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The just exercise of political power is conceived of as resting upon constitutional principles - Essay Example

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Constitutionalism is descriptive of a complicated concept, according to which in political society government officials are not…
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The just exercise of political power is conceived of as resting upon constitutional principles
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Download file to see previous pages This should not be taken to mean that if a state has a constitution, it is necessarily committed to the idea of constitutionalism. In a very real sense, every state has a constitution, if by a constitution is meant, in the words of Lord Bryce, “the aggregate of the laws and customs through and under which the public life of a State goes on...” (Studies… I 1901). In this sense, every state may be said to have a constitution.
There is, however, a tradition in the history of political thought which describes a constitution in terms of a higher law which is an expression of the will of the people. In this view, the state is created by and is organized by the people in the writing and adoption of a constitution, and government derives its authority, institutions, and procedures from this constitution.
That is why, Thomas Paine maintained that any government which violates the constitution exercises “power without right.” If the distinction between constitution and government is ignored, then, Paine argued, there being no check upon the will of the government, it follows that the state is a despotism. A true, written constitution, he held, was always antecedent to the actual government, for, in his words, “The constitution is not the act of its government, but of the people constituting a government” (Elster & Slagstad 1988).
To understand the nature of constitutional principles better, one should pay attention to its origin: theoretical doctrines and its manifestations (Greek Democracy, Roman Republicanism and English Constitutionalism).
Some conception of a higher law will be found throughout the history of Western political thought. Early examples of written constitutions include Solons constitution of Athens (594 BC) and Cleisthenes constitution, which reformed the constitution of ancient Athens and set it on a democratic footing in 508 BC.
Aristotle (c. 350 BC) was also one of the first ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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