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INSURE DOMESTIC TRANQUILLITY “Tranquillity" means “peace," "domestic” means "at home," and "insure” means "make sure of.” One reason for the adoption of the Federal Constitution was to make it possible for the States to be on more friendly terms with one another; another was to insure peace at home by making the Federal Government strong enough to protect the people from the violence of enemies. In the Fourth Article of the Constitution, the United States Government undertook to protect every State from invasion, and, if a State government asked it, to protect such State from outbreaks of violence at home. No part of the United States has been invaded by any foreign nation since General Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans in 1815. The State governments have generally proved powerful enough to maintain law and order within their own borders without help; so the Federal Government has not often been called on for protection against domestic violence. But the whole power of our strong Federal Government stands always ready “to insure domestic tranquillity.”



In the early days of this Nation its citizens were threatened with many dangers from foreign nations. The British owned Canada, the French owned Louisiana, and the Spanish owned Florida, Texas, and Mexico. Our young and weak Nation was thus surrounded by the territory of European nations which were none too friendly and which, soon after our Federal Government was first organized, began to fight among themselves in a long series of European wars. The constitutional objective of “the common defense” became very important but was very slow to be developed by the Federal Government because a great part of our national energy was turned to the settling of the newly opened territory west of the 13 original States and to the subduing of the Indian tribes in that territory.

In the years from 1812 to 1814 the United States was obliged to fight a second war with Great Britain, because the British adopted a practice of searching and seizing our merchant vessels which were carrying goods to other European countries and of taking American seamen forcibly from our ships to fight on British war vessels against the French; in doing so they refused to recognize the American citizenship of many of our newly naturalized citizens. This war went very badly for the United States at first, because our Government had failed to provide for the common defense. Fortunately for us, the British had many troubles in Europe and did not work hard to win the war, although they did succeed in capturing the city of Washington and in burning the Capitol. Our Navy grew steadily stronger as the war went on, and our Government slowly learned how to choose capable generals and how to organize and equip armies which could win battles. In the end a peace was made that did not settle any of the questions about which the war had been fought. But this country had learned a valuable lesson about “the common defense.”

The duty of maintaining a proper defense for our country and our people is divided by the Federal Constitution between the Legislative and the Executive Branches of the Government. The Congress is given authority to declare war and to maintain and pay the expenses of an Army and a Navy. The President is made Commander in Chief of both the Army and the Navy. It is not the policy of the United States to attack other nations, but by maintaining a powerful Army and Navy it stands ready to fulfill the constitutional objective of providing for the common defense. Today the United States Navy is one of the strongest defense organizations in the world.


PROMOTE THE GENERAL WELFARE “To promote the general welfare” means to work for the good of the whole people.

At the end of the War of Independence the people of the United States found themselves in a position of great hardship. Many of their young men, whose strength was needed to help to raise the crops, build the homes, and operate the shops and factories and shipyards of a growing nation, had been in General Washington's armies for 6 years or more. The business of most of the communities in the 13 States had come to a standstill. The Nation and all of the States were so deeply in debt that their paper money had come to have very little value. Everybody suffered from such conditions, and many people hoped that a stronger central government might somehow do great things to promote the general welfare.

In giving the Congress its authority to make laws for the good of the whole people, the Federal Constitution provides, in section 8 of its First Article, that,

“The Congress shall have power to... lay and collect taxes, ... to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the

United States; ..." So we find the common defense and general welfare mentioned twice in the Constitution-once in the Preamble and once in the First Article. They are evidently very important objectives of a democratic government “of the people, by the people, and for the people.”

Today our Federal Government does many services for the general welfare of the American people. You will find a great number of such services listed in chapters 23 and 24 of this book, which describe the activities of the executive departments and agencies in putting into effect the laws for the general welfare which are passed by the Congress.


One of the purposes of the people in adopting the Federal Constitution was to make sure that the freedom which

they had just won would not be allowed to slip away from them. The Fathers of the Constitution, in giving authority to the Federal Government, were careful to protect the rights and privileges of all persons by putting limits on the powers of both the National and State Governments, beyond which they were not permitted to go. In this way, the people of the United States, as long as they obey the law, may go freely from place to place, may enjoy their lives and property in safety, and may go to the courts for justice and protection in cases where they feel their rights are being taken away from them, either by the Government or by other people.

So as long as our Government lasts, it must serve the needs of the people who give it authority, for this is the only way to preserve and secure the “blessings of liberty.” It is this objective which was in the minds of the writers of the Declaration of Independence when they declared that the people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed


Fill in the blanks with the proper words:

1. The Government which holds the whole Nation together is called the

Government. 2. The Preamble to the Constitution begins with these words"

(give number of) objectives set forth in the Preamble to the Constitution.

3. There are

WORK PROJECT We have been reading about the objectives of our several government units. Every government unit, whether it is the Nation or a small town, has many tasks to do. Make a large chart something like the pattern shown below. Try to complete it. Add other units or agencies if you wish and tell what purpose each serves.


The unit or agency

One or more objectives of each

The Nation........

Your own State

Your State lawmaking body

Your State Governor.......

Your State courts.

The State Highway com


Your city or town.

Your local police

Your local fire department..

Other agencies

Figure 44
Work Project: Objectives of Government Agencies and Units

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