The Constitution was originally created in efforts to replace the failed attempt at creating a practical American government under the Articles of the Confederation. In 1787, the Constitutional Convention was called to draft a new legal system that had the strength to unify the states under a federal union. Although the Constitution is known for establishing fundamental laws and rights for American citizens, many do not realize that the most important clause given to the American people is actually stated before the core substance of the Constitution: “We the People.”
While shaping the United States, the weak Articles failed due to its lack of a strong central government. Framers of the Constitution sought to enhance the federal government’s power, though remain true to the states. James Wilson initialized the creation of the Preamble and the infamous “We the People.” One of six who signed the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Wilson pushed for a greater role for the ordinary man in government. Over the course of the Constitutional Convention, Wilson was an advocate for the sovereignty of the people and sought to influence the country’s dispersion of power. Fearful of creating the same tyrannical monarch that the US had just rebelled from, Wilson sought to preserve the powers of the states rights and keep the power ultimately within the people. In Wilson’s draft of the Preamble, he devised the saying “We the States.” In the final draft, Gouverneur Morris took it another step further by editing the first few words to “We the People” to ensure that states rights do not overtake the country’s power as they did in the Articles.
The Preamble of the Constitution lays the groundwork for the democracy that Americans have come to know and love. The phrase, “We the People” is the first phrase of the constitution and arguably the best know. “We the People” immediately affirms that the Constitution's job creates a government for the people, and by the people. Lacking legal material beyond its introduction, the Preamble supports that the rights and freedoms bestowed by the document belong to citizens of the United States. This right sets up the foundation of a democracy, a government that caters to the masses. Although the framers of the Constitution had the powers to create the government, citizens as well are able to retain legislative powers.
The words “We the People” in the Preamble are often considered the strongest link between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration of Independence was a document scripted from the perspective of the people, not of specific individuals or the government. In turn, this equal quota levels out the playing field for the average individual, placing emphasis on all American lives. The wealthy and high-ranking officials are knocked off of their pedestal, instilling equal rights for all Americans. The Declaration was an outlet for colonists to state what they were entitled to and the actions that England did not take to create an equal body. Laying out the government’s philosophy that all citizens are equal and entitled to certain inalienable rights, the Social Contract Theory insists that a government that does not have the people’s consent or disregards their rights is illegitimate. Citizens have the right to rebel against their standing government if the Social Contract is broken and reform a new one. By stating “We the People,” Americans acknowledge the fact that the people of this governing body are creating a new union that will uphold the rights that England had failed to maintain.
The nation’s interpretation of the preamble has evolved drastically. At first, the Preamble was set in place to assure that the elite class and government would not overtake the common man. In the 18th century, common man was considered a land-owning white man. Throughout time, this clause of the Constitution has progressed to meet the needs of African Americans, uniting America’s diverse population. In further years, “We the People” has become germane throughout the progressive era and the fight for women’s equality. Beginning with a selective group to represent the United States, “We the People” has progressed through our nation's history to cover an array of individuals that make up the United States.
Today, “We the People” includes all citizens of the United States. The powers of the government are given to all races, genders, partisanship and religious affiliations, no matter a person's background. In recent events, the idea that foreign visitors are a growing group within “We the People.” With President Trump’s Travel Ban in action, the courts have been leaning in favor of those impacted by the ban. “We the People” applies to foreign visitors as well because the preamble sets up the establishment for all to be entitled to the same basic rights that Americans possess. For example, if a foreigner were to be arrested, they would still find themselves being treated fairly with essential liberties intact. I believe that this clause of the constitution is the most influential because of its willingness and flexibility to allow all to participate in government. There are few countries that allow all citizens to participate in government functions and I believe that this makes the United States and the Constitution unique.