U.S. Constitution – Preamble

The 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.

Domestic Tranquility: One of the concerns of the Framers was that the government prior to that under the Constitution was unable, by force or persuasion, to quell rebellion or quarrels amongst the states. The government watched in horror as Shay's Rebellion transpired just before the Convention, and some states had very nearly gone to war with each other over territory (such as between Pennsylvania and Connecticut over Wilkes-Barre). One of the main goals of the Convention, then, was to ensure the federal government had powers to squash rebellion and to smooth tensions between states.

Defence: Misspellings in the U.S. Constitution: The Constitution was written in 1787 in the manner of the day - in other words, it was written by hand. According to the National Archives, the version we are most familiar with today was penned by Jacob Shallus, a clerk for the Pennsylvania State Assembly. In the document itself are several words which are misspelled. Far from the days of spell checkers and easy edits, these misspellings survive in the document today.

Only one, though, is a glaringly obvious mistake. In the list of signatories, the word "Pennsylvania" is spelled with a single N: "Pensylvania." This usage conflicts with a prior spelling, at Article 1, Section 2. However, the single N was common usage in the 18th century - the Liberty Bell, for example, has the single N spelling inscribed upon it.

Another mistake, though less obvious, is a common one even today: the word "it's" is used in Article 1, Section 10, but the word "its" should have been used.

The most common mistake, at least to modern eyes, is the word "choose," spelled "chuse" several times. This is less a mistake than it is an alternate spelling used at the time. The word is found in the Constitution as both "chuse" and "chusing."

Finally, at that time, the American spelling of words was inconsistent at best, and several words are spelled in the British manner. These words are "defence," "controul," and "labour." In America, we would today write these words as "defense," "control," and "labor."

Most of the misspellings are in the original document, which was written hastily after the Convention concluded. Aside from one use of British spelling in the Bill of Rights ("defence" in the 6th), the amendments are all error-free. The authors of the latter amendments all had the benefit of time to better proofread their work, and the benefit of a standardized American dictionary.

Welfare: Health, happiness, or prosperity; well-being. Source: AHD

Welfare in today's context also means organized efforts on the part of public or private organizations to benefit the poor, or simply public assistance. This is not the meaning of the word as used in the Constitution.

Posterity: 1. Future generations. 2. All of a person's descendents.

Ordain: To order by or as if by decree.

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