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constitution

constitution. A constitution is a body of rules, formal or informal, which regulates the government of a state, or, indeed, a private association. It is concerned essentially not with ‘What is to be done?’ but ‘How?’ The procedures to be followed when taking decisions form the constitution. The distribution of power between the various organs of government, the limits of governmental authority, the methods of appointing or electing those who govern—these are the staple of a constitution.

The existence of a constitution implies that there are some restraints upon those who govern. If decisions, for instance, depend upon the whim of an absolute monarch, or the fancy of a dictator, it is hard to speak of a constitution. Constitutions are about procedures, and arbitrary power, by its very arbitrariness, is not hedged around by prescribed procedures. Most states, and many private associations, have written constitutions—a code of written rules binding those who govern, together with any amendments which have been made in accordance with the procedures laid down in the constitution. Thus the US constitution is the document accepted in 1787, together with the 27 amendments passed subsequently. Such a document, or collection of documents, is called the written or, more aptly, the formal constitution.

A contrast is sometimes made between written and unwritten constitutions. Britain, it is said, has an unwritten constitution. But the distinction is overdrawn. Britain is unusual in that there is no single document which can be called the formal constitution. The constitution in Britain is scattered through hundreds of Acts of Parliament and judicial rulings. There are, of course, many statutes that form part of the formal constitution in Britain: the Bill of Rights of 1689 which limited royal power; the Act of Settlement of 1701 which regulated the succession to the throne; the Representation of the People Acts from 1832 to the present day, which progressively widened the right to vote and regulated the conditions under which the right could be exercised. These statutes have not, however, been brought together in one legal document; the formal constitution of Britain, like truth, has to be collected and put together limb by limb.

But the description of Britain as having an unwritten constitution usually focuses on another attribute—the importance of conventions. Some of Britain's most important constitutional rules are constitutional conventions—rules which are generally observed but have no legal force. There is a convention that monarchs act on the advice of their ministers: there is no direct legal compulsion on them to act on ministerial advice, but they invariably do. By convention, a government clearly defeated on a vote of confidence in the House of Commons either resigns or holds a general election. The most powerful organ in the constitution, the cabinet, is barely known to the law. Its composition, its time of meeting, its powers, are all regulated by convention and usage, not by law.

Conventions are rules which have evolved over decades of constitutional practice. They have grown up and are obeyed because people find them useful. It is as though opposing players in a game had reached informal understandings about what was to be considered ‘foul play’ without bothering to write them down in the rule book. Conventions play a most important part in British political life, but it is quite wrong to regard them as a unique feature of British politics. Conventions develop in both states and private clubs. They figure conspicuously in the constitutional practice of the USA, which has the oldest surviving written constitution in the world. The growth of conventions, for example, has changed the choice of the American president from the indirect election provided for by the framers of the constitution to direct election by the people.

The constitution, especially the formal part, is often regarded as having a superior status to ordinary law; indeed, it is often seen as a fundamental law, a framework from which particular acts of legislation or executive decisions draw their legitimacy. It is held that it must be set apart from ordinary law and venerated as such, and be protected by change from chance majorities or the whims of a faction dominant for the time being. Many constitutions therefore specify that the constitution can be changed only by a special procedure. The constitution may lay down that an amendment must be passed by a special majority in the legislature, or must be approved by both houses of the legislature, or by the people in a referendum. Such measures emphasize the special status of the constitution and affirm that constitutional change can come about only through the deliberate and considered will of the people or their representatives. Such constitutions are called rigid; constitutions which can be changed in the same way as any ordinary mundane law are called flexible. Britain has a highly flexible constitution: that of the USA is highly rigid.

It is easy to assume that a constitutional state, one where the governors are themselves bound by rules, must also be democratic, but the assumption is false. A constitutional state is wholly compatible with a restricted franchise or oligarchic government. It is not the source of power which makes a state constitutional or otherwise, but the degree to which the various organs of the state check and control the use of arbitrary power. It is arbitrariness, not, say, traditional kingship, which is the opposite of constitutionalism.

Lastly, while it is true that a constitution may help to shape the political habits of a people, the converse is more likely to hold good. The world is littered with the parchment of dead constitutions—legal frameworks so remote from the experience of the peoples they sought to guide, so hostile to the most powerful interests in the land, that they collapsed at the first breath of challenge.

Hugh Berrington

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"constitution." The Oxford Companion to British History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 Sep. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Constitution

CONSTITUTION

Constitution is all the characteristics and tendencies, both somatic and psychic, that an individual brings into life at the time of birth. It is those parts of the individual that are innate, inherited, or genetically determined. Classically, it stands in opposition to all that is accidental, things acquired in the course of life. Certain doctrinal trends in the field of psycho-pathology rely on the notion of constitution in order to define personality types that are predisposed to specific psychiatric affections, particularly psychosis.

The notion of a constitutional factor is Freud's, and he elaborated the theory in two distinct periods. Before 1905, he conflated it with hereditary disposition, referring to a general and universal condition in the pathogenic determinism of all affections, particularly neurotic affections. In the etiology of these affections, the hereditary disposition is associated with specific causes of a sexual nature in accordance with the rules of a complemental series. Thus, "the same specific causes acting on a healthy individual produce no manifest pathological effect, whereas in a predisposed person their action causes the neurosis to come to light, whose development will be proportionate in intensity and extent to the degree of the hereditary precondition" (1896a, p. 147).

After 1905, the Freudian conception of constitution became inseparable from the sexual doctrine resulting from his identification of infantile sexuality in all human beings. In Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d), Freud traces the origin of infantile sexuality to component instincts that are perverse because they seek satisfaction independently of each other and thus define, for all individuals, a "polymorphously perverse disposition" (1905d, p. 191). "The conclusion now presents itself to us that there is indeed something innate lying behind the perversions but that it is something innate in everyone, though as a disposition it may vary in its intensity and may be increased by the influences of actual life" (1905d, p. 171). Sexual constitution thus came to replace general hereditary disposition.

In lecture twenty-three of Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis (1916-17a), entitled "The Paths to the Formation of Symptoms," Freud enriched the notion of sexual constitution with that of fixation of the libido. These fixations represent the individual's constitutional past toward which the libido regresses as a result of the repression imposed on it by the neurosis. According to Freud, these fixations are partly the traces of the phylogenetic heritage.

Claude Smadja

See also: Bisexuality; Character; Heredity of acquired characters; "Heredity and the Etiology of the Neuroses"; Instinct; Intergenerational; Phylogenesis; Prehistory; Primal fantasies; Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality .

Bibliography

Freud, Sigmund. (1896a). Heredity and the aetiology of the neuroses. SE, 3: 141-156.

. (1905d). Three essays on the theory of sexuality. SE, 7: 123-243.

. (1906a). My views on the part played by sexuality in the aetiology of the neuroses. SE, 7: 269-279.

. (1916-17a). Introductory lectures on psychoanalysis. Parts I & II. SE, 15-16.

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constitution (principles of government)

constitution, fundamental principles of government in a nation, either implied in its laws, institutions, and customs, or embodied in one fundamental document or in several. In the first category—customary and unwritten constitutions—is the British constitution, which is contained implicitly in the whole body of common and statutory law of the realm, and in the practices and traditions of the government. Because it can be modified by an ordinary act of Parliament, the British constitution is often termed flexible. This enables Britain to react quickly to any constitutional emergency, but it affords no fundamental protections of civil or personal liberty, or any areas in which parliamentary legislation is expressly forbidden. The theory of the social contract, developed in the 17th cent. by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, was fundamental to the development of the modern constitution. The Constitution of the United States, written in 1787 and ratified in 1789, was the first important written constitution, and a model for a vast number of subsequent constitutional documents. Though to a large extent based on the principles and practices of the British constitution, the Constitution of the United States has superior sanction to the ordinary laws of the land, interpreted through a process of judicial review that passes judgment on the constitutionality of subsequent legislation, and that is subject to a specially prescribed process of amendment. The rigidity of its written format has been counterbalanced by growth and usage: in particular, statutory elaboration (see Congress of the United States) and judicial construction (see Supreme Court, United States, and Marshall, John) have kept the written document abreast of the times. But a written constitution, without a commitment to its principles and civil justice, has often proved to be a temporary or rapidly reversed gesture. In the 18th, 19th, and 20th cent., many countries, having made sharp political and economic departures from the past, had little legal custom to rely upon and therefore set forth their organic laws in written constitutions—some of which are judicially enforced. Adolf Hitler never formally abolished the constitution of the Weimar Republic, and the protections of personal liberties contained in the Soviet constitution of 1936 proved to be empty promises. Since the 1960s, many of the newly independent countries of Asia and Africa have adopted written constitutions, often on the model of the American, British, or French constitutions.

See E. McWhinney, Constitution-Making (1981); V. Bhagwan and V. Bhushan, World Constitutions (2d ed. 1987); P. Bobbitt, Constitutional Interpretation (1991); J. W. Peltason, Understanding the Constitution (12th ed. 1991).

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Constitution

CONSTITUTION

CONSTITUTION, an American forty-four-gun frigate authorized by Congress on 27 March 1794. She was designed by Joshua Humphreys, built in Edmund Hartt's shipyard, Boston, and launched 21 October 1797. In the naval war with France she served as Commodore Silas Talbot's flagship, and in the Tripolitan War as the flagship of Commodore Edward Preble, participating in five attacks on Tripoli from 25 July to 4 September 1804. The Constitution was victorious in several notable single-ship engagements in the War of 1812. During the fight with the British frigate Guerrière on 19 August 1812, a seaman gave her the nickname "Old Ironsides" when, seeing a shot rebound from her hull, he shouted, "Huzza, her sides are made of iron." While cruising off South America four months later, Commodore William Bainbridge on the Constitution sighted the British Java. After a battle of about two hours, the British ship surrendered. On 20 February 1815, the Constitution met the British frigate Cyane and the sloop-of-war Levant some two hundred miles northeast of the Madeira Islands and forced both ships to surrender.

Ordered broken up in 1830 by the Department of the Navy, the Constitution was retained in deference to public sentiment aroused by Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem "Old Ironsides." She was rebuilt in 1833 and served as a training ship at Portsmouth, Va., from 1860 to 1865. She underwent a partial rebuilding during the 1870s and was restored in 1925 and again during the 1970s and the 1990s. From her berth next to the USS Constitution Museum in Boston's Charlestown Navy Yard, the still un-beaten Constitution once again sailed under her own power to mark her bicentennial in 1997, reminding Americans of their rich naval history.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Hollis, Ira N. The Frigate Constitution: The Central Figure of the Navy under Sail. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1900.

Horgan, Thomas P. Old Ironsides: The Story of USS Constitution. Boston: Burdette, 1963.

Louis H.Bollander/a. r.

See alsoBarbary Wars ; Navy, United States ; Warships .

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Constitution (ship)

Constitution, U.S. 44-gun frigate, nicknamed Old Ironsides. It is perhaps the most famous vessel in the history of the U.S. navy. Authorized by Congress in 1794, the ship was launched in 1797 and was commissioned and put to sea in 1798 in the undeclared naval war with the French. It participated in the Tripolitan War. In the War of 1812, serving as flagship for Isaac Hull, The Constitution won a battle with the British vessel Guerrière on Aug. 19, 1812, and under the command of William Bainbridge it defeated the Java on Dec. 29, 1812. Charles Stewart was commanding the Constitution when on Feb. 20, 1815, it overcame the Cyane and the Levant (though the Levant was later recaptured by the British). The Constitution was condemned (1830) as unseaworthy, but public sentiment, aroused by Oliver Wendell Holmes's poem "Old Ironsides," saved the ship from dismantling, and it was rebuilt in 1833. The ship was laid up at the Portsmouth navy yard in 1855 and was there used as a training ship. In 1877 it was rebuilt again, and the next year it crossed the Atlantic. In 1897 it was stored at the Boston navy yard, and in 1927–30, under authorization of Congress, it was restored by public subscription (1925–27). Another restoration was begun in 1992 and was completed in 1997. The Constitution is now maintained at the Boston navy yard.

See J. Barnes, Naval Actions of the War of 1812 (1896); I. N. Hollis, The Frigate Constitution (1901); E. Snow, On the Deck of Old Ironsides (1932); T. P. Horgan, Old Ironsides (1963); J. E. Jennings, Tattered Ensign (1966); T. G. Martin, A Most Fortunate Ship (1997).

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constitution

con·sti·tu·tion / ˌkänstəˈt(y)oōshən/ • n. 1. a body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state or other organization is acknowledged to be governed. ∎  a written record of this: the preamble to the constitution of UNESCO. ∎  (the Constitution) the basic written set of principles and precedents of federal government in the U.S., which came into operation in 1789 and has since been modified by twenty-seven amendments. 2. the composition of something: the genetic constitution of a species. ∎  the forming or establishing of something. 3. a person's physical state with regard to vitality, health, and strength. ∎  a person's mental or psychological makeup.

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constitution

constitution Code of laws or collection of customary practices delineating the powers and organization of the various organs of government within a nation, and some of the rights and obligations of its citizens. In states with a written constitution, courts often have specific powers relating to the constitution. In the US, where there is a federal system of government, the Supreme Court resolves conflict between the individual states and the central government. In countries without a written constitution, such as Britain, constitutional law is less precise and problems are addressed within the political process.

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constitution

constitutionashen, fashion, passion, ration •abstraction, action, attraction, benefaction, compaction, contraction, counteraction, diffraction, enaction, exaction, extraction, faction, fraction, interaction, liquefaction, malefaction, petrifaction, proaction, protraction, putrefaction, redaction, retroaction, satisfaction, stupefaction, subtraction, traction, transaction, tumefaction, vitrifaction •expansion, mansion, scansion, stanchion •sanction •caption, contraption •harshen, Martian •cession, discretion, freshen, session •abjection, affection, circumspection, collection, complexion, confection, connection, convection, correction, defection, deflection, dejection, detection, direction, ejection, election, erection, genuflection, imperfection, infection, inflection, injection, inspection, insurrection, interconnection, interjection, intersection, introspection, lection, misdirection, objection, perfection, predilection, projection, protection, refection, reflection, rejection, resurrection, retrospection, section, selection, subjection, transection, vivisection •exemption, pre-emption, redemption •abstention, apprehension, ascension, attention, circumvention, comprehension, condescension, contention, contravention, convention, declension, detention, dimension, dissension, extension, gentian, hypertension, hypotension, intention, intervention, invention, mention, misapprehension, obtention, pension, prehension, prevention, recension, retention, subvention, supervention, suspension, tension •conception, contraception, deception, exception, inception, interception, misconception, perception, reception •Übermenschen • subsection •ablation, aeration, agnation, Alsatian, Amerasian, Asian, aviation, cetacean, citation, conation, creation, Croatian, crustacean, curation, Dalmatian, delation, dilation, donation, duration, elation, fixation, Galatian, gyration, Haitian, halation, Horatian, ideation, illation, lavation, legation, libation, location, lunation, mutation, natation, nation, negation, notation, nutation, oblation, oration, ovation, potation, relation, rogation, rotation, Sarmatian, sedation, Serbo-Croatian, station, taxation, Thracian, vacation, vexation, vocation, zonation •accretion, Capetian, completion, concretion, deletion, depletion, Diocletian, excretion, Grecian, Helvetian, repletion, Rhodesian, secretion, suppletion, Tahitian, venetian •academician, addition, aesthetician (US esthetician), ambition, audition, beautician, clinician, coition, cosmetician, diagnostician, dialectician, dietitian, Domitian, edition, electrician, emission, fission, fruition, Hermitian, ignition, linguistician, logician, magician, mathematician, Mauritian, mechanician, metaphysician, mission, monition, mortician, munition, musician, obstetrician, omission, optician, paediatrician (US pediatrician), patrician, petition, Phoenician, physician, politician, position, rhetorician, sedition, statistician, suspicion, tactician, technician, theoretician, Titian, tuition, volition •addiction, affliction, benediction, constriction, conviction, crucifixion, depiction, dereliction, diction, eviction, fiction, friction, infliction, interdiction, jurisdiction, malediction, restriction, transfixion, valediction •distinction, extinction, intinction •ascription, circumscription, conscription, decryption, description, Egyptian, encryption, inscription, misdescription, prescription, subscription, superscription, transcription •proscription •concoction, decoction •adoption, option •abortion, apportion, caution, contortion, distortion, extortion, portion, proportion, retortion, torsion •auction •absorption, sorption •commotion, devotion, emotion, groschen, Laotian, locomotion, lotion, motion, notion, Nova Scotian, ocean, potion, promotion •ablution, absolution, allocution, attribution, circumlocution, circumvolution, Confucian, constitution, contribution, convolution, counter-revolution, destitution, dilution, diminution, distribution, electrocution, elocution, evolution, execution, institution, interlocution, irresolution, Lilliputian, locution, perlocution, persecution, pollution, prosecution, prostitution, restitution, retribution, Rosicrucian, solution, substitution, volution •cushion • resumption • München •pincushion •Belorussian, Prussian, Russian •abduction, conduction, construction, deduction, destruction, eduction, effluxion, induction, instruction, introduction, misconstruction, obstruction, production, reduction, ruction, seduction, suction, underproduction •avulsion, compulsion, convulsion, emulsion, expulsion, impulsion, propulsion, repulsion, revulsion •assumption, consumption, gumption, presumption •luncheon, scuncheon, truncheon •compunction, conjunction, dysfunction, expunction, function, junction, malfunction, multifunction, unction •abruption, corruption, disruption, eruption, interruption •T-junction • liposuction •animadversion, aspersion, assertion, aversion, Cistercian, coercion, conversion, desertion, disconcertion, dispersion, diversion, emersion, excursion, exertion, extroversion, immersion, incursion, insertion, interspersion, introversion, Persian, perversion, submersion, subversion, tertian, version •excerption

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