Preamble: United States Constitution
Nevertheless, the Preamble has considerable potency by virtue of its specification of the purposes for which the Constitution exists. It distills the underlying values that moved the Framers during their long debates in Philadelphia. As Justice Joseph Story put it in his celebrated Commentaries on the Constitution of the United States, "its true office is to expound the nature and extent and application of the powers actually conferred by the Constitution." Alexander Hamilton, in The Federalist No. 84, went so far as to assert that the words "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity" were "a better recognition of popular rights, than volumes of those aphorisms, which make the principal figure in several of our state bills of rights."
An appreciation of the Preamble begins with a comparison of it to its counterpart in the compact the Constitution replaced, the Articles of Confederation. There, the states joined in "a firm league of friendship, for their common defence, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare" and bound themselves to assist one another "against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade,