Because the people are self-governed in our Republic, the Constitution is not a document created by the government to describe what the government will allow the people to do. Rather, it is the exact opposite…it is a document created by the people (We the people) that describes what we will allow the government to do. This is an extremely important concept to understand. Through the concept of “consent of the governed”, we tell our government what it is allowed to do, NOT the other way around.
One of the main aspects of the concept of American Exceptionalism is that in our Constitutional Republic, the people are the sovereign (meaning, they possess ultimate power)…not a king, not an emperor, not a dictator, not a warlord, not a President, not a Congress, not a Supreme Court, or some other sort of government body.
This is the first principle of the Constitution and our Republic that we all need to understand:
The people are in charge and have the ultimate and final say on how we will be governed.
It sounds simple enough, but I’d wager that if you ask any 10 of your friends the question, “Who has the final say on the laws in our country?”, most of them would probably say, “That’s easy, the Supreme Court!” And maybe you would have answered the same way before reading this essay. But that is not correct. As you now know, the people have the final say. “But that was a trick question!” your friends might protest…on the contrary, it is not a trick question. Rather, it is a concept that is the cornerstone of the foundation of our Republic and all other principles are built upon it. When people do not immediately recognize this when thinking about issues, the system breaks down and we end up with a totally out of control government, far from the size and scope that the people have consented to. As we progress through these essays, we’ll discuss the ways in which the people actually do have the final say, even above the Supreme Court.
The people. We the people. You and me. That’s who I am. And, by the way, that’s who you are as well. Each of us Kings over ourselves, and all of us sovereign over our government.
“It has been frequently remarked that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.”
– Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper #1, 1787