Constitutional Laws

… a core term in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100


Malcolmson and Myers (reference below) describe constitutional laws as laws of a constitutional nature that differ from organic statutes in being more comprehensive and being less easily changed by statute.

They write:

… a “constitutional law” differs from an “organic statute” in two important respects. The first difference is that constitutional laws tend to be more comprehensive than organic statutes: while organic statutes usually deal with one particular institution or situation, constitutional laws tend to be comprehensive codifications of all (or most) of a country’s constitutional rules. The second and more important difference is one of status or authority. The authority of an organic statute derives from the fact that it represents the will of the body that exercises legislative power. This means its authority is always somewhat precarious since any body that has a right to adopt a statute must of necessity have the right to repeal or amend it. The British Parliament that adopted the Reform Act of 1832 could have repealed that same bill the day after they adopted it. The authority of a constitutional law is more absolute because constitutional laws are not as easily changed as statutes. In the United States, for example, the Constitution itself proclaims that changes (or “amendments”) may be made only if they are supported by two-thirds of the members of each chamber of Congress, and by three-quarters of the states.”

Constitutional laws (e.g., the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Canada) are one of three forms taken by a constitution; the other two being Constitutional Conventions and Organic Statutes.

Malcolmson and Myers note (p. 20) that constitutional laws are philosophically similar to the requirements envisaged in John Locke’s Social Contract.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Constitutional Framework (core topic) in Governance and Institutions and Atlas100 Governance and Institutions.


Patrick Malcolmson and Richard Myers (2012), “The Constitution,” in The Canadian Regime: An Introduction to Parliamentary Government in Canada, 5th ed., page 19, Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Page created by: Ian Clark, last modified on 12 August 2016.