The “Other” Preamble
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The “Other” Preamble

September 24, 2019

Did you know the Bill of Rights has its own preamble? You’re probably familiar with the preamble to the Constitution. Maybe you even memorized it in school. But most schools never teach that the Bill of Rights also has its own preamble. In a legal document, a preamble is like a statement of principles, but it doesn’t carry any legal force. It’s still extremely important because it reveals the purpose of the document and can guide us in our reading of it. Many of the states demanded a Bill of Rights be added to the Constitution as a condition of ratification. The first sentence of the first section of the preamble reiterates this point and states the reason for the proposed amendments. There are two important points to note here. First, the preamble gives no hint that the document is giving anybody rights. The rights were already assumed to exist. The amendments are a restriction on government powers that would infringe on those existing rights. Second, notice the powers that the amendments were meant to restrict the powers delegated to the federal government by the Constitution. The second sentence of section one tells us what ratification of the amendments was expected to do. Again, the first section of the preamble emphasizes that the Bill of Rights applies to “the government” established by the Constitution. That is, the federal government. This is extremely important, and maybe that’s why government-run schools rarely teach about it

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