All Americans are united by the shared ideals outlined in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. These two documents are so powerful that many Americans carry them in their pockets, as a reminder of the nation's promise to “guarantee the blessings of freedom for us and our posterity”. But a fundamental principle enshrined in these two texts is the idea that We, the people, are, in fact, several people. The founders of the new Union recognized that Americans were also active members of smaller political associations, especially states.
Not only did Americans come together as a nation to solve problems, they also worked together with their neighbors and nearby towns to overcome obstacles and improve their lives in different states. Under the Constitution, Americans chose to remain members of two communities, one local and the other national, with the belief that this framework would allow the United States to thrive as a unique experiment in self-government. Today, as in revolutionary times, state constitutions are the main means of structuring and limiting state governments. This active state government reflects the American system of federalism, in which power is divided between states and the federal government.
This complicated structure was conceived by Enlightenment philosophers and adapted by American drafters to guarantee political freedom and better guarantee the rights invoked in the Declaration of Independence. In general terms, American federalism means that most political activity takes place at the level of state government, where there is more likely to be a consensus. The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University is proud to host this Arizona Constitutional Project. We hope that these resources will help Arizona citizens better understand the government principles and processes that affect their daily lives.
The Arizona Constitution gives citizens the choice of how they want to solve problems. Because Arizonans trust both their state constitution and their federal constitution, this document continues to be an important source for structuring and limiting state governments. State constitutions preceded not only those of the United States Constitution but, in some cases, even the Declaration of Independence. In the months before the Declaration was published, the Second Continental Congress ordered states to prepare to govern separately from Great Britain, including new constitutions to replace their colonial charters.
Some states simply slightly modified their colonial statutes while others seized the revolutionary opportunity to experiment with self-government in much bolder ways. The successful ratification of the Constitution depended on allaying fears that it would create an overly strong central government. As a result, the federal Bill of Rights initially restricted only the federal government, not the states. However, Article I, Section 10 had a limited and implicit bill of rights which explicitly restricted states from engaging in a variety of activities, especially those that threatened private property or involved foreign policy.
In addition, it prohibited states from passing laws that were incompatible with those passed by Congress in accordance with the Constitution. State constitutions are much longer than those of the U. S. UU., because they are primarily used to limit state governments and protect individual rights. This is why we offer Essential Constitution of Arizona both online and in pocket form as an additional way of addressing this text.
With more than 49,000 words, it would take several pockets to capture the gigantic reach of Arizona's entire constitutional tradition. Local government plays an essential role in Central Arizona's democracy by providing citizens with choices on how they want to solve problems. State constitutions are used to structure and limit state governments while also protecting individual rights. The Arizona Constitutional Project provides resources for citizens to better understand government principles and processes that affect their daily lives. At ASU's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership we are proud to host this project which provides Arizonans with an invaluable resource for understanding their rights under both state and federal law. We hope that these resources will help citizens make informed decisions about how they want to solve problems within their communities.