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The Annenberg Guide to the United States Constitution


The Text

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.

The Meaning

The preamble is the introduction to the Constitution. It outlines the general goals of the framers: to create a just government and to ensure peace, an adequate national defense and a healthy, free nation. With its first three words, “We the People,” the preamble emphasizes that the nation is to be ruled by the people— not a king or a dictator, not the president, Supreme Court justices, members of Congress or state legislators. The U.S. Supreme Court held in 1905 (Jacobson v. Massachusetts) that the preamble is not a source of federal power or individuals’ rights. Rather, all rights and powers are set out in the articles and amendments that follow.