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E Unum Pluribus: From one, many
There are 27 amendments in the United States Constitution. But only the 10th Amendment addresses the power of states. Each state promised to be subject to the laws of the United States of America when they sought admission to the union. Those promises to the federal government can be found in each state constitution. But states agreed to be subject, not necessarily subordinate, to the federal government.
The literature and discussions concerning the relationship between state and federal power is beyond the scope of this project. It is simply intended to give citizens of each state and all states the opportunity to easily become more personally familiar with state constitutions; the building blocks of state law and the DNA of national government.
“LABORATORIES OF DEMOCRACY”
That’s what US Supereme Court Associate Justice Louis Brandeis said of state governments operating within the federal system. According to Brandeis, "state(s) may, if its citizens choose ,,, try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country”. This helps explains why many states have had several constitutions in their histories.
In an article for the American Constitution Society, Distinquished Professor of Law at Rutgers University, Robert F. Williams refers to Brandeis’ characterization. Williams says this tendency of states to experiment causes, among other things, for state constitutions to be mined for interpretations of rights more robust that those offered in the federal document. This implies that framers of the federal and state constitutions may have always intended for the former to merely be a backstop to latter. States limit absolute power while the federal government grants specific powers. In other words, the US Constitution represented the least amount of intrusion on the citizen while promising an institution that aspires to the highest human ideals.
It is within state constitutions where those promises are made manifest. Consequently, the US Constitution pushes much of the responsibility for striking that balance to the states. Citizens are much closer to, but much less familiar with state government than the federal government. It is states which are more directly responsible for meeting their specific day-to-day needs. States must insure citizens meet civic responsibilities without impinging on their personal liberties. Showing how and why they manage both is the intent of this website.
“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”- US Constitution, 10th Amendment
HOW TO USE THIS WEBSITE:
These state constitutions have been reformatted into a common text style to make them more user friendly. Click the US map to read, search, print or hear a state’s constitution.
Each state constitution is also presented as an mp3 file. Time cues in the text correspond to the audio file. Different browsers may affect site functionality or alignment between times and text (Google Chrome recommended). Users may listen to the audio file as they follow the written document.
Each state “personality” is presented to let users compare research conclusions regarding state personality today to that gleaned from the language of the constitution and original founders.
Read the latest state constitution news.
Choose a constitution image above to go to that state’s official constitution. Users are encouraged to compare this site to those to insure accuracy.
Read about the motivation for this site here.
Do State Constitutions Matter?