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The Preamble as Policy

A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty

Robert Irons and Jim Twombly

In The Preamble as Policy: A Guidebook to Governance and Civic Duty the authors show that the Preamble to the Constitution is more than an introduction to the document; it sets the tone for the rest of the document and how it should be viewed and interpreted. It is also a list of goals for a new government and a tool for holding our elected representatives accountable for their efforts on our behalf. The Preamble as Policy looks at the history of the development of the Constitution to show how the Preamble can be used to judge the laws and policies enacted by the federal government. The Preamble as Policy weaves political thought, history, and current events together allowing for examination of an oft forgotten part of the Constitution. It provides a unique framework and firm foundation for class discussions or social interactions about what we have achieved as a nation and where we might have come up short.

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Chapter Two Form a More Perfect Union


A more perfect Union, it could be argued, presupposes that the Union existed before the Constitution. Some have made the argument that the Union is a metaphorical or symbolic one with roots stretching back in time beyond the Articles of Confederation, beyond the Declaration of Independence, beyond any compact made prior to that by the colonies. Hence, the aspirational language, not just to form a union, but a more perfect union. Putting the metaphysical and symbolic debate aside, we can trace the beginnings of this more perfect union, first to our separation from Great Britain and second to repairing the flaws in the governmental structure under the Articles of Confederation.

The birth of the move towards independence came on June 7, 1776, when Richard Henry Lee, the delegate from Virginia to the Second Continental Congress introduced the “Lee Resolution,” a proposal for the colonies to declare independence from Great Britain. The resolution, in turn, led to the drafting of the Declaration of Independence, ←19 | 20→which was the colonies’ formal letter of intent to King George III (Our Documents Initiative 2001).

Another eventual outcome from the Lee Resolution was the Articles of Confederation, the colonists’ first attempt at a constitution. Ratified by all 13 states in 1781, the Articles of Confederation were the foundation of our government until the Constitution was ratified in June 1788. The story of that Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787 actually began in Virginia in 1785.

Since long before the...

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