Constitution

Constitution

Overview
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is. When these principles are written down into a single or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to comprise a written constitution.

Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign states to companies and unincorporated associations.
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Timeline

1639   The "Fundamental Orders", the first written constitution that created a government, is adopted in Connecticut.

1791   The Constitution of May 3 (the first modern constitution in Europe) is proclaimed by the Sejm of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth.

1848   Carlo Alberto di Savoia signs the ''Statuto Albertino'' that will later represent the first constitution of the ''Regno d'Italia''

1849   Denmark becomes a constitutional monarchy by the signing of a new constitution.

1905   Czar Nicholas II of Russia grants Russia's first constitution, creating a legislative assembly.

1915   Denmark amends its constitution to allow women's suffrage.

1948   Edvard Beneš resigns as President of Czechoslovakia rather than signing a constitution making his nation a Communist state.

1958   France ratifies a new Constitution of France; the French Fifth Republic is then formed upon the formal adoption of the new constitution on October 4. Guinea rejects the new constitution, voting for independence instead.

1958   France ratifies a new Constitution of France; the French Fifth Republic is then formed upon the formal adoption of the new constitution on October 4. Guinea rejects the new constitution, voting for independence instead.

1962   Newly independent Algeria, by referendum, adopts a Constitution.

 
Encyclopedia
A constitution is a set of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 or other organization is governed. These rules together make up, i.e. constitute, what the entity is. When these principles are written down into a single or set of legal documents, those documents may be said to comprise a written constitution.

Constitutions concern different levels of organizations, from sovereign states to companies and unincorporated associations. A treaty
Treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 which establishes an international organization
International organization
An intergovernmental organization, sometimes rendered as an international governmental organization and both abbreviated as IGO, is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states , or of other intergovernmental organizations...

 is also its constitution in that it would define how that organization is constituted. Within state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

s, whether sovereign
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 or federated, a constitution defines the principles upon which the state is based, the procedure in which laws are made and by whom. Some constitutions, especially written constitutions, also act as limiters of state power by establishing lines which a state's rulers cannot cross such as fundamental rights
Fundamental rights
Fundamental rights are a generally-regarded set of entitlements in the context of a legal system, wherein such system is itself said to be based upon this same set of basic, fundamental, or inalienable entitlements or "rights." Such rights thus belong without presumption or cost of privilege to all...

.

The Constitution of India
Constitution of India
The Constitution of India is the supreme law of India. It lays down the framework defining fundamental political principles, establishes the structure, procedures, powers, and duties of government institutions, and sets out fundamental rights, directive principles, and the duties of citizens...

 is the longest written constitution of any sovereign country in the world, containing 444 articles, 12 schedules and 94 amendments, with 117,369 words in its English language
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 version, while the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

 is the shortest written constitution, at 7 articles and 27 amendments.

Etymology


The term constitution comes through French from the Latin word constitutio, used for regulations and orders, such as the imperial
Roman Emperor
The Roman emperor was the ruler of the Roman State during the imperial period . The Romans had no single term for the office although at any given time, a given title was associated with the emperor...

 enactments (constitutiones principis: edicta, mandata, decreta, rescripta). Later, the term was widely used in canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 for an important determination, especially a decree issued by the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

, now referred to as an apostolic constitution
Apostolic constitution
An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the...

.

General features


Generally, every modern written constitution confers specific powers to an organization or institutional entity, established upon the primary condition that it abides by the said constitution's limitations. According to Scott Gordon, a political organization is constitutional to the extent that it "contain[s] institution
Institution
An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order and cooperation governing the behavior of a set of individuals within a given human community...

alized mechanisms of power control for the protection of the interests and liberties
Liberty
Liberty is a moral and political principle, or Right, that identifies the condition in which human beings are able to govern themselves, to behave according to their own free will, and take responsibility for their actions...

 of the citizenry, including those that may be in the minority
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

."

The Latin term ultra vires
Ultra vires
Ultra vires is a Latin phrase meaning literally "beyond the powers", although its standard legal translation and substitute is "beyond power". If an act requires legal authority and it is done with such authority, it is...

describes activities of officials within an organization or polity that fall outside the constitutional or statutory authority of those officials. For example, a students' union
Students' union
A students' union, student government, student senate, students' association, guild of students or government of student body is a student organization present in many colleges and universities, and has started appearing in some high schools...

 may be prohibited as an organization from engaging in activities not concerning students; if the union becomes involved in non-student activities these activities are considered ultra vires of the union's charter, and nobody would be compelled by the charter to follow them. An example from the constitutional law of sovereign state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

s would be a provincial government in a federal state trying to legislate in an area exclusively enumerated to the federal government in the constitution, such as ratifying a treaty. Ultra vires gives a legal justification for the forced cessation of such action, which might be enforced by the people with the support of a decision of the judiciary
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

, in a case of judicial review
Judicial review
Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

. A violation of rights by an official would be ultra vires because a (constitutional) right is a restriction on the powers of government, and therefore that official would be exercising powers he doesn't have.

In most but not all modern states the constitution has supremacy over ordinary statute law (see Uncodified constitution below); in such states when an official act is unconstitutional, i.e. it is not a power granted to the government by the constitution, that act is null and void, and the nullification is ab initio
Ab initio
ab initio is a Latin term used in English, meaning from the beginning.ab initio may also refer to:* Ab Initio , a leading ETL Tool Software Company in the field of Data Warehousing.* ab initio quantum chemistry methods...

, that is, from inception, not from the date of the finding. It was never "law", even though, if it had been a statute or statutory provision, it might have been adopted according to the procedures for adopting legislation. Sometimes the problem is not that a statute is unconstitutional, but the application of it is, on a particular occasion, and a court may decide that while there are ways it could be applied that are constitutional, that instance was not allowed or legitimate. In such a case, only the application may be ruled unconstitutional. Historically, the remedy for such violations have been petitions for common law writ
Writ
In common law, a writ is a formal written order issued by a body with administrative or judicial jurisdiction; in modern usage, this body is generally a court...

s, such as quo warranto
Quo warranto
Quo warranto is a prerogative writ requiring the person to whom it is directed to show what authority they have for exercising some right or power they claim to hold.-History:...

.

Early constitutions


Excavations in modern-day Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 by Ernest de Sarzec
Ernest de Sarzec
Ernest Choquin de Sarzec was a French archaeologist, to whom is attributed the discovery of the civilization of ancient Sumer. He was in the French diplomatic service; on being transferred to Basra in 1872 as a vice-consul, he became interested in the excavations at Ur, started by the British...

 in 1877 found evidence of the earliest known code of justice, issued by the Sumer
Sumer
Sumer was a civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia, modern Iraq during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age....

ian king Urukagina
Urukagina
Urukagina , alternately rendered as Uruinimgina or Irikagina, was a ruler of the city-state Lagash in Mesopotamia...

 of Lagash
Lagash
Lagash is located northwest of the junction of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers and east of Uruk, about east of the modern town of Ash Shatrah. Lagash was one of the oldest cities of the Ancient Near East...

 ca 2300 BC. Perhaps the earliest prototype for a law of government, this document itself has not yet been discovered; however it is known that it allowed some rights to his citizens. For example, it is known that it relieved tax for widows and orphans, and protected the poor from the usury
Usury
Usury Originally, when the charging of interest was still banned by Christian churches, usury simply meant the charging of interest at any rate . In countries where the charging of interest became acceptable, the term came to be used for interest above the rate allowed by law...

 of the rich.

After that, many governments ruled by special codes of written laws. The oldest such document still known to exist seems to be the Code of Ur-Nammu
Code of Ur-Nammu
The Code of Ur-Nammu is the oldest known tablet containing a law code surviving today. It was written in the Sumerian language circa 2100 BC-2050 BC...

 of Ur
Ur
Ur was an important city-state in ancient Sumer located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate...

 (ca 2050 BC). Some of the better-known ancient law codes include the code of Lipit-Ishtar
Lipit-Ishtar
Lipit-Ishtar , was the fifth ruler of the first dynasty of Isin, and ruled from around 1934 BCE to 1924 BCE. Some documents and royal inscriptions from his time have survived, but he is mostly known because Sumerian language hymns written in his honor, as well as a legal code written in his name ,...

 of Isin
Isin
Isin was an ancient city-state of lower Mesopotamia about 20 miles south of Nippur at the site of modern Ishan al-Bahriyat in Iraq's Al-Qādisiyyah Governorate.-History:...

, the code of Hammurabi
Code of Hammurabi
The Code of Hammurabi is a well-preserved Babylonian law code, dating to ca. 1780 BC . It is one of the oldest deciphered writings of significant length in the world. The sixth Babylonian king, Hammurabi, enacted the code, and partial copies exist on a human-sized stone stele and various clay...

 of Babylonia
Babylonia
Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia , with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as a major power when Hammurabi Babylonia was an ancient cultural region in central-southern Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq), with Babylon as its capital. Babylonia emerged as...

, the Hittite code
Hittite laws
The Hittite laws have been preserved on a number of Hittite cuneiform tablets found at Hattusa . Copies have been found written in Old Hittite as well as in Middle and Late Hittite, indicating that they had validity throughout the duration of the Hittite Empire The Hittite laws have been preserved...

, the Assyrian code
Assyrian law
Assyrian law was very similar to Sumerian and Babylonian law, however, notably more brutal than its predecessors. The first copy of the code to come to light, dated to the reign of Tiglath-Pileser I, was discovered in the course of excavations by the German Oriental Society . Three Assyrian law...

 and Mosaic law.

Later constitutions



Athens


In 621 BC a scribe named Draco codified the cruel oral laws of the city-state
City-state
A city-state is an independent or autonomous entity whose territory consists of a city which is not administered as a part of another local government.-Historical city-states:...

 of Athens
Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

; this code prescribed the death penalty for many offences (nowadays very severe rules are often called "Draconian"). In 594 BC Solon
Solon
Solon was an Athenian statesman, lawmaker, and poet. He is remembered particularly for his efforts to legislate against political, economic and moral decline in archaic Athens...

, the ruler of Athens, created the new Solonian Constitution
Solonian Constitution
The Solonian Constitution was created by Solon in the early 6th century BC.Solon wanted to revise or abolish the older laws of Draco. Under Solon's reforms, all debts were abolished and all debt-slaves were freed. The status of the hectemoroi , who farmed in an early form of serfdom, was also...

. It eased the burden of the workers, and determined that membership of the ruling class was to be based on wealth (plutocracy
Plutocracy
Plutocracy is rule by the wealthy, or power provided by wealth. The combination of both plutocracy and oligarchy is called plutarchy. The word plutocracy is derived from the Ancient Greek root ploutos, meaning wealth and kratos, meaning to rule or to govern.-Usage:The term plutocracy is generally...

), rather than by birth (aristocracy
Aristocracy
Aristocracy , is a form of government in which a few elite citizens rule. The term derives from the Greek aristokratia, meaning "rule of the best". In origin in Ancient Greece, it was conceived of as rule by the best qualified citizens, and contrasted with monarchy...

). Cleisthenes again reformed the Athenian constitution and set it on a democratic footing in 508 BC.

Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

 (ca 350 BC) was one of the first in recorded history to make a formal distinction between ordinary law and constitutional law, establishing ideas of constitution and constitutionalism
Constitutionalism
Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

, and attempting to classify different forms of constitutional government. The most basic definition he used to describe a constitution in general terms was "the arrangement of the offices in a state". In his works Constitution of Athens, Politics
Politics (Aristotle)
Aristotle's Politics is a work of political philosophy. The end of the Nicomachean Ethics declared that the inquiry into ethics necessarily follows into politics, and the two works are frequently considered to be parts of a larger treatise, or perhaps connected lectures, dealing with the...

, and Nicomachean Ethics
Nicomachean Ethics
The Nicomachean Ethics is the name normally given to Aristotle's best known work on ethics. The English version of the title derives from Greek Ἠθικὰ Νικομάχεια, transliterated Ethika Nikomacheia, which is sometimes also given in the genitive form as Ἠθικῶν Νικομαχείων, Ethikōn Nikomacheiōn...

he explores different constitutions of his day, including those of Athens, Sparta, and Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

. He classified both what he regarded as good and what he regarded as bad constitutions, and came to the conclusion that the best constitution was a mixed system, including monarchic, aristocratic, and democratic elements. He also distinguished between citizens, who had the right to participate in the state, and non-citizens and slaves, who did not.

Rome


The Romans first codified their constitution in 450 BC as the Twelve Tables
Twelve Tables
The Law of the Twelve Tables was the ancient legislation that stood at the foundation of Roman law. The Law of the Twelve Tables formed the centrepiece of the constitution of the Roman Republic and the core of the mos maiorum...

. They operated under a series of laws that were added from time to time, but Roman law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

 was never reorganised into a single code until the Codex Theodosianus
Codex Theodosianus
The Codex Theodosianus was a compilation of the laws of the Roman Empire under the Christian emperors since 312. A commission was established by Theodosius II in 429 and the compilation was published in the eastern half of the Roman Empire in 438...

(AD 438); later, in the Eastern Empire the Codex repetitæ prælectionis
Corpus Juris Civilis
The Corpus Juris Civilis is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of Justinian I, Eastern Roman Emperor...

 (534) was highly influential throughout Europe. This was followed in the east by the Ecloga of Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian
Leo III the Isaurian or the Syrian , was Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741...

 (740) and the Basilica of Basil I
Basil I
Basil I, called the Macedonian was a Byzantine emperor of probable Armenian descent who reigned from 867 to 886. Born a simple peasant in the Byzantine theme of Macedonia, he rose in the imperial court, and usurped the imperial throne from Emperor Michael III...

 (878).

India


The Edicts of Ashoka
Edicts of Ashoka
The Edicts of Ashoka are a collection of 33 inscriptions on the Pillars of Ashoka, as well as boulders and cave walls, made by the Emperor Ashoka of the Mauryan dynasty during his reign from 269 BCE to 231 BCE. These inscriptions are dispersed throughout the areas of modern-day Bangladesh, India,...

established constitutional principles for the 3rd century BC Maurya
Maurya Empire
The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive Iron Age historical power in ancient India, ruled by the Mauryan dynasty from 321 to 185 BC...

 king's rule in Ancient India
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago. The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from...

.

Germania


Many of the Germanic peoples that filled the power vacuum left by the Western Roman Empire in the Early Middle Ages
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 codified their laws. One of the first of these Germanic law codes to be written was the Visigothic Code of Euric
Euric
Euric, also known as Evaric, Erwig, or Eurico in Spanish and Portuguese , Son of Theodoric I and the younger brother of Theodoric II and ruled as king of the Visigoths, with his capital at Toulouse, from 466 until his death in 484.He inherited a large portion of the Visigothic possessions in the...

(471). This was followed by the Lex Burgundionum
Lex Burgundionum
The Lex Burgundionum refers to the law code of the Burgundians, probably issued by king Gundobad. It is influenced by Roman law and deals with domestic laws concerning marriage and inheritance as well as regulating weregild and other penalties...

, applying separate codes for Germans and for Romans; the Pactus Alamannorum
Lex Alamannorum
The terms Lex Alamannorum and Pactus Alamannorum refer to two early medieval law codes of the Alamanni. They were first edited in parts in 1530 by Johannes Sichard in Basel.-Pactus Alamannorum:...

; and the Salic Law
Salic law
Salic law was a body of traditional law codified for governing the Salian Franks in the early Middle Ages during the reign of King Clovis I in the 6th century...

 of the Franks
Franks
The Franks were a confederation of Germanic tribes first attested in the third century AD as living north and east of the Lower Rhine River. From the third to fifth centuries some Franks raided Roman territory while other Franks joined the Roman troops in Gaul. Only the Salian Franks formed a...

, all written soon after 500. In 506, the Breviarum
Breviary of Alaric
The Breviary of Alaric is a collection of Roman law, compiled by order of Alaric II, King of the Visigoths, with the advice of his bishops and nobles. It was promulgated on February 2, year 506, the twenty-second year of his reign...

or "Lex Romana" of Alaric II
Alaric II
Alaric II, also known as Alarik, Alarich, and Alarico in Spanish and Portuguese or Alaricus in Latin succeeded his father Euric on December 28, 484, in Toulouse. He established his capital at Aire-sur-l'Adour in Aquitaine...

, king of the Visigoths, adopted and consolidated the Codex Theodosianus together with assorted earlier Roman laws. Systems that appeared somewhat later include the Edictum Rothari
Edictum Rothari
The Edictum Rothari was the first written compilation of Lombard law, codified and promulgated 22 November 643 by King Rothari. The custom of the Lombards, according to Paul the Deacon, the Lombard historian, had been held in memory before this...

of the Lombards
Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 (643), the Lex Visigothorum (654), the Lex Alamannorum (730) and the Lex Frisionum
Lex Frisionum
Lex Frisionum, the "Law Code of the Frisians", was recorded in Latin during the reign of Charlemagne, after the year 785, when the Frankish conquest of Frisia was completed by the final defeat of the Frisian king Radboud. The law code covered the region of the Frisians...

(ca 785). These continental codes were all composed in Latin, whilst Anglo-Saxon was used for those of England, beginning with the Code of Ethelbert of Kent
Ethelbert of Kent
Æthelberht was King of Kent from about 580 or 590 until his death. In his Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the eighth-century monk Bede lists Aethelberht as the third king to hold imperium over other Anglo-Saxon kingdoms...

 (602). In ca. 893, Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great
Alfred the Great was King of Wessex from 871 to 899.Alfred is noted for his defence of the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of southern England against the Vikings, becoming the only English monarch still to be accorded the epithet "the Great". Alfred was the first King of the West Saxons to style himself...

 combined this and two other earlier Saxon codes, with various Mosaic and Christian precepts, to produce the Doom Book
Doom book
The Doom Book, Code of Alfred or Legal Code of Aelfred the Great was the code of laws compiled by Alfred the Great The Doom Book, Code of Alfred or Legal Code of Aelfred the Great was the code of laws ("dooms", laws or judgments) compiled by Alfred the Great The Doom Book, Code of Alfred or Legal...

 code of laws for England.

Japan


Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

's Seventeen-article constitution
Seventeen-article constitution
The is, according to Nihon Shoki published in 720, a document authored by Prince Shōtoku in 604. It was adopted in the reign of Empress Suiko. The emphasis of the document is not so much on the basic laws by which the state was to be governed, such as one may expect from a modern constitution, but...

written in 604, reportedly by Prince Shōtoku
Prince Shotoku
, also known as or , was a semi-legendary regent and a politician of the Asuka period in Japan who served under Empress Suiko. He was a son of Emperor Yōmei and his younger half-sister Princess Anahobe no Hashihito. His parents were relatives of the ruling Soga clan, and was involved in the defeat...

, is an early example of a constitution in Asian political history. Influenced by Buddhist
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 teachings, the document focuses more on social morality than institutions of government per se and remains a notable early attempt at a government constitution.

Medina


The Constitution of Medina
Constitution of Medina
The Constitution of Medina , also known as the Charter of Medina, was drafted by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. It constituted a formal agreement between Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib , including Muslims, Jews, Christians and pagans. This constitution formed the...

 , also known as the Charter of Medina, was drafted by the Islamic prophet Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

. It constituted a formal agreement between Muhammad and all of the significant tribes and families of Yathrib (later known as Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

), including Muslim
Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

s, Jews, and pagans. The document was drawn up with the explicit concern of bringing to an end the bitter inter tribal fighting between the clans of the Aws (Aus
Banu Aus
The Banū Aws or simply Aws was one of the main Arab tribes of Medina. The other was Khazraj, and the two, constituted the Ansar after the Hijra.Aws and Khazraj were known as Banū Qayla in pre-Islamic era.-Etymology:...

) and Khazraj within Medina. To this effect it instituted a number of rights and responsibilities for the Muslim, Jewish, and pagan communities of Medina bringing them within the fold of one community—the Ummah
Ummah
Ummah is an Arabic word meaning "community" or "nation." It is commonly used to mean either the collective nation of states, or the whole Arab world...

.

The precise dating of the Constitution of Medina remains debated but generally scholars agree it was written shortly after the Hijra
Hijra (Islam)
The Hijra is the migration or journey of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and his followers from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE. Alternate spellings of this Arabic word are Hijrah, Hijrat or Hegira, the latter following the spelling rules of Latin.- Hijra of Muhammad :In September 622, warned of a plot to...

 (622). It effectively established the first Islamic state. The Constitution established: the security of the community, religious freedoms, the role of Medina as a haram
Haram
The Arabic term has a meaning of "sanctuary" or "holy site" in Islam.-Etymology:The Arabic language has two separate words, and , both derived from the same triliteral Semitic root . Both of these words can mean "forbidden" and/or "sacred" in a general way, but each has also developed some...

 or sacred place (barring all violence and weapons), the security of women, stable tribal relations within Medina, a tax system for supporting the community in time of conflict, parameters for exogenous political alliances, a system for granting protection of individuals, a judicial system for resolving disputes, and also regulated the paying of Blood money
Blood money (term)
Blood money is money or some sort of compensation paid by an offender or his family group to the family or kin group of the victim.-Particular examples and uses:...

 (the payment between families or tribes for the slaying of an individual in lieu of lex talionis
Eye For An Eye
Eye for an Eye is a Polish hardcore punk rock band founded in 1997 in Bielsko-Biała. EFAE, as it is also known, plays an old school style of punk, more along the veins of The Exploited or even, some say, Agnostic Front. The punk stylings of EFAE has been compared to fellow countrymen Post Regiment,...

).

Wales


In Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

, the Cyfraith Hywel
Welsh law
Welsh law was the system of law practised in Wales before the 16th century. According to tradition it was first codified by Hywel Dda during the period between 942 and 950 when he was king of most of Wales; as such it is usually called Cyfraith Hywel, the Law of Hywel, in Welsh...

 was codified by Hywel Dda
Hywel Dda
Hywel Dda , was the well-thought-of king of Deheubarth in south-west Wales, who eventually came to rule Wales from Prestatyn to Pembroke. As a descendant of Rhodri Mawr, through his father Cadell, Hywel was a member of the Dinefwr branch of the dynasty and is also named Hywel ap Cadell...

 c. 942–950.

Rus


The Pravda Yaroslava, originally combined by Yaroslav the Wise the Grand Prince of Kiev, was granted to Great Novgorod around 1017, and in 1054 was incorporated into the Russkaya Pravda
Russkaya Pravda
Russkaya Pravda was the legal code of Kievan Rus' and the subsequent Rus' principalities during the times of feudal division.In spite of great influence of Byzantine legislation on the contemporary world, and in...

, that became the law for all of Kievan Rus. It survived only in later editions of the 15th century.

Iroquois



The Gayanashagowa, the oral constitution of the Iroquois
Iroquois
The Iroquois , also known as the Haudenosaunee or the "People of the Longhouse", are an association of several tribes of indigenous people of North America...

 nation also known as the Great Law of Peace, established a system of governance in which sachem
Sachem
A sachem[p] or sagamore is a paramount chief among the Algonquians or other northeast American tribes. The two words are anglicizations of cognate terms from different Eastern Algonquian languages...

s (tribal chiefs) of the members of the Iroquois League made decisions on the basis of universal consensus of all chiefs following discussions that were initiated by a single tribe. The position of sachem descended through families, and were allocated by senior female relatives.

Historians including Donald Grindle, Bruce Johansen and others believe that the Iroquois constitution provided inspiration for the United States Constitution and in 1988 was recognised by a resolution in Congress
United States Congress
The United States Congress is the bicameral legislature of the federal government of the United States, consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The Congress meets in the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C....

. The thesis is not considered credible. Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 historian Jack N. Rakove
Jack N. Rakove
Jack Norman Rakove is an American historian, author, professor at Stanford University, and Pulitzer Prize winner.-Biography:...

 stated that "The voluminous records we have for the constitutional debates of the late 1780s contain no significant references to the Iroquois" and stated that there are ample European precedents to the democratic institutions of the United States. Francis Jennings
Francis Jennings
Francis Jennings was an American historian, best known for his works on the colonial history of the United States.Jennings taught at Cedar Crest College....

 noted that the statement made by Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 frequently quoted by proponents of the thesis does not support for this idea as it is advocating for a union against these "ignorant savages" and called the idea "absurd". Anthropologist Dean Snow stated that though Franklin's Albany Plan
Albany Plan
The Albany Plan of Union was proposed by Benjamin Franklin at the Albany Congress in 1754 in Albany, New York. It was an early attempt at forming a union of the colonies "under one government as far as might be necessary for defense and other general important purposes" during the French and...

 may have drawn some inspiration from the Iroquois League, there is little evidence that either the Plan or the Constitution drew substantially from this source and argues that "...such claims muddle and denigrate the subtle and remarkable features of Iroquois government. The two forms of government are distinctive and individually remarkable in conception."

England


In England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

, Henry I's
Henry I of England
Henry I was the fourth son of William I of England. He succeeded his elder brother William II as King of England in 1100 and defeated his eldest brother, Robert Curthose, to become Duke of Normandy in 1106...

 proclamation of the Charter of Liberties
Charter of Liberties
The Charter of Liberties, also called the Coronation Charter, was a written proclamation by Henry I of England, issued upon his accession to the throne in 1100. It sought to bind the King to certain laws regarding the treatment of church officials and nobles...

 in 1100 bound the king for the first time in his treatment of the clergy and the nobility. This idea was extended and refined by the English barony when they forced King John
John of England
John , also known as John Lackland , was King of England from 6 April 1199 until his death...

 to sign Magna Carta
Magna Carta
Magna Carta is an English charter, originally issued in the year 1215 and reissued later in the 13th century in modified versions, which included the most direct challenges to the monarch's authority to date. The charter first passed into law in 1225...

in 1215. The most important single article of the Magna Carta, related to "habeas corpus
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

", provided that the king was not permitted to imprison, outlaw, exile or kill anyone at a whim—there must be due process
Due process
Due process is the legal code that the state must venerate all of the legal rights that are owed to a person under the principle. Due process balances the power of the state law of the land and thus protects individual persons from it...

 of law first. This article, Article 39, of the Magna Carta read:

No free man shall be arrested, or imprisoned, or deprived of his property, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way destroyed, nor shall we go against him or send against him, unless by legal judgement of his peers, or by the law of the land.

This provision became the cornerstone of English liberty after that point. The social contract
Social contract
The social contract is an intellectual device intended to explain the appropriate relationship between individuals and their governments. Social contract arguments assert that individuals unite into political societies by a process of mutual consent, agreeing to abide by common rules and accept...

 in the original case was between the king and the nobility, but was gradually extended to all of the people. It led to the system of Constitutional Monarchy
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

, with further reforms shifting the balance of power from the monarchy and nobility to the House of Commons
British House of Commons
The House of Commons is the lower house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which also comprises the Sovereign and the House of Lords . Both Commons and Lords meet in the Palace of Westminster. The Commons is a democratically elected body, consisting of 650 members , who are known as Members...

.

Serbia


The Nomocanon
Nomocanon
Nomocanon is a collection of Ecclesiastical law, consisting of the elements from both the Civil law and the Canon law.-Byzantine nomocanons:Collections of this kind were found only in Eastern law...

 of Saint Sava
Saint Sava
Saint Sava was a Serbian Prince and Orthodox monk, the first Archbishop of the autocephalous Serbian Church, the founder of Serbian law and literature, and a diplomat. Sava was born Rastko Nemanjić , the youngest son of Serbian Grand Župan Stefan Nemanja , and ruled the appanage of Hum briefly in...

  was the first Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

n constitution from 1219. This legal act was well developed. St. Sava's Nomocanon was the compilation of Civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

, based on Roman Law
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

 and Canon law
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

, based on Ecumenical Councils and its basic purpose was to organize functioning of the young Serbian kingdom and the Serbian church. Saint Sava began the work on the Serbian Nomocanon in 1208 while being at Mount Athos
Mount Athos
Mount Athos is a mountain and peninsula in Macedonia, Greece. A World Heritage Site, it is home to 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries and forms a self-governed monastic state within the sovereignty of the Hellenic Republic. Spiritually, Mount Athos comes under the direct jurisdiction of the...

, using The Nomocanon in Fourteen Titles, Synopsis of Stefan the Efesian, Nomocanon of John Scholasticus
John Scholasticus
John Scholasticus was the 32nd patriarch of Constantinople from April 12, 565 until his death in 577. He is also regarded as a saint of the Eastern Orthodox Church....

, Ecumenical Councils' documents, which he modified with the canonical commentaries of Aristinos and John Zonaras, local church meetings, rules of the Holy Fathers, the law of Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

, translation of Prohiron and the Byzantine emperors' Novellae
Novellae Constitutiones
The Novellae Constitutiones , or Justinian's Novels, are one of the four major units of Roman law created by Roman Emperor Justinian I in the course of his long reign . The other three pieces are: the Code, the Digest, and the Institutes. Together, the four parts are known as the Corpus Juris...

 (most were taken from Justinian's Novellae). The Nomocanon was completely new compilation of civil and canonical regulations, taken from the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 sources, but completed and reformed by St. Sava to function properly in Serbia. Beside decrees that organized the life of church, there are various norms regarding civil life, most of them were taken from Prohiron. Legal transplants of Roman
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

-Byzantine law
Byzantine law
Byzantine Law was essentially a continuation of Roman Law with Christian influence, however, this is not to doubt its later influence on the western practice of jurisprudence...

 became the basis of the Serbian medieval law. The essence of Zakonopravilo was based on Corpus Iuris Civilis.

Stefan Dušan, Emperor of Serbs and Greeks, enacted Dušan's Code
Dušan's Code
Dušan's Code was enacted by Tsar Dušan in two state congresses: in May 21, 1349 in Skopje and amended in 1354 in Serres. It regulated all social spheres, so it can be considered a medieval Serbian constitution. The Code included 201 articles. The original manuscript is not preserved, but around...

  in Serbia
Serbia
Serbia , officially the Republic of Serbia , is a landlocked country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeast Europe, covering the southern part of the Carpathian basin and the central part of the Balkans...

, in two state congresses: in 1349 in Skopje
Skopje
Skopje is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Macedonia with about a third of the total population. It is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic centre...

 and in 1354 in Serres
Serres
Serres is a city in Greece, seat of the Serres prefecture.Serres may also refer to:Places:* Serres, Germany, a part of Wiernsheim in Baden-WürttembergIn France:* Serres, Aude in the Aude département...

. It regulated all social spheres, so it was the second Serbian constitution, after St. Sava's Nomocanon (Zakonopravilo). The Code was based on Roman
Roman law
Roman law is the legal system of ancient Rome, and the legal developments which occurred before the 7th century AD — when the Roman–Byzantine state adopted Greek as the language of government. The development of Roman law comprises more than a thousand years of jurisprudence — from the Twelve...

-Byzantine law
Byzantine law
Byzantine Law was essentially a continuation of Roman Law with Christian influence, however, this is not to doubt its later influence on the western practice of jurisprudence...

. The legal transplanting is notable with the articles 171 and 172 of Dušan's Code, which regulated the juridical independence. They were taken from the Byzantine code Basilika
Basilika
The term Basilika or 'Basilica' refers to a code of laws issued by the Eastern Roman emperor Leo VI the Wise . Written entirely in Greek, the 'Basilica', in 60 books, adapt the 6th-century Justinian code to the conditions of the 9th- and 10th-century Empire, and include laws issued by Leo VI and...

 (book VII, 1, 16-17).

Hungary


In 1222, Hungarian King Andrew II
Andrew II of Hungary
Andrew II the Jerosolimitan was King of Hungary and Croatia . He was the younger son of King Béla III of Hungary, who invested him with the government of the Principality of Halych...

 issued the Golden Bull of 1222
Golden Bull of 1222
The Golden Bull of 1222 was a golden bull, or edict, issued by King Andrew II of Hungary. The law established the rights of the Hungarian nobility, including the right to disobey the King when he acted contrary to law . The nobles and the church were freed from all taxes and could not be forced to...

.

Saxony


Between 1220 and 1230, a Saxon
Saxony
The Free State of Saxony is a landlocked state of Germany, contingent with Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, Bavaria, the Czech Republic and Poland. It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with of Germany's sixteen states....

 administrator, Eike von Repgow
Eike von Repgow
Eike von Repgow from Repgow, now Reppichau in Saxony-Anhalt), was a medieval German administrator who compiled the Sachsenspiegel in the Thirteenth Century.-The Sachsenspiegel:...

, composed the Sachsenspiegel
Sachsenspiegel
The Sachsenspiegel is the most important law book and legal code of the German Middle Ages. Written ca...

, which became the supreme law used in parts of Germany as late as 1900.

Mali Empire


In 1236, Sundiata Keita
Sundiata Keita
Sundiata Keita, Sundjata Keyita, Mari Djata I or just Sundiata was the founder of the Mali Empire and celebrated as a hero of the Malinke people of West Africa in the semi-historical Epic of Sundiata....

 presented an oral constitution federating the Mali Empire
Mali Empire
The Mali Empire or Mandingo Empire or Manden Kurufa was a West African empire of the Mandinka from c. 1230 to c. 1600. The empire was founded by Sundiata Keita and became renowned for the wealth of its rulers, especially Mansa Musa I...

, called the Kouroukan Fouga
Kouroukan Fouga
The Kouroukan Fouga or Kurukan Fuga is purported to be the constitution of the Mali Empire , created after the Battle of Krina by an assembly of notables to create a government for the newly established empire. It was first alluded to in print in Djibril Tamsir Niane's book, Soundjata, ou la...

.

Ethiopia


Meanwhile, around 1240, the Copt
Copt
The Copts are the native Egyptian Christians , a major ethnoreligious group in Egypt....

ic Egyptian Christian writer, 'Abul Fada'il Ibn al-'Assal, wrote the Fetha Negest
Fetha Negest
The Fetha Negest is a legal code compiled around 1240 by the Coptic Egyptian Christian writer, 'Abul Fada'il Ibn al-'Assal, in Arabic that was later translated into Ge'ez in Ethiopia and expanded upon with numerous local laws...

in Arabic
Arabic language
Arabic is a name applied to the descendants of the Classical Arabic language of the 6th century AD, used most prominently in the Quran, the Islamic Holy Book...

. 'Ibn al-Assal took his laws partly from apostolic writings and Mosaic law, and partly from the former Byzantine codes. There are a few historical records claiming that this law code was translated into Ge'ez
Ge'ez language
Ge'ez is an ancient South Semitic language that developed in the northern region of Ethiopia and southern Eritrea in the Horn of Africa...

 and entered Ethiopia around 1450 in the reign of Zara Yaqob
Zara Yaqob
Zar'a Ya`qob or Zera Yacob was of Ethiopia , and a member of the Solomonic dynasty...

. Even so, its first recorded use in the function of a constitution (supreme law of the land) is with Sarsa Dengel
Sarsa Dengel
Sarsa Dengel was of Ethiopia, and a member of the Solomonic dynasty...

 beginning in 1563. The Fetha Negest remained the supreme law in Ethiopia until 1931, when a modern-style Constitution was first granted by Emperor Haile Selassie I.

China


In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, the Hongwu Emperor
Hongwu Emperor
The Hongwu Emperor , known variably by his given name Zhu Yuanzhang and by his temple name Taizu of Ming , was the founder and first emperor of the Ming Dynasty of China...

 created and refined a document he called Ancestral Injunctions (first published in 1375, revised twice more before his death in 1398). These rules served in a very real sense as a constitution for the Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 for the next 250 years.

Sardinia


In 1392 the Carta de Logu was legal code
Legal code
A legal code is a body of law written by a governmental body, such as a U.S. state, a Canadian Province or German Bundesland or a municipality...

 of the Giudicato of Arborea promulgated by the giudicessa Eleanor
Eleanor of Arborea
Eleanor ; 1347 – 1404) was the giudicessa of Arborea from 1383 to her death. She was one of the last — and most powerful and significant — Sardinian judges; as well as the island's most renowned heroine....

. It was in force in Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

 until it was superseded by the code of Charles Felix
Charles Felix of Sardinia
Charles Felix was the Duke of Savoy, Piedmont, Aosta and King of Sardinia from 1821 to 1831.-Early life:...

 in April 1827. The Carta was a work of great importance in Sardinia
Sardinia
Sardinia is the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea . It is an autonomous region of Italy, and the nearest land masses are the French island of Corsica, the Italian Peninsula, Sicily, Tunisia and the Spanish Balearic Islands.The name Sardinia is from the pre-Roman noun *sard[],...

n history. It was an organic, coherent, and systematic work of legislation encompassing the civil
Civil law (area)
Civil law in continental law is a branch of law which is the general part of private law.The basis for civil law lies in a civil code. Before enacting of codes, civil law could not be distinguished from private law...

 and penal law
Penal law
In the most general sense, penal is the body of laws that are enforced by the State in its own name and impose penalties for their violation, as opposed to civil law that seeks to redress private wrongs...

.

Modern constitutions


The earliest written constitution still governing a sovereign nation today may be that of San Marino
San Marino
San Marino, officially the Republic of San Marino , is a state situated on the Italian Peninsula on the eastern side of the Apennine Mountains. It is an enclave surrounded by Italy. Its size is just over with an estimated population of over 30,000. Its capital is the City of San Marino...

. The Leges Statutae Republicae Sancti Marini
Constitution of San Marino
The Constitution of San Marino is distributed over a number of legislative instruments of which the most significant are the Statutes of 1600 and the Declaration of Citizen Rights of 1974 as amended in 2002. The constitutional system has influences from the Corpus Juris Civilis and Roman customary...

was written in Latin and consists of six books. The first book, with 62 articles, establishes councils, courts, various executive officers and the powers assigned to them. The remaining books cover criminal and civil law, judicial procedures and remedies. Written in 1600, the document was based upon the Statuti Comunali (Town Statute) of 1300, itself influenced by the Codex Justinianus, and it remains in force today.

In 1639, the Colony of Connecticut adopted the Fundamental Orders
Fundamental Orders of Connecticut
The Fundamental Orders were adopted by the Connecticut Colony council on January 14, 1638/39 OS . The orders describe the government set up by the Connecticut River towns, setting its structure and powers....

, which is considered the first North America
North America
North America is a continent wholly within the Northern Hemisphere and almost wholly within the Western Hemisphere. It is also considered a northern subcontinent of the Americas...

n constitution, and is the basis for every new Connecticut constitution since, and is also the reason for Connecticut
Connecticut
Connecticut is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States. It is bordered by Rhode Island to the east, Massachusetts to the north, and the state of New York to the west and the south .Connecticut is named for the Connecticut River, the major U.S. river that approximately...

's nickname, "the Constitution State". England had two short-lived written Constitutions during Cromwellian rule, known as the Instrument of Government
Instrument of Government
Instrument of Government may refer to:* Instrument of Government, constitution of the Commonwealth of England.* Constitutions of Sweden:** Instrument of Government ** Instrument of Government...

 (1653), and Humble Petition and Advice
Humble Petition and Advice
The Humble Petition and Advice was the second, and last, codified constitution of England after the Instrument of Government.On 23 February 1657, during the sitting of the Second Protectorate Parliament, Sir Christopher Packe, a Member of Parliament and former Lord Mayor of London The Humble...

 (1657).

Agreements and Constitutions of Laws and Freedoms of the Zaporizian Host can be acknowledged as the first European constitution in a modern sense. It was written in 1710 by Pylyp Orlyk
Pylyp Orlyk
Pylyp Stepanovych Orlyk Pylyp Stepanovych Orlyk Pylyp Stepanovych Orlyk (born on October 11, 1672 in Kosuta, Ashmyany county, Grand Duchy of Lithuania (today in Vileyka Raion, Belarus), died on May 26, 1742 in Jassy, Principality of Moldavia (today Iaşi, Romania) was a Zaporozhian Cossack...

, hetman of the Zaporozhian Host
Zaporozhian Host
The Zaporozhian Cossacks or simply Zaporozhians were Ukrainian Cossacks who lived beyond the rapids of the Dnieper river, the land also known as the Great Meadow in Central Ukraine...

. This "Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk" (as it is widely known) was written to establish a free Zaporozhian-Ukrainian Republic, with the support of Charles XII of Sweden
Charles XII of Sweden
Charles XII also Carl of Sweden, , Latinized to Carolus Rex, Turkish: Demirbaş Şarl, also known as Charles the Habitué was the King of the Swedish Empire from 1697 to 1718...

. It is notable in that it established a democratic standard for the separation of powers in government between the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches, well before the publication of Montesquieu's Spirit of the Laws. This Constitution also limited the executive authority of the hetman, and established a democratically elected Cossack parliament called the General Council. However, Orlyk's project for an independent Ukrainian
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 State never materialized, and his constitution, written in exile, never went into effect.

Other examples of early European constitutions were the Corsican Constitution
Corsican Constitution
The first Corsican Constitution was drawn up in 1755 for the short-lived Corsican Republic and remained in force until the annexation of Corsica by France in 1769...

 of 1755 and the Swedish Constitution of 1772
Swedish Constitution of 1772
Sweden's Constitution of 1772 took effect through a bloodless coup d'état carried out by King Gustav III, who had become king in 1771, establishing a brief absolute monarchy in Sweden. This was a response to perceived harm wrought upon Sweden by a half-century of parliamentarism during the...

.

All of the British colonies in North America that were to become the 13 original United States, adopted their own constitutions in 1776 and 1777, during the American Revolution (and before the later Articles of Confederation
Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation, formally the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, was an agreement among the 13 founding states that legally established the United States of America as a confederation of sovereign states and served as its first constitution...

 and United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

), with the exceptions of Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

 adopted its Constitution in 1780, the oldest still-functioning constitution of any U.S. state; while Connecticut and Rhode Island officially continued to operate under their old colonial charters, until they adopted their first state constitutions in 1818 and 1843, respectively.

Enlightenment constitutions


What is sometimes called the "enlightened constitution" model was developed by philosophers of the Age of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 such as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and John Locke. The model proposed that constitutional governments should be stable, adaptable, accountable, open and should represent the people (i.e. support democracy).

The United States Constitution, ratified June 21, 1788, was influenced by the British constitutional system and the political system of the United Provinces
Dutch Republic
The Dutch Republic — officially known as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands , the Republic of the United Netherlands, or the Republic of the Seven United Provinces — was a republic in Europe existing from 1581 to 1795, preceding the Batavian Republic and ultimately...

, plus the writings of Polybius
Polybius
Polybius , Greek ) was a Greek historian of the Hellenistic Period noted for his work, The Histories, which covered the period of 220–146 BC in detail. The work describes in part the rise of the Roman Republic and its gradual domination over Greece...

, Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

, Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

, and others. The document became a benchmark for republicanism
Republicanism
Republicanism is the ideology of governing a nation as a republic, where the head of state is appointed by means other than heredity, often elections. The exact meaning of republicanism varies depending on the cultural and historical context...

 and codified constitutions written thereafter.

Next were the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth
The Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was a dualistic state of Poland and Lithuania ruled by a common monarch. It was the largest and one of the most populous countries of 16th- and 17th‑century Europe with some and a multi-ethnic population of 11 million at its peak in the early 17th century...

 Constitution of May 3, 1791
Constitution of May 3, 1791
The Constitution of May 3, 1791 was adopted as a "Government Act" on that date by the Sejm of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. Historian Norman Davies calls it "the first constitution of its type in Europe"; other scholars also refer to it as the world's second oldest constitution...

, and the French Constitution of September 3, 1791
French Constitution of 1791
The short-lived French Constitution of 1791 was the first written constitution of France. One of the basic precepts of the revolution was adopting constitutionality and establishing popular sovereignty, following the steps of the United States of America...

.

The Spanish Constitution of 1812
Spanish Constitution of 1812
The Spanish Constitution of 1812 was promulgated 19 March 1812 by the Cádiz Cortes, the national legislative assembly of Spain, while in refuge from the Peninsular War...

 served as a model for other liberal constitutions of several South-European and Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

n nations like Portuguese Constitution of 1822
Liberal Revolution of 1820
The Liberal Revolution of 1820 was a political revolution that erupted in 1820 and lasted until 1826. It was unchained via a military insurrection in the city of Porto, in northern Portugal, that quickly and peacefully spread to the rest of the country. From 1807 to 1811 Napoleonic French forces...

, constitutions of various Italian
Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 states during Carbonari
Carbonari
The Carbonari were groups of secret revolutionary societies founded in early 19th-century Italy. The Italian Carbonari may have further influenced other revolutionary groups in Spain, France, Portugal and possibly Russia. Although their goals often had a patriotic and liberal focus, they lacked a...

 revolts (i.e. in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
Kingdom of the Two Sicilies
The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, commonly known as the Two Sicilies even before formally coming into being, was the largest and wealthiest of the Italian states before Italian unification...

), or Mexican Constitution of 1824
1824 Constitution of Mexico
The Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States of 1824 was enacted on October 4 of 1824, after the overthrow of the Mexican Empire of Agustin de Iturbide. In the new constitution, the republic took the name of United Mexican States, and was defined as a representative federal republic, with...

. As a result of the Napoleonic Wars
Napoleonic Wars
The Napoleonic Wars were a series of wars declared against Napoleon's French Empire by opposing coalitions that ran from 1803 to 1815. As a continuation of the wars sparked by the French Revolution of 1789, they revolutionised European armies and played out on an unprecedented scale, mainly due to...

, the absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy
Absolute monarchy is a monarchical form of government in which the monarch exercises ultimate governing authority as head of state and head of government, his or her power not being limited by a constitution or by the law. An absolute monarch thus wields unrestricted political power over the...

 of Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 lost its personal possession of Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 to another absolute monarchy, Sweden
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

. However the Norwegians managed to infuse a radically democratic and liberal constitution
Constitution of Norway
The Constitution of Norway was first adopted on May 16, 1814 by the Norwegian Constituent Assembly at Eidsvoll , then signed and dated May 17...

 in 1814, adopting many facets from the American constitution and the revolutionary French ones; but maintaining a hereditary monarch
Constitutional monarchy
Constitutional monarchy is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified or blended constitution...

 limited by the constitution, like the Spanish one. The Serbian revolution
Serbian revolution
Serbian revolution or Revolutionary Serbia refers to the national and social revolution of the Serbian people taking place between 1804 and 1835, during which this territory evolved from an Ottoman province into a constitutional monarchy and a modern nation-state...

 initially led to a proclamation of a proto-constitution in 1811; the full-fledged Constitution of Serbia followed few decades later, in 1835.

Principles of constitutional design


After tribal people first began to live in cities and establish nations, many of these functioned according to unwritten customs, while some developed autocratic, even tyrannical monarchs, who ruled by decree
Rule by decree
Rule by decree is a style of governance allowing quick, unchallenged creation of law by a single person or group, and is used primarily by dictators and absolute monarchs, although philosophers such as Giorgio Agamben have argued that it has been generalized since World War I in all modern states,...

, or mere personal whim. Such rule led some thinkers to take the position that what mattered was not the design of governmental institutions and operations, as much as the character of the rulers. This view can be seen in Plato
Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, who called for rule by "philosopher-kings." Later writers, such as Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

, Cicero
Cicero
Marcus Tullius Cicero , was a Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist. He came from a wealthy municipal family of the equestrian order, and is widely considered one of Rome's greatest orators and prose stylists.He introduced the Romans to the chief...

 and Plutarch
Plutarch
Plutarch then named, on his becoming a Roman citizen, Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus , c. 46 – 120 AD, was a Greek historian, biographer, essayist, and Middle Platonist known primarily for his Parallel Lives and Moralia...

, would examine designs for government from a legal and historical standpoint.

The Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 brought a series of political philosophers who wrote implied criticisms of the practices of monarchs and sought to identify principles of constitutional design that would be likely to yield more effective and just governance from their viewpoints. This began with revival of the Roman law of nations concept and its application to the relations among nations, and they sought to establish customary "laws of war and peace" to ameliorate wars and make them less likely. This led to considerations of what authority monarchs or other officials have and don't have, from where that authority derives, and the remedies for the abuse of such authority.

A seminal juncture in this line of discourse arose in England from the Civil War
English Civil War
The English Civil War was a series of armed conflicts and political machinations between Parliamentarians and Royalists...

, the Cromwellian
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell was an English military and political leader who overthrew the English monarchy and temporarily turned England into a republican Commonwealth, and served as Lord Protector of England, Scotland, and Ireland....

 Protectorate
Commonwealth of England
The Commonwealth of England was the republic which ruled first England, and then Ireland and Scotland from 1649 to 1660. Between 1653–1659 it was known as the Commonwealth of England, Scotland and Ireland...

, the writings of Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

, Samuel Rutherford
Samuel Rutherford
Samuel Rutherford was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian and author, and one of the Scottish Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly.-Life:...

, the Levellers
Levellers
The Levellers were a political movement during the English Civil Wars which emphasised popular sovereignty, extended suffrage, equality before the law, and religious tolerance, all of which were expressed in the manifesto "Agreement of the People". They came to prominence at the end of the First...

, John Milton
John Milton
John Milton was an English poet, polemicist, a scholarly man of letters, and a civil servant for the Commonwealth of England under Oliver Cromwell...

, and James Harrington, leading to the debate between Robert Filmer
Robert Filmer
thumbnail|150px|right|Robert Filmer Sir Robert Filmer was an English political theorist who defended the divine right of kings...

, arguing for the divine right of monarchs, on the one side, and on the other, Henry Neville
Henry Neville (writer)
Henry Neville was an English author and satirist, best remembered for his tale of shipwreck and dystopia, The Isle of Pines published in 1668.-Life:...

, James Tyrrell
James Tyrrell (writer)
James Tyrrell was an English author and Whig political philosopher.-Life:James Tyrrell was the eldest son of Sir Timothy Tyrrell and Elizabeth Ussher, the only daughter of Archbishop James Ussher. His younger sister Eleanor married the deist Charles Blount...

, Algernon Sidney, and John Locke
John Locke
John Locke FRS , widely known as the Father of Liberalism, was an English philosopher and physician regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers. Considered one of the first of the British empiricists, following the tradition of Francis Bacon, he is equally important to social...

. What arose from the latter was a concept of government being erected on the foundations of first, a state of nature governed by natural laws, then a state of society, established by a social contract or compact, which bring underlying natural or social laws, before governments are formally established on them as foundations.

Along the way several writers examined how the design of government was important, even if the government were headed by a monarch. They also classified various historical examples of governmental designs, typically into democracies, aristocracies, or monarchies, and considered how just and effective each tended to be and why, and how the advantages of each might be obtained by combining elements of each into a more complex design that balanced competing tendencies. Some, such as Montesquieu, also examined how the functions of government, such as legislative, executive, and judicial, might appropriately be separated into branches. The prevailing theme among these writers was that the design of constitutions is not completely arbitrary or a matter of taste. They generally held that there are underlying principles of design that constrain all constitutions for every polity or organization. Each built on the ideas of those before concerning what those principles might be.

The later writings of Orestes Brownson
Orestes Brownson
Orestes Augustus Brownson was a New England intellectual and activist, preacher, labor organizer, and noted Catholic convert and writer...

 would try to explain what constitutional designers were trying to do. According to Brownson there are, in a sense, three "constitutions" involved: The first the constitution of nature that includes all of what was called "natural law." The second is the constitution of society, an unwritten and commonly understood set of rules for the society formed by a social contract before it establishes a government, by which it establishes the third, a constitution of government. The second would include such elements as the making of decisions by public conventions
Convention (meeting)
A convention, in the sense of a meeting, is a gathering of individuals who meet at an arranged place and time in order to discuss or engage in some common interest. The most common conventions are based upon industry, profession, and fandom...

 called by public notice
Public notice
Public notice is a notice given to the public regarding certain types of legal proceedings.-By government:Public notices are issued by a government agency or legislative body in certain rulemaking or lawmaking proceeding....

 and conducted by established rules of procedure
Parliamentary procedure
Parliamentary procedure is the body of rules, ethics, and customs governing meetings and other operations of clubs, organizations, legislative bodies, and other deliberative assemblies...

. Each constitution must be consistent with, and derive its authority from, the ones before it, as well as from a historical act of society formation or constitutional ratification. Brownson argued that a state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 is a society with effective dominion over a well-defined territory, that consent to a well-designed constitution of government arises from presence on that territory, and that it is possible for provisions of a written constitution of government to be "unconstitutional" if they are inconsistent with the constitutions of nature or society. Brownson argued that it is not ratification alone that makes a written constitution of government legitimate, but that it must also be competently designed and applied.

Other writers have argued that such considerations apply not only to all national constitutions of government, but also to the constitutions of private organizations, that it is not an accident that the constitutions that tend to satisfy their members contain certain elements, as a minimum, or that their provisions tend to become very similar as they are amended after experience with their use. Provisions that give rise to certain kinds of questions are seen to need additional provisions for how to resolve those questions, and provisions that offer no course of action may best be omitted and left to policy decisions. Provisions that conflict with what Brownson and others can discern are the underlying "constitutions" of nature and society tend to be difficult or impossible to execute, or to lead to unresolvable disputes.

Constitutional design has been treated as a kind of metagame in which play consists of finding the best design and provisions for a written constitution that will be the rules for the game of government, and that will be most likely to optimize a balance of the utilities of justice, liberty, and security. An example is the metagame Nomic
Nomic
Nomic is a game created in 1982 by philosopher Peter Suber in which the rules of the game include mechanisms for the players to change those rules, usually beginning through a system of democratic voting...

.

Governmental constitutions


Most commonly, the term constitution refers to a set of rules and principles that define the nature and extent of government. Most constitutions seek to regulate the relationship between institutions of the state, in a basic sense the relationship between the executive, legislature and the judiciary, but also the relationship of institutions within those branches. For example, executive branches can be divided into a head of government, government departments/ministries, executive agencies and a civil service
Civil service
The term civil service has two distinct meanings:* A branch of governmental service in which individuals are employed on the basis of professional merit as proven by competitive examinations....

/bureaucracy. Most constitutions also attempt to define the relationship between individuals and the state, and to establish the broad rights of individual citizens. It is thus the most basic law of a territory from which all the other laws and rules are hierarchically derived; in some territories it is in fact called "Basic Law
Basic Law
The term basic law is used in some places as an alternative to "constitution", implying it is a temporary but necessary measure without formal enactment of constitution. A basic law is either a codified constitution, or in countries with uncodified constitutions, a law given to have constitution...

".

Key features


The following are features of democratic constitutions that have been identified by political scientists to exist, in one form or another, in virtually all national constitutions.

Codification


A fundamental classification is codification or lack of codification. A codified constitution is one that is contained in a single document, which is the single source of constitutional law in a state. An uncodified constitution is one that is not contained in a single document, consisting of several different sources, which may be written or unwritten.
Codified constitution

Most states in the world have codified constitutions.

Codified constitutions are often the product of some dramatic political change, such as a revolution
Revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

. The process by which a country adopts a constitution is closely tied to the historical and political context driving this fundamental change. The legitimacy (and often the longevity) of codified constitutions has often been tied to the process by which they are initially adopted.

States that have codified constitutions normally give the constitution supremacy over ordinary statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

 law. That is, if there is any conflict between a legal statute and the codified constitution, all or part of the statute can be declared ultra vires by a court, and struck down as unconstitutional
Constitutionality
Constitutionality is the condition of acting in accordance with an applicable constitution. Acts that are not in accordance with the rules laid down in the constitution are deemed to be ultra vires.-See also:*ultra vires*Company law*Constitutional law...

. In addition, exceptional procedures are often required to amend a constitution
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

. These procedures may include: convocation of a special constituent assembly
Constituent assembly
A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

 or constitutional convention, requiring a supermajority
Supermajority
A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority . In some jurisdictions, for example, parliamentary procedure requires that any action that may alter the rights of the minority has a supermajority...

 of legislators' votes, the consent of regional legislatures, a referendum
Referendum
A referendum is a direct vote in which an entire electorate is asked to either accept or reject a particular proposal. This may result in the adoption of a new constitution, a constitutional amendment, a law, the recall of an elected official or simply a specific government policy. It is a form of...

 process, and other procedures that make amending a constitution more difficult than passing a simple law.

Constitutions may also provide that their most basic principles can never be abolished, even by amendment. In case a formally valid amendment of a constitution infringes these principles protected against any amendment, it may constitute a so-called unconstitutional constitutional law.

Codified constitutions normally consist of a ceremonial preamble
Preamble
A preamble is an introductory and expressionary statement in a document that explains the document's purpose and underlying philosophy. When applied to the opening paragraphs of a statute, it may recite historical facts pertinent to the subject of the statute...

, which sets forth the goals of the state and the motivation for the constitution, and several articles containing the substantive provisions. The preamble, which is omitted in some constitutions, may contain a reference to God
Constitutional references to God
Several national constitutions make reference to God, most often in the preamble. Such invocationes or nominationes dei are found notably in several European constitutional traditions and in the constitutions of Islamic countries.In constitutional...

 and/or to fundamental values of the state such as liberty, democracy or human rights.
Uncodified constitution



at least three states have uncodified constitutions: Israel
Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

, New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, and the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. Uncodified constitutions (also known as unwritten constitutions) are the product of an "evolution" of laws and conventions over centuries. By contrast to codified constitutions, in the Westminster
Westminster System
The Westminster system is a democratic parliamentary system of government modelled after the politics of the United Kingdom. This term comes from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the Parliament of the United Kingdom....

 tradition that originated in England, uncodified constitutions include written sources: e.g. constitutional statutes enacted by the Parliament (House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975
House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975
The House of Commons Disqualification Act 1975 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that prohibits certain categories of people from becoming members of the House of Commons...

, Northern Ireland Act 1998
Northern Ireland Act 1998
The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which established a devolved legislature for Northern Ireland, the Northern Ireland Assembly, after decades of direct rule from Westminster....

, Scotland Act 1998
Scotland Act 1998
The Scotland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is the Act which established the devolved Scottish Parliament.The Act will be amended by the Scotland Bill 2011, if and when it receives royal assent.-History:...

, Government of Wales Act 1998
Government of Wales Act 1998
This is about the Act that set up the Welsh Assembly. For the newer Government of Wales Act 2006, see that article.The Government of Wales Act 1998 This is about the Act that set up the Welsh Assembly. For the newer Government of Wales Act 2006, see that article.The Government of Wales Act 1998...

, European Communities Act 1972
European Communities Act 1972 (UK)
The European Communities Act 1972 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom providing for the incorporation of European Community law into the domestic law of the United Kingdom. It is not to be confused with the Irish law of the same name, Act No...

 and Human Rights Act 1998
Human Rights Act 1998
The Human Rights Act 1998 is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom which received Royal Assent on 9 November 1998, and mostly came into force on 2 October 2000. Its aim is to "give further effect" in UK law to the rights contained in the European Convention on Human Rights...

); and also unwritten sources: constitutional conventions
Constitutional convention (political custom)
A constitutional convention is an informal and uncodified procedural agreement that is followed by the institutions of a state. In some states, notably those Commonwealth of Nations states that follow the Westminster system and whose political systems derive from British constitutional law, most...

, observation of precedent
Precedent
In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a legal case that a court or other judicial body may apply when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts...

s, royal prerogative
Royal Prerogative
The royal prerogative is a body of customary authority, privilege, and immunity, recognized in common law and, sometimes, in civil law jurisdictions possessing a monarchy as belonging to the sovereign alone. It is the means by which some of the executive powers of government, possessed by and...

s, custom
Convention (norm)
A convention is a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted standards, norms, social norms or criteria, often taking the form of a custom....

 and tradition, such as always holding the General Election on Thursdays; together these constitute the British constitutional law. In the days of the British Empire
British Empire
The British Empire comprised the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom. It originated with the overseas colonies and trading posts established by England in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. At its height, it was the...

, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
Judicial Committee of the Privy Council
The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council is one of the highest courts in the United Kingdom. Established by the Judicial Committee Act 1833 to hear appeals formerly heard by the King in Council The Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC) is one of the highest courts in the United...

 acted as the constitutional court for many of the British colonies such as Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 which had federal constitutions.

Elements of constitutional law in states with uncodified constitutions can be entrenched; for example, sections of the Electoral Act 1993 of New Zealand relating to the maximum term of parliament and how elections are held require a three-quarter majority in the House of Representatives or a simple majority in a referendum to be amended or repealed.
Written versus unwritten / codified versus uncodified

The term written constitution is used to describe a constitution that is entirely written, which by definition includes every codified constitution; but not all constitutions based entirely on written documents are codified.

Some constitutions are largely, but not wholly, codified. For example, in the Constitution of Australia, most of its fundamental political principles and regulations concerning the relationship between branches of government, and concerning the government and the individual are codified in a single document, the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia. However, the presence of statutes with constitutional significance, namely the Statute of Westminster
Statute of Westminster 1931
The Statute of Westminster 1931 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Passed on 11 December 1931, the Act established legislative equality for the self-governing dominions of the British Empire with the United Kingdom...

, as adopted by the Commonwealth in the Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942
Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942
The Statute of Westminster Adoption Act 1942 is an Act of the Australian Parliament that formally adopted the Statute of Westminster 1931, an Act of the British Imperial Parliament enabling the legislative independence of the various self-governing Dominions of the British Empire...

, and the Australia Act 1986
Australia Act 1986
The Australia Act 1986 is the name given to a pair of separate but related pieces of legislation: one an Act of the Commonwealth Parliament of Australia, the other an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom...

 means that Australia's constitution is not contained in a single constitutional document. The Constitution of Canada
Constitution of Canada
The Constitution of Canada is the supreme law in Canada; the country's constitution is an amalgamation of codified acts and uncodified traditions and conventions. It outlines Canada's system of government, as well as the civil rights of all Canadian citizens and those in Canada...

, which evolved from the British North America Acts
British North America Acts
The British North America Acts 1867–1975 are the original names of a series of Acts at the core of the constitution of Canada. They were enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom and the Parliament of Canada. In Canada, some of the Acts were amended or repealed by the Constitution Act, 1982....

 until severed from nominal British control by the Canada Act 1982
Canada Act 1982
The Canada Act 1982 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom that was passed at the request of the Canadian federal government to "patriate" Canada's constitution, ending the necessity for the country to request certain types of amendment to the Constitution of Canada to be made by the...

 (analogous to the Australia Act 1986), is a similar example. Canada's constitution consists of almost 30 different statutes

The terms written constitution and codified constitution are often used interchangeably, as are unwritten constitution and uncodified constitution, although this usage is technically inaccurate. Strictly speaking, unwritten constitution is never an accurate synonym for uncodified constitution, because all modern democratic constitutions mainly comprise written sources, even if they have no different legal status than ordinary statutes. Another, correct, term used is formal (or formal written) constitution, for example in the following context: "The United Kingdom has no formal [written] constitution" (which does not preclude a constitution based on documents but not codified).

Entrenchment


The presence or lack of entrenchment is a fundamental feature of constitutions. An entrenched constitution cannot be altered in any way by a legislature as part of its normal business concerning ordinary statutory laws, but can only be amended by a different and more onerous procedure. There may be a requirement for a special body
Constituent assembly
A constituent assembly is a body composed for the purpose of drafting or adopting a constitution...

 to be set up, or the proportion of favourable votes of members of existing legislative bodies may be required to be higher to pass a constitutional amendment than for statute
Statute
A statute is a formal written enactment of a legislative authority that governs a state, city, or county. Typically, statutes command or prohibit something, or declare policy. The word is often used to distinguish law made by legislative bodies from case law, decided by courts, and regulations...

s. The entrenched clauses of a constitution can create different degrees of entrenchment, ranging from simply excluding constitutional amendment from the normal business of a legislature, to making certain amendments either more difficult than normal modifications, or forbidden under any circumstances.

Entrenchment is an inherent feature in most codified constitutions. A codified constitution will incorporate the rules which must be followed for the constitution itself to be changed.

The US constitution is an example of an entrenched constitution, and the UK constitution is an example of a constitution that is not entrenched (or codified). In some states the text of the constitution may be changed; in others the original text is not changed, and amendments
Constitutional amendment
A constitutional amendment is a formal change to the text of the written constitution of a nation or state.Most constitutions require that amendments cannot be enacted unless they have passed a special procedure that is more stringent than that required of ordinary legislation...

 are passed which add to and may override the original text and earlier amendments.

Procedures for constitutional amendment vary between states. In a nation with a federal system of government the approval of a majority of state or provincial legislatures may be required. Alternatively, a national referendum may be required. Details are to be found in the articles on the constitutions of the various nations and federal states in the world.

In constitutions that are not entrenched, no special procedure is required for modification. Lack of entrenchment is a characteristic of uncodified constitutions; the constitution is not recognised with any higher legal status than ordinary statutes. In the UK, for example laws which modify written or unwritten provisions of the constitution are passed on a simple majority in Parliament
Parliament of the United Kingdom
The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is the supreme legislative body in the United Kingdom, British Crown dependencies and British overseas territories, located in London...

. No special "constitutional amendment" procedure is required. The principle of parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. In the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, a legislative body has absolute sovereignty, meaning it is supreme to all other government institutions—including any executive or judicial bodies...

 holds that no sovereign parliament may be bound by the acts of its predecessors; and there is no higher authority that can create law which binds Parliament. The sovereign
Monarchy of the United Kingdom
The monarchy of the United Kingdom is the constitutional monarchy of the United Kingdom and its overseas territories. The present monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, has reigned since 6 February 1952. She and her immediate family undertake various official, ceremonial and representational duties...

 is nominally the head of state with important powers, such as the power to declare war; the uncodified and unwritten constitution removes all these powers in practice.

In practice democratic governments do not use the lack of entrenchment of the constitution to impose the will of the government or abolish all civil rights, as they could in theory do, but the distinction between constitutional and other law is still somewhat arbitrary, usually following historical principles embodied in important past legislation. For example, several British Acts of Parliament such as the Bill of Rights, Human Rights Act and, prior to the creation of Parliament, Magna Carta are regarded as granting fundamental rights and principles which are treated as almost constitutional. Several rights that in another state might be guaranteed by constitution have indeed been abolished or modified by the British parliament in the early 21st century, including the unconditional right to trial by jury
Trial by Jury
Trial by Jury is a comic opera in one act, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It was first produced on 25 March 1875, at London's Royalty Theatre, where it initially ran for 131 performances and was considered a hit, receiving critical praise and outrunning its...

, the right to silence
Right to silence
The right to remain silent is a legal right of any person. This right is recognized, explicitly or by convention, in many of the world's legal systems....

 without prejudicial inference, permissible detention before a charge is made
Habeas corpus
is a writ, or legal action, through which a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention. The remedy can be sought by the prisoner or by another person coming to his aid. Habeas corpus originated in the English legal system, but it is now available in many nations...

 extended from 24 hours to 42 days, and the right not to be tried twice for the same offence
Double jeopardy
Double jeopardy is a procedural defense that forbids a defendant from being tried again on the same, or similar charges following a legitimate acquittal or conviction...

.
Absolutely unmodifiable articles

The strongest level of entrenchment exists in those constitutions that state that some of their most fundamental principles are absolute, i.e. certain articles may not be amended under any circumstances. An amendment of a constitution that is made consistently with that constitution, except that it violates the absolute non-modifiability, can be called an unconstitutional constitutional law. Ultimately it is always possible for a constitution to be overthrown by internal or external force, for example, a revolution
Revolution
A revolution is a fundamental change in power or organizational structures that takes place in a relatively short period of time.Aristotle described two types of political revolution:...

 (perhaps claiming to be justified by the right to revolution) or invasion.

An example of absolute unmodifiability is the German Federal Constitution
Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
The Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany is the constitution of Germany. It was formally approved on 8 May 1949, and, with the signature of the Allies of World War II on 12 May, came into effect on 23 May, as the constitution of those states of West Germany that were initially included...

. This states in Articles 1 and 20 that the state powers, which derive from the people, must protect human dignity on the basis of human rights, which are directly applicable law binding on all three branches of government, which is a democratic and social federal republic; that legislation must be according to the rule of law; and that the people have the right of resistance as a last resort against any attempt to abolish the constitutional order. Article 79, Section 3 states that these articles cannot be changed, even according to the methods of amendment defined elsewhere in the document.

Another example is the Constitution of Honduras
Constitution of Honduras
The Political Constitution of the Republic of Honduras was approved on 11 January 1982, published on 20 January 1982, amended by the National Congress of Honduras 26 times from 1984 to 2005, and 10 interpretations by Congress were made from 1982 to 2005. It is Honduras' twelfth constitution since...

, which has an article stating that the article itself and certain other articles cannot be changed in any circumstances. Article 374 of the Honduras Constitution asserts this unmodifiability, stating, "It is not possible to reform, in any case, the preceding article, the present article, the constitutional articles referring to the form of government, to the national territory, to the presidential period, the prohibition to serve again as President of the Republic, the citizen who has performed under any title in consequence of which she/he cannot be President of the Republic in the subsequent period." This unmodifiability article played an important role in the 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis
2009 Honduran constitutional crisis
The 2009 Honduran constitutional crisis was a political dispute over plans to rewrite the Constitution of Honduras, which culminated in a coup d'état against Honduran President Manuel Zelaya by the Honduran military...

.

Distribution of sovereignty


Constitutions also establish where sovereignty is located in the state. There are three basic types of distribution of sovereignty according to the degree of centralisation of power: unitary, federal, and confederal. The distinction is not absolute.

In a unitary state, sovereignty resides in the state itself, and the constitution determines this. The territory of the state may be divided into regions, but they are not sovereign and are subordinate to the state. In the UK, the constitutional doctrine of Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. In the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, a legislative body has absolute sovereignty, meaning it is supreme to all other government institutions—including any executive or judicial bodies...

 dictates than sovereignty is ultimately contained at the centre. Some powers have been devolved
Devolution
Devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government of a sovereign state to government at a subnational level, such as a regional, local, or state level. Devolution can be mainly financial, e.g. giving areas a budget which was formerly administered by central government...

 to Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west...

, Scotland
Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

, and Wales
Wales
Wales is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain, bordered by England to its east and the Atlantic Ocean and Irish Sea to its west. It has a population of three million, and a total area of 20,779 km²...

 (but not England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

). Some unitary states (Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 is an example) devolve more and more power to sub-national governments until the state functions in practice much like a federal state.

A federal state has a central structure with at most a small amount of territory mainly containing the institutions of the federal government, and several regions (called states, provinces, etc.) which comprise the territory of the whole state. Sovereignty is divided between the centre and the constituent regions. The constitutions of Canada and the United States establish federal states, with power divided between the federal government and the provinces or states. Each of the regions may in turn have its own constitution (of unitary nature).

A confederal state comprises again several regions, but the central structure has only limited coordinating power, and sovereignty is located in the regions. Confederal constitutions are rare, and there is often dispute to whether so-called "confederal" states are actually federal.

To some extent a group of states which do not constitute a federation as such may by treaties
Treaty
A treaty is an express agreement under international law entered into by actors in international law, namely sovereign states and international organizations. A treaty may also be known as an agreement, protocol, covenant, convention or exchange of letters, among other terms...

 and accords give up parts of their sovereignty to a supranational entity. For example the countries comprising the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

 have agreed to abide by some Union-wide measures which restrict their absolute sovereignty in some ways, e.g., the use of the metric system of measurement instead of national units previously used.

Separation of powers


Constitutions usually explicitly divide power between various branches of government. The standard model, described by the Baron de Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

, involves three branches of government: executive, legislative
Legislature
A legislature is a kind of deliberative assembly with the power to pass, amend, and repeal laws. The law created by a legislature is called legislation or statutory law. In addition to enacting laws, legislatures usually have exclusive authority to raise or lower taxes and adopt the budget and...

 and judicial
Judiciary
The judiciary is the system of courts that interprets and applies the law in the name of the state. The judiciary also provides a mechanism for the resolution of disputes...

. Some constitutions include additional branches, such as an auditory branch
Audit
The general definition of an audit is an evaluation of a person, organization, system, process, enterprise, project or product. The term most commonly refers to audits in accounting, but similar concepts also exist in project management, quality management, and energy conservation.- Accounting...

. Constitutions vary extensively as to the degree of separation of powers between these branches.

Lines of accountability


In presidential and semi-presidential systems of government, department secretaries/ministers are accountable to the president
President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

, who has patronage powers to appoint and dismiss ministers. The president is accountable to the people in an election.

In parliamentary systems, ministers are accountable to Parliament
Parliament
A parliament is a legislature, especially in those countries whose system of government is based on the Westminster system modeled after that of the United Kingdom. The name is derived from the French , the action of parler : a parlement is a discussion. The term came to mean a meeting at which...

, but it is the prime minister
Prime minister
A prime minister is the most senior minister of cabinet in the executive branch of government in a parliamentary system. In many systems, the prime minister selects and may dismiss other members of the cabinet, and allocates posts to members within the government. In most systems, the prime...

 who appoints and dismisses them. In turn the prime minister will resign if the government loses the confidence of the parliament (or a part of it). Confidence can be lost if the government loses a vote of no confidence or, depending on the country, loses a particularly important vote in parliament such as vote on the budget. When a government loses confidence it stays in office until a new government is formed; something which normally but not necessarily required the holding of a general election.

State of emergency



Many constitutions allow the declaration under exceptional circumstances of some form of state of emergency during which some rights and guarantees are suspended. This deliberate loophole
Loophole
A loophole is a weakness that allows a system to be circumvented.Loophole may also refer to:*Arrowslit, a slit in a castle wall*Loophole , a short science fiction story by Arthur C...

 can be and has been abused to allow a government to suppress dissent without regard for human rights—see the article on state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

.

Façade constitutions



Italian political theorist Giovanni Sartori
Giovanni Sartori
Giovanni Sartori is an Italian political scientist specialized in the study of democracy and comparative politics.-Biography:Born in Florence in 1924. Sartori began his academic career as a lecturer in the History of Modern Philosophy...

 noted the existence of national constitutions which are a façade for authoritarian sources of power. While such documents may express respect for human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 or establish an independent judiciary, they may be ignored when the government feels threatened, or never put into practice. An extreme example was the Constitution of the Soviet Union
Constitution of the Soviet Union
There were three versions of the constitution of the Soviet Union, modeled after the 1918 Constitution established by the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic , the immediate predecessor of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics....

 that on paper supported freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests...

 and freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

; however, citizens who transgressed unwritten limits were summarily imprisoned
Political prisoner
According to the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English, a political prisoner is ‘someone who is in prison because they have opposed or criticized the government of their own country’....

. The example demonstrates that the protections and benefits of a constitution are ultimately provided not through its written terms but through deference by government and society to its principles. A constitution may change from being real to a façade and back again as democratic and autocratic governments succeed each other.

The constitution of the United States, being the first document of its type, necessarily had many unforeseen shortcomings which had to be patched through amendments, but has generally been honored and a powerful structure, and no dictatorship has been able to take hold; the constitution of Argentina
Constitution of Argentina
The constitution of Argentina is one of the primary sources of existing law in Argentina. Its first version was written in 1853 by a Constitutional Assembly gathered in Santa Fe, and the doctrinal basis was taken in part from the United States Constitution...

 written many years later in 1853 building on many years of experience of the US constitution was arguably a better document, but did not prevent a succession of dictatorial governments from ignoring it—a state of emergency
State of emergency
A state of emergency is a governmental declaration that may suspend some normal functions of the executive, legislative and judicial powers, alert citizens to change their normal behaviours, or order government agencies to implement emergency preparedness plans. It can also be used as a rationale...

 was declared 52 times to bypass constitutional guarantees.

Constitutional courts


Constitutions are often, but by no means always, protected by a legal body whose job it is to interpret those constitutions and, where applicable, declare void executive and legislative acts which infringe the constitution. In some countries, such as Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, this function is carried out by a dedicated constitutional court which performs this (and only this) function. In other countries, such as Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, the ordinary courts may perform this function in addition to their other responsibilities. While elsewhere, like in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

, the concept of declaring an act to be unconstitutional does not exist.

A constitutional violation is an action or legislative act that is judged by a constitutional court to be contrary to the constitution, that is, unconstitutional. An example of constitutional violation by the executive could be a public office holder who acts outside the powers granted to that office by a constitution. An example of constitutional violation by the legislature is an attempt to pass a law that would contradict the constitution, without first going through the proper constitutional amendment process.

Some countries, mainly those with uncodified constitutions, have no such courts at all. For example the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 has traditionally operated under the principle of parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty
Parliamentary sovereignty is a concept in the constitutional law of some parliamentary democracies. In the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, a legislative body has absolute sovereignty, meaning it is supreme to all other government institutions—including any executive or judicial bodies...

 under which the laws passed by United Kingdom Parliament could not be questioned by the courts.

See also

  • Apostolic constitution
    Apostolic constitution
    An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the...

     (a class of Roman Catholic Church
    Roman Catholic Church
    The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

     documents)
  • Constitution of the Roman Republic
    Constitution of the Roman Republic
    The Constitution of the Roman Republic was a set of guidelines and principles passed down mainly through precedent. The constitution was largely unwritten, uncodified, and constantly evolving...

  • Constitutional court
  • Constitutional economics
    Constitutional economics
    Constitutional economics is a research program in economics and constitutionalism that has been described as extending beyond the definition of 'the economic analysis of constitutional law' in explaining the choice "of alternative sets of legal-institutional-constitutional rules that constrain the...

  • Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

  • Corporate constitution
  • Judicial activism
    Judicial activism
    Judicial activism describes judicial ruling suspected of being based on personal or political considerations rather than on existing law. It is sometimes used as an antonym of judicial restraint. The definition of judicial activism, and which specific decisions are activist, is a controversial...

  • Judicial restraint
    Judicial restraint
    Judicial restraint is a theory of judicial interpretation that encourages judges to limit the exercise of their own power. It asserts that judges should hesitate to strike down laws unless they are obviously unconstitutional...

  • Judicial review
    Judicial review
    Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary. Specific courts with judicial review power must annul the acts of the state when it finds them incompatible with a higher authority...

  • Rule of law
    Rule of law
    The rule of law, sometimes called supremacy of law, is a legal maxim that says that governmental decisions should be made by applying known principles or laws with minimal discretion in their application...

  • Rule according to higher law
    Rule according to higher law
    The rule according to a higher law means that no written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice...



Judicial philosophies of constitutional interpretation (note: generally specific to United States constitutional law
United States constitutional law
United States constitutional law is the body of law governing the interpretation and implementation of the United States Constitution.- Introduction :United States constitutional law defines the scope and application of the terms of the Constitution...

)
  • List of national constitutions
  • Originalism
    Originalism
    In the context of United States constitutional interpretation, originalism is a principle of interpretation that tries to discover the original meaning or intent of the constitution. It is based on the principle that the judiciary is not supposed to create, amend or repeal laws but only to uphold...

  • Strict constructionism
    Strict constructionism
    In the United States, Strict constructionism refers to a particular legal philosophy of judicial interpretation that limits or restricts judicial interpretation. The phrase is also commonly used more loosely as a generic term for conservatism among the judiciary.- Strict sense of the term :Strict...

  • Textualism
    Textualism
    Textualism is a formalist theory of statutory interpretation, holding that a statute's ordinary meaning should govern its interpretation, as opposed to inquiries into non-textual sources such as the intention of the legislature in passing the law, the problem it was intended to remedy, or...

  • Proposed European Union constitution
    Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe
    The Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe , , was an unratified international treaty intended to create a consolidated constitution for the European Union...

    • Treaty of Lisbon
      Treaty of Lisbon
      The Treaty of Lisbon of 1668 was a peace treaty between Portugal and Spain, concluded at Lisbon on 13 February 1668, through the mediation of England, in which Spain recognized the sovereignty of Portugal's new ruling dynasty, the House of Braganza....

       (adopts same changes, but without constitutional name)
  • United Nations
    United Nations
    The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

     Charter
    United Nations Charter
    The Charter of the United Nations is the foundational treaty of the international organization called the United Nations. It was signed at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center in San Francisco, United States, on 26 June 1945, by 50 of the 51 original member countries...


External links