Before the First Amendment, before the Second Amendment, before George Washington was elected president, before we were truly a self-governing nation, there was a document that began thusly:
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.
Article I sets up a bicameral Legislature and dictates the duties of the House and Senate.
Article II sets up the presidency.
Article III outlines the selection and power of the Supreme Court.
Article IV outlines the states' relations to each other and to the federal government.
Article V outlines how to make changes to the rules laid out in the document.
Article VI adopts any prior debts or treaties, outlines treaties going forward, and deems that people taking office must swear an oath, though no religious test is required.
Article VII lays out how the document is to be ratified.
That's it. The entire U.S. Constitution, adopted September 17, 1787.
There are more words in amendments to the Constitution than there in the Constitution itself. Don't believe me?
Article V, which details how amendments are made, might be the most ingenious piece. Not because of the way amendments are ratified, but in the recognition that amendments are likely to be required.
Times change, and, as such, so must the laws of a nation, even if they don't need to be changed often. There are 27 amendments. One of them nullifies another, so there are 25 in effect. The most recent was ratified in 1992. The next most recent was ratified in 1971.
The first 10, known as the Bill of Rights, were ratified together. Together they outline the rights of individuals, whereas the original document merely put forth the way the government would operate, with each branch providing a check on the others, in contrast to the dictates of the king they separated from.
If you were starting a new nation, what would be the important things? Would you focus on where you are now, or look toward the future, as I believe our Constitution does?