Constitution 101: The Preamble Delegates No Power
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Constitution 101: The Preamble Delegates No Power


A lot of people believe the Preamble to the Constitution gives the federal government the power to do just about anything. And a lot of people are wrong. If you learned anything about the Constitution in school, you learned the preamble. In fact, you may have even memorized it. Many people quote it to supposedly prove that the federal government has the power to do anything it wants to “establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty.” But in a legal document, and the Constitution is in fact an 18th century legal document, a preamble does not carry the force of law, nor does it grant any power at all. Black’s Law Dictionary describes a preamble this way. “A clause at the beginning of a constitution or statute explanatory of the reasons for its enactment and the objects sought to be accomplished.” So, while the preamble outlines the broad objectives of the federal government, it does not delegate any authority to it. That delegation of power follows in the various articles and clauses found in the body of the Constitution itself. Without this delegation of powers, the preamble is nothing but a poetic list of objectives with no mechanism to carry them into effect.

5 Comments

  • Old Man Frank

    I cannot wrap my mind around people thinking anything in the US Constitution gives the federal government the power to do just about anything…I mean, if the federal government had all encompassing then we would have ZERO use for the US Constitution.

  • Dndadventure

    I cannot believe I missed that all these years. Thank you for pointing that out. I teach a Constitutional history class to civics groups and that is going to be pointed out to them every time now.

  • John Doe

    BASIC reading comprehension and Common sense are all that are necessary to understand that if the Preamble were meant to annunciate unlimited Federal authority, why not simply stop there???
    Why write the 7 Articles to follow, all of which specifically and explicitly defines ONLY what each disparate branch of the Federal Government CAN DO???

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