Here is the paragraph:

The Preamble of the Constitution of the United States of America

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, 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.

1. What does the phrase 'We the People' mean? In this case, the next phrase 'of the United States' provides a clue. 'We the people' means 'the people who live in the United States'.

This technique (skill, way of doing something) that you have practiced is called "defining in context". The technique works for individual words and phrases as well as entire sentences and concepts.

Note well (in Latin, 'note bene' or 'NB'): This is the type of skill that you must learn here in this context and then be able to transfer to other areas of study.

In this case, the authors, as representatives of the people of the nation, are speaking for (actually, writing for) all of the people of the country.

The phrase "We the people" has become an American symbol. When used, it conjures up (gives rise to, elicits, brings forth) the image of the fundamental principals upon which the country is based (which are embodied in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights).

2. By using the phrase 'in Order to' the authors are signaling to the reader why this document has been written. These delegates (representatives) were reviewing and re-writing the Articles of Confederation (which governed the country at the time) and needed to state clearly what they were doing.

3. What is meant by the term 'Union'? [Look it up!] In this case, 'Union' refers to the joining together of the states to form the United States. The 'Union' that is referred to is the United States. Is also called the federal government or the national government.

Because they use the phrase 'a more perfect Union', they are saying that this document of theirs will be an improvement.  In other words, they believe that the new document (The Constitution) is an improvement over the old one ('The Articles of Confederation') and they want their readers to know this.

4. What does 'establish Justice' mean?

The question here is not what you think justice is, but, rather, what does 'justice' mean in the context of what you are reading.  Here, justice refers to the rule of law, as the basis for the laws of the United States is what the Constitution is all about.

5. What is the meaning of 'insure domestic Tranquility'?

What does the word 'insure' mean? [Look it up!] In this case it means to 'make sure' or to 'guarantee'.

What does the term 'domestic' mean? [Look it up!] It means having to do with the home. In this case, 'home' is the entire country: so 'domestic' refers to things that happen or relate to what goes on inside the borders of the country [as opposed to 'foreign', which relates to things outside the borders of the country]. In politics, for example, 'domestic affairs' are those things happening on American soil and 'foreign affairs' are those things happening outside of the U.S.

And what does 'Tranquility' mean? [Look it up!] It means quietude, peacefulness. When things are tranquil they are calm and at peace.

Consequently (so) the phrase, 'insure domestic Tranquility', means to guarantee that things in the U.S. are calm and at peace.

Copyright: 2004 English 4 All, Inc.