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FOUNDING DOCUMENTS OF THE AMERICAN REPUBLIC
THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
PURPOSES OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
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.
Although the preamble is not a source of power for
any branch, department, or office of the U.S. national government,  the U.S. Supreme
Court has often referred to it as evidence of the origin,
scope, and purpose of the U.S. Constitution.  ``Its true
office [purpose, or function],'' wrote Joseph Story in his Commentaries, ``is to
expound the nature and extent and application of the powers
actually conferred by the Constitution, and not
substantively to create them. For example, the Preamble
declares one object to be, `to provide for the common
defense.' No one can doubt that this does not enlarge the
powers of Congress to pass any measures which they deem
useful for the common defence. But suppose the terms of a
given power admit of two constructions, the one more
restrictive, the other more liberal, and each of them is
consistent with the words, but is, and ought to be, governed
by the intent of the power; if one could promote and the
other defeat the common defence, ought not the former, upon
the soundest principles of interpretation, to be adopted?'' 
THE PREAMBLE: COMMENTARY & ANNOTATIONS
PURPOSE AND EFFECT OF THE PREAMBLE
 Jacobson v. Massachusetts, 197 U.S. 11, 22 (1905).
 E.g., the Court has read the preamble as bearing witness to the fact that the
Constitution emanated from the people and was not the act of sovereign and
independent States, McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. (17 U.S.) 316, 403 (1819)
Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dall. (2 U.S.) 419, 471 (1793); Martin v. Hunter's Lessee, 1
Wheat. (14 U.S.) 304, 324 (1816), and that it was made for, and is binding only in, the
United States of America. Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244, 251 (1901); In re Ross,
140 U.S. 453, 464 (1891).
 1 J. Story, Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States (Boston: 1833),
462. For a lengthy exegesis of the Preamble phrase by phrase, see M. Adler & W.
Gorman, The American Testament (New York: 1975), 63-118.
The foregoing commentary and annotations were originally published in a document sponsored by the United States Senate on the
United States Government Printing Office website.
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