Home Preamble What does the phrase “We The People” mean?

What does the phrase “We The People” mean?


The first words of the United States Constitution are “We the People of the United States”. These words hold a great significance because of the implications of those words’ inclusion in the Constitution.

While the words of the Preamble do not actually have any innate legal
implications beyond introducing the rest of the Constitution, the meaning of the Preamble with regard to the Constitution as a whole is quite significant towards understanding the Constitution. “We the People”, as a phrase, exhibits this significance, as that one phrase allows the Constitution to be interpreted in a different light.

To quickly emphasize the importance of “We the People” in the Preamble of the Constitution, one should examine the Preamble of the Articles of Confederation. In the Articles of Confederation, the Preamble bears no such phrase and instead moves quickly into the content of the Articles with barely any such opening ideas. “We the People” is conspicuously absent from the Preamble of the Articles.

In the Constitution, on the other hand, by opening up with “We the People”, it immediately affirms that the Constitution is of the people, for the people, and by the people of the United States. This interpretation, which arises most strongly from the presence of “We the People”, leads to an understanding of the Constitution as affecting the people directly and not through regulations imposed on the States. In other words, those words define the interaction between the Constitution and the citizens of the United States is direct and immediate, meaning that the Constitution and the government it creates supersedes any State government.

The words “We the People” in the Preamble are often considered the strongest links between the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, in that the Declaration of Independence was written from the the perspective of the people, not of specific individuals or of government. In beginning the Preamble of the Constitution with “We the People”, The constitution is immediately emphasizing the significance of the people and is
also ensuring an understanding that the people are the ones giving power to the
Government. This is also a critical element to the American Constitution in that the power of the Government mandated by the Constitution comes not from God or from itself, but from “We the People.”

Starting off the Preamble in this fashion has influenced interpretations of the Preamble and of the Constitution as a whole in that the The preamble is often used as a kind of key for determining to understand of other parts of the Constitution. Insofar as the Preamble begins with “We the People”, it clearly emphasized the importance of the people and their role invalidating the Government, as opposed to the Government’s role in having power over the people.

“We the People” is one of the most often quoted parts of the Constitution, both because it is at the very beginning of the entire document and because it significantly determines the nature of the rest of the Constitution. In making the Constitution a document for the people and by the people, the words “We the People” at the beginning of the Preamble
very much define the context in which the entire rest of the Constitution can and should be understood.