Democracy and national security in the U.S. Constitution

By Micaela Delfino

As opposed to other democratic texts of its time, the Framers of the Constitution made sure that the People of the United States were in charge of the Nation, that the People were the source of authority, whilst forming a more perfect Union, establishing Justice, insuring domestic Tranquility, providing for common defense, promoting the general Welfare and securing the benefits of Liberty to themselves and their Posterity, setting up a Supreme Law that would ensure these rights to all: these were the intentions of the Framers. Moreover, Yale law Professor Akhil Reed Amar emphasizes that the American Constitution is not only a text but a deed, a doing, “a constituting, an act of ordainment and establishment” because no one had seen before thirteen previously independent states forming this kind of indivisible union, making it the world’s largest corporate merger. Never before had this large number of citizens been privileged with the guarantee of freedom, both corporal and of speech, and of choosing the defense they wanted and needed to keep and perfect this Union.

The Constitution’s text and structure indicate that the Framers were concerned with national security, as it is one of the things that first appears, in the Preamble, by the ideals of “insuring domestic Tranquility” and “providing for common defence”. Additionally, to prevent a concentration of power that could eventually endanger the Nation’s security, the Framers divided the central government into three branches and created a system of checks and balances in which each of the three branches —legislative, executive and judicial— “checks” one another to make sure that the governmental powers are not concentrated in the hands of one (any) single branch.

There is a clear link between national security and democracy. For example, in a military context, women couldn’t bear arms, and so they didn’t vote at the founding, but this was quite common. Women didn’t vote in Athens, pre-Imperial Rome or Britain. However, this was not the case with some unpropertied people in the early United States. If certain people didn’t own any property but still they had fought for the American Revolution at the time, they got a vote on the American Constitution because of their loyalty to the Nation.

Article I, Section 8, outlines the powers of Congress, the “first branch” of the government, that are directly related to national security concerns: raising armies, declaring war, providing for a navy, establishing the rules for the American military, and if necessary, converting militias of the states into national service.

Article IV, Section 4, establishes that “the United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government, and shall protect each of them against Invasion; and on Application of the Legislature, or of the Executive (when the Legislature cannot be convened), against domestic Violence”. This section regarding national security insures a guarantee to the People and to every State that, should it be held and accomplished, democracy would reign and these concepts, democracy and national security, would be tied up, fit together and would be compatible.

Abraham Lincoln, I believe, explains the equal importance of the union of the democracy with the national security by stating that “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. To succeed, the United States of America needs both national security and a democratic form of government that insures everything the Constitution stands for.


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