Merriam-Webster defines constitution as “the system of beliefs and laws by which a country, state, or organization is governed.”
Malcolmson and Myers (reference below) define constitution as “a set of rules that authoritatively establishes both the structure and the fundamental principles of the political regime.”
Malcolmson and Myers set out four major functions of constitutions:
- “to establish what person or persons will exercise the various forms of political authority. In modern times, political power is understood to consist of three distinct types. Legislative power is the power to make law or policy. … Executive power is power to “execute” or administer that law or policy. … Judicial power is the power to settle questions about specific violations of law.
- “to provide an authoritative division of powers between national and regional governments in federal countries. …
- “to delineate the limits of governmental power. The very existence of a constitution is in some sense a limitation on the power of government. The idea of constitutionalism implies that the constitution is supreme and that government is subordinate to it. Beyond this general limitation, it is not uncommon for constitutions to establish a list of fundamental rights and liberties in some sort of charter or “bill” of rights. Such a charter might specify, for example, that the citizens of a country have a right to freedom of religion. What this means is that no government, national or provincial, has the power to take measures that would violate its citizens’ right to religious freedom. …
- “to provide for an orderly way to make changes to it. Political regimes do not remain static, and so constitutions must acco1nn1odate and structure change. Most constitutions contain clear provisions for amendment.”
Atlas topic, subject, and course
Merriam-Webster.com at http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/constitution, accessed 8 August 2016.
Patrick Malcolmson and Richard Myers (2012), “The Constitution,” in The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada, 5th ed., page 13, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 8 August 2016.
Image: Civic Mirror, at http://civicmirror.com/blog/learning-the-constitution-activity-civic-mirror-classroom-video-series-episode-6, accessed 8 August 2016.