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The Sources of a Constitution-The Nature of the Constitution

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The sources of the various provisions found in a constitution are many, such as the past experiences of the country. For instance, the social economic, political, historical, geographical and notable historical documents such as the British Magna Carta of 1215, American Bill of Right statutes passed by parliament, decrees and edicts of military government, the intellectual works of eminent writers, jurists, historians, philosophers, essayists, politicians, and statesmen such as John Locke, A.V. Dicey, and so forth, case law or judicial precedents, customs and

way of life of the people, rules and conventions guiding human be haviour, the constitutions of other countries, the deliberations of constitutional conferences or Constituent Assemblies which may draft the constitution of the given country, rules of international law and so forth are important sources to draw from when writing a constitution for a country.

The Nature of the Constitution

The nature of a constitution is determined essentially by the source of its authority i.e. whether or not it is an original act of people, and, secondly by the justiciability of its provisions i.e. whether it is enforceable in the court or merely a political charter of government un-amenable to judicial enforcement.

A Constitution whether written or unwritten, rigid or flexible, unitary or federal etc. has two natures:

  1.  It is an expression of the will or desires of the people who mak up the state or country
  2.  It is a social contract between the government as an entity and the people on the one hand. It is a contract between those who hold public offices and the people on the second hand, and it is also a social contract between and among the various ethnic peoples who make up a state or country on the third hand.

A constitution is an expression of the will of the people of a country or given political unit. The constitution may expressly spell out the following:

  1. The desire of the various multi-ethnic people or race, to live together as one people and the legal basis on which they want to live together in such given political entity.
  2. The ideas and fundamental objectives and directive principles of state policy they want to lead their lives.
  3. Public revenues and the control of the public funds of the country or state.
  4.  The type and structure of government the people want at the various levels of government, their functions, powers and limits thereto.
  5. The establishment of armed forces and their traditional, constitutional or professional roles
  6.  The framework, function and powers of the public service or public institutions and authorities.
  7. The internal structure of the country, political institutions and the functions and powers they want the government to exercise at the various levels of government.

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