"We the People", "the people", "the right of the people" so forth... What does it mean?

5fish

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Our Constitution uses the founding terms "We the People" , "the people" , "right of the people". What does our Constitution mean by the word "people" and is the a difference between a capitalized "P" and a small "p" when using the word "people"? The paragraph below setups up the issue quite well on how to interrupt the word "people" in our Constitution.


The Constitution famously begins with a flourish, “We the People.”1 Less famously, the phrase “the people” appears in several other constitutional clauses, five of which are in the Bill of Rights.2 The First Amendment ensures “the right of the people” to petition the government and to assemble peacefully;3 the Second Amendment protects “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms”;4 the Fourth Amendment protects “the right of the people” against unreasonable searches and seizures;5 and the Ninth and Tenth Amendments reserve to “the people” non-enumerated rights and powers, respectively.6 Do these references to “the people” point to particular individuals, or are they merely rhetorical? If they point to particular individuals, do they refer to American citizens, or to everyone in the country irrespective of citizenship? Finally, could “the people” mean different things in different amendments?

Some thoughts...
 

5fish

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Here is a look... who are the people...


snip... Has the definition "people" in our Constitution changed since 1787...

For the purposes of ratifying the Constitution in 1787, “people” was defined as free, white men, meaning no women or people of color were given a voice in forming the new government. But the Constitution is a living document, constantly amended and reconsidered as the people and government of the U.S. face challenges the Founding Fathers could never have imagined. Over the last two centuries, the political definition of people has changed to reflect the evolving values of the country.

snip... did it change, can we say Jim Crow...

The first change in the definition of the “people” powering the U.S. government came in 1870 in the form of the 15th Amendment, which stated that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” guaranteeing African American men the right to vote and participate in the perpetuation and amendment of the Constitution.

 

5fish

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If not for the NRA... Guns would be regulated today...

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”


snip...

There simply is no modern jurisprudence that explains to judges the meaning of ‘the right to keep and bear arms’ and the scope of their authority to decide that a given piece of legislation constitutes an infringement of that right.” The most recent Supreme Court case on the subject was decided in 1886, at a time when the Bill of Rights was held to apply only to the federal government, not to the states; since the 1920s the Court has used the Fourteenth Amendment to apply “one provision of the Bill of Rights after another to limit the authority of the states. But it has never done so with respect to the Second Amendment.”

snip...

These articles deal with problems of the meaning of just about every word in the Amendment. Is “the right of the people” a collective right or an individual right? What weight must be given to the prefatory phrase “A well regulated militia”? What is “the right to keep and bear arms”? Does gun control legislation “infringe” that right?

snip... Articles of Confederation...

This required not only eliminating entire articles that had been proposed by the state conventions, but also cutting some of them in half. For example, one of the most popular proposals was to place limits on a standing army. Six states advocated such a provision, more than proposed protection of the freedom of the press or speech or religion. In the Virginia version, the limitation on a standing army was joined with the “right to keep and bear arms” and “a well-regulated militia.” Madison deleted the limitation on a standing army, despite the fact that his good friend Thomas Jefferson had urged such a limitation.

The contrasting of militia and standing army – one “proper, natural, and safe,” the other “dangerous to liberty” – was a commonplace, and we can see evidence of that thinking, first in the Articles of Confederation and then in the Constitution.

The Articles of Confederation placed a limit on the standing “forces” any state could “keep up”:

Nor shall any body of forces be kept up by any state, in time of peace, except such number only, as in the judgement of the united states, in congress assembled, shall be deemed requisite to garrison the forts necessary for the defence of such state.

The wording of the Articles of Confederation was quite different concerning what the state militia could “keep up”:
 
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