The story of the Preamble’s initial centrality and subsequent descent into legal irrelevance illuminates a once robust vision of American constitutionalism that has disappeared from view.
When the United States Constitution first appeared, its Preamble was of central importance. Over time, though, its significance diminished. While it remains a celebrated part of the Constitution, its power to legitimize broad national authority has disappeared. The story of the Preamble’s rise and fall illuminates a once robust vision of American constitutionalism and the lesser-known framers who helped embed it in the Constitution. This talk recovers this lost Constitution, delineates its core features, and documents its hitherto overlooked vitality while also charts how and why it disappeared so quickly and what that might tell us about the Constitution’s deeper character.