“Part of the reason for the Constitution’s enduring strength is that it is the complement of the Declaration of Independence.  The Declaration provided the philosophical basis for a government that exercises legitimate power by ‘the consent of the governed,’ and it defined the conditions of a free people, whose rights and liberty are derived from their  Creator.  The Constitution delineated the structure of government and the rules for its operation, consistent with the creed of human liberty proclaimed in the Declaration.

Justice Joseph Story, in his Familiar Exposition of the Constitution (1840), described our Founding document in these terms:

‘We shall treat [our Constitution] not as a mere compact, or league, or confederacy, existing at the mere will of any one or more of the States, during their good pleasure; but, (as it purports on its face to be) as a Constitution of Government, framed and adopted by the people of the United States, and obligatory upon all the States, until it is altered, amended, or abolished by the people, in the manner pointed out in the instrument itself.’ “

– from “The Meaning of the Consitution” by Edwin Meese, III in The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, Regenery Publishing, Inc., Washington, D.C. © 2005, p. 1  (note: Mr. Meese was the 75th Attorney General of the United States, serving under President Ronald Reagan)

 

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