The Beginning of these United States: A Preamble
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. [source: WikiSource/US Congress,1]
Who We Are
The “We” that the Constitution begins with seems to be “self-evident”, but is it? When the Framers wrote those words, they may have had a very specific idea of who WE are…who they meant by invoking that particular pronoun.
From a simplified explanation…all citizens of the US…to make everything in our country as perfect as possible begin fairness for all, promise that everything in our country will be peaceful, give protection to everyone, care for those in need, make sure freedom and fairness continues for ourselves and all our children and their children and their children and every generation to come, approve of and begin the Constitution of the US.
US Citizen at the Time of the Framing
At the time of the Constitution’s Framing, very few people living and working in the US were actually citizens.
Which ‘We the People’? The women were not included.” Neither were white males who did not own property, American Indians, or African Americans—slave or free. Yet, one by one, these groups were eventually brought within the Constitution’s definition of “We the People” through civic movements dedicated to that purpose. [Source: Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, 2]
Not women, not slaves, not Joe-non-property-owning-public, nor anyone of color. How many people were the “we” that this statement included as of the first Census of 1790 (9 years after its signing)? [Source: Census Bureau, 3]
Residents: 3,929,214 — which included responses to just six (6) questions, the name of the principle householder being the first, here are the other five:
- Free White males of 16 years and upward (to assess the country’s industrial and military potential)
- Free White males under 16 years
- Free White females
- All other free persons
So, only a portion of the first category, those “free White males” over the age of 16 could be considered as citizens; this number is just over 800 thousand, only a portion of whom would have been LAND owners. Even if they owned their home, they may not have owned the land it was on. Since this census did not capture whether or not these males owned land, let’s use the whole number to find the percentage of potential “US Citizens”…that is less that 5%…and that’s being generous.
Something less than 5% of the residents of the US would’ve been considered eligible to vote or citizens. This is not to say that the Framers were unsympathetic of the rest of those residents, certainly they did. They were, however, specifically identifying a very small percentage of the general population when writing these words.
Patriots and Patriarchy
The intent of the Constitution was to set forth a foundation of what was important to these few Citizens, at the time, as it still is today. It is no coincidence that patriot and patriarchy have the same root word, loosely referring to father and the implication of the protection a father brings to his family and land.
This country truly has Founding Fathers. Those fathers created a masterful set of documents that, together, have set the tone for the last 220 years. But, do you really think that we still should mean what those “fathers” originally meant by “we”? Probably not.
In this year of elections, remember that over the last 240 years and counting, We the People of these United States must remain united in every sense of those words…regardless of what the Framers had meant by citizen in their time. They wrote a document that was designed to be embraced by all of its citizens, as an enduring message of hope, peace and tranquility for us to carry forth into all the generations to come.
That is the beginning of…and everlasting wish for…freedom.
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