the framers. The preamble starts with the words “We the people” because that’s how the founding members of the document intended it to be. These words depict the intentions of the founding fathers regarding the constitution and what they hoped to achieve through it.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a preamble and an executive summary?

A preamble and an executive summary serve a similar function in providing an overview of the document they precede. However, there are some key differences between the two.

A preamble is typically found at the beginning of a legal or political document and serves to establish the values, principles, and goals that underpin the rest of the text. It’s often more aspirational in nature and may contain poetic or symbolic language.

In contrast, an executive summary is typically found at the beginning of a business or technical document. It serves to provide a brief and concise summary of the key findings or recommendations of the text. It’s often more practical and focuses on the specific details and recommendations of the document.

Another key difference between a preamble and an executive summary is the intended audience. A preamble is typically written for a broad audience, such as the general public, while an executive summary is usually targeted at a more specific audience, such as business executives or technical experts.

Can a preamble be changed or updated over time?

A preamble can be changed or updated over time, although this is usually a difficult and lengthy process. In some cases, a preamble may be amended as part of a broader revision of the policy document of which it’s a part.

In other cases, a preamble may be updated through judicial interpretation. Courts may interpret the preamble’s language in light of changing social and political circumstances and expand or narrow its scope accordingly.

However, changing or updating a preamble is typically a difficult and contentious process because it involves revisiting the fundamental values and principles underpinning the political document.

As such, amendments or updates to a preamble are relatively rare and are usually only made in response to significant changes in the social, political, or legal landscape.

How can understanding the preamble help people become politically engaged?

Understanding a preamble can potentially help people become politically engaged, as it often provides a statement of the purpose of the political document in question.

Gaining insight into the values, principles, and goals underlying a political document may contribute to a better appreciation of its significance and its role in shaping the political landscape. However, the extent of this impact may vary depending on individual interpretation and the specific political document.

Moreover, understanding a preamble could help some people evaluate the actions and policies of their government or organization in light of the principles and goals set forth in the document.

By holding their leaders accountable to the values and principles articulated in the preamble, people may work towards ensuring that their government or organization is acting in the best interests of its citizens or members.

The effectiveness of this approach, though, may also depend on the context and individuals involved.

Lastly, understanding a preamble might encourage people to become more active and engaged in politics by providing a rallying cry for those who support the principles and goals set out in the document.

By agreeing on a shared sense of purpose and direction, people could potentially work together to promote positive change and advance the goals stated in the preamble. It is important to note that this impact is not guaranteed and will depend on various factors, such as the individuals involved and the specific political environment.

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