Before you can understand what a constitution is and why countries have them, you have to know how a country comes into existence. The most famous document providing information on the origin of the Earth's first countries is the Pentateuch, which is the English name for the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. To Jewish people the first five books of the Hebrew Bible are known as the Torah, and are claimed to have been written by God and then handed to Moses who then gave them to the Jewish people. In English the names of the books that make up the Pentateuch are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.
If you believe that the Pentateuch has no credibility, then you are left with no information on how the first countries came into existence except the theories put forth by people who have tried to research ancient times. Without putting too fine a point on it, that research consists of examining fragments of scraps of information in languages no-one speaks reads or writes; and in looking at fragments of scraps that have symbols on them, which symbols have been unknown for thousands of years; it also involves looking at portions of broken buildings that ceased to be used so long ago that they became completely buried.
The above reference to languages that no-one speaks reads or writes is not a reference to Latin or ancient Greek, which are languages that are well understood by people who have studied them. The world's first countries existed thousands of years before the ancient Greek or Latin languages. The fragments of scrapes that people study to try and discover information about the Earth's original nations are in long ago lost languages which no-one can decipher with certainty. In addition to the problem of the long lost languages not being fully understood, it is also unknown if what has been found represents a portion of an account, which portion is meaningless without knowing the whole account, or contains false or misleading information which one side wanted people to believe, or was a fictional story which at the time was known to be fiction written solely for entertainment.
However, whether you have confidence in the conclusions of those who research ancient times or confidence in the Pentateuch, or no confidence in any of it, the end result is the same. The conclusions of those who profess a scholarly knowledge of ancient times and the statements in the Pentateuch portion of the Hebrew Bible all tell us that the Earth's original countries simply existed (ie. they were just there).
Those ancient countries that simply existed are professed to have had laws, triers of the law (ie. judges), and a ruling group (usually the equivalent of a king and his underlords). None of those ancient countries had a constitution. Those in power changed the laws as they pleased, and protestors were ignored, imprisoned or killed. The triers of the law reached conclusions at their discretion, with nothing to force them to follow the laws, for they were the triers of the law; what they said the law said was what the law said. Once you understand what a modern constitution is, you will understand that very little has changed.
I know that most people will not believe my above comment, and that their minds will fight all facts and logic to hang onto their disbelief. It is a terrible fact of the human mind that the more it hears something the more it believes that something. It is another terrible fact of the human mind that it is predisposed to believe authority figures. Hence, as you have been told all of your life, by authority figures and by popular opinion, that having a constitution makes a country free and filled with civil rights and freedoms, you believe it. Whatever authority figures tell you, you believe, and the more it is told to you the more deeply you believe it.
That the Earth's first countries and modern countries with constitutions are NOT too different, becomes evident once you discover how our modern countries got here. Before you can know how our modern countries came into being you have to know how the countries between the Earth's original countries and our modern countries came into being and how our modern countries came from those intermediate countries.
Insight into the nature of the peoples that inhabited the countries which came after those original countries can be gotten from the manner in which the subsequent countries came into existence and supplanted the original countries. All accounts that I have read on how one people replaced another people in the owning and occupying of a country (ie. how a geographic area that was once Country "X" became Country "Y") can be summarized as follows. A powerful group (in ancient times it was the equivalent of a king and his underlords; in modern times a Prime Minister and his Cabinet or a President and his Cabinet) gathered together a vast and powerful army. That army then went forth following their national creed, which was, 'what we can kill, capture, rape and steal, is ours'. When they were successful they took over a land that had previously been ruled by other people and they now ruled that land. The new rulers of that geographic area sometimes changed its name and national identity causing a new country to come into existence. That scenario happened century after century and continues to this very day. Historically, to name but a few, there were the Greeks, the Romans, the Spanish. Then in the 17th to 19th centuries the British and the French went forth under their creed of, 'what we can kill, capture, rape and steal, is ours'. In the 20th century the Germans and then the Russians went forth into the world under the law of: 'what we can kill, capture, rape and steal, is ours'. The 21st century has just begun, therefore, I will wait for it to unfold before commenting on it.
If you look into the histories of the Earth's different geographical locations you will discover that what was written above is correct. Go to the library or on the Internet and locate a map of Europe around the year 1000, you will find that most of mid-Europe was the Roman Empire, within which were conquered lands by the names of: Lorraine, Saxony, Bohemia, Alamannia, Bavaria, Caranthia, and many others. You will also discover that in the year 1000 Burgundy was its own very large independent kingdom, and there was an independent kingdom of Leon. In addition, in 1000, Hungary was huge compared to its present day size; and that there was no Switzerland and no Ukraine.
Today where is the Roman Empire ? Where are the kingdoms of: Lorraine, Saxony, Bohemia, Alamannia, Bavaria, Caranthia, Burgundy and Leon ? Where did the Ukraine and Switzerland come from, they weren't countries in the year 1000 ? Did all of those places hold referendums and vote to change their names and to change who ruled them and to change their geographic borders ? NO THAT DID NOT HAPPEN! Foreign armies conquered and reshaped them by force, under the law of 'what we can kill, capture, rape and steal, is ours'.
By the time of Columbus, Hungary had shrunk in geographic area. Did Hungary get wet in the rain and shrink, or did armies take away much of its geographic area ? The Roman Empire had completely disappeared from the map of Europe. An Ottoman Empire now owned and controlled the south east of Europe. The independent kingdoms of Leon and of Burgundy were gone; there now was a Switzerland, and many other changes in who owned and controlled which European geographic areas had taken place by the time of Columbus. That all happened because foreign armies forced the changes; not a single one of those changes happened in a fair and democratic manner.
A European map from the beginning of the 20th century will show you that there were then many countries that did not exist in Columbus's time, some of which countries are called: Finland, Belgium, and Germany (which stretched into parts of what used to be Poland's geographic area). There is no Poland and there is no Ukraine, there is simply a Russia which now owns and controls the geographic areas that used to be Poland and the Ukraine. In addition, a giant Austria - Hungary has come into existence which owns and controls all of the land between (what in the 21st century are) Italy, Romania and Poland.
One hundred years later, in the beginning of the 21st century, the map of Europe has again changed so as to be far different from what it was 100 years earlier.
All of those changes to who owned and controlled which geographic areas of Europe, from 1000 to 2100, happened under the law of 'what an army can kill, capture, rape and steal, belongs to those who control that army'.
Don't take my word for the above facts, look them up.
I have not discussed the ignoble origins of Canada and the United States, as I am certain that all of you know that when the British and French showed up here a few hundred years ago the land was not empty; and that those who once called North America their land soon learned that what the British and French could kill, capture, rape and steal, belonged to the British and French, and not to those to whom it had previously belonged.
How then did it come to pass that modern countries, including Canada and the United States, which came into being under the law of, 'what we can kill, capture, rape and steal is ours', have such a noble thing as a constitution ? Isn't a constitution a guarantee of freedom, civil rights and equality for all ? The answers are that a constitution is NOT a noble thing and that a constitution does NOT guarantee freedom, civil rights and equality for all.
The word "constitution" comes from the Latin word "constituo", which means "to set up" "to establish". Somewhere between the Latin and the English the meaning of the word constitution got sent askew. Having a constitution has come to be associated with a guarantee of freedom, civil rights and equality for all, when in fact it is nothing like that. A 'true constitution' is simply an agreement by which separate geographical locations, each with their own ruling group, voluntarily became associated with each other to form a larger geographical location under a single ruling group. A 'fake constitution' is when a single governing body, in a country that already exists, simply declares a document or a group of documents to be the country's constitution. Fake constitutions also have NO ability to provide freedom, civil rights and equality for all.
Why do I make a distinction between a 'true constitution' and a 'fake constitution' ? What difference does it make if many independent states or provinces all signed an agreement (which they called their constitution) and thus formed into a single country, or if a country decided that it wanted a constitution and declared a document or series of documents to be its constitution ? In reality it makes NO difference to the freedom, civil rights and equality in the country. However it does make a difference to: (i) the division of power between the ruling groups in that country; (ii) the permanence of the executive powers of that country's president, prime minister, governors, premiers, and others with executive powers; and (iii) the permanence of the autonomy within the country of independent geographic regions (ie. provinces, states, etc.).
A true consitution comes into existence when a group of independent geographic regions enter into an agreement to join together to become one country and at the same time, in certain respects, retain their autonomy as independent geographic regions with independent local regional governments that have power over the certain respects in which they wanted to retain their autonomy. People call that agreement the constitution because it is setting up or establishing the country. That agreement (called the constitution) creates a central government (which had not previously existed) and sets out what powers the central government has and what powers the local (usually called provincial or state) governments will retain within their geographic areas; as well it contains many more articles of agreement (ie. constitutional provisions) necessary for the creation and running of a country. In addition, because a true constitution is a multi-party agreement it cannot be changed without the consent of that created central government AND a specified number (usually 50% or more) of the entities that joined together to form the new country.
In other words, if independent states "X", "Y", "Q" and "R" decide that they all want to become one country; they negotiate with each other and all sign an agreement by which the country "X-Y-Q-R" is created. That agreement, which is called the constitution, then creates a central government which has control over the country "X-Y-Q-R", and that agreement allows each of "X", "Y", "Q" and "R", in certain respects, to remain as separately governed geographic areas within the centrally governed country of "X-Y-Q-R". That agreement (ie. the constitution) sets out what types of things the created central government controls, usually the military, taxation, criminal law, and other things which it is desired be mostly or entirely uniform throughout the whole country of "X-Y-Q-R". Each of the state or provincial governments of "X", "Y", "Q" and "R" usually retain the powers to make many laws within their province or state that relate to things like running a business in that geographic area, education in that geographic area, and other things in that geographic area for which it does not matter if there is a uniformity throughout country "X-Y-Q-R". That constitution usually also sets out what the executive powers are of the President or Prime-Minister and of the Governors or Premiers, and of other government positions that have executive powers associated with them. (An executive power means the power to do something without getting the apporoval of any governing body. For example, the president of the United States has the executive power to grant reprieves and pardons to criminals and even to people simply accused of a crime but who have not yet had a trial, without getting the approval from anyone else or from any governing body.) That constitution usually also sets up the most powerful court(s) in the country and gives the provinces or states powers to set up courts within their jurisdiction. That constitution usually has a provision in it which states that it cannot be changed without the consent of the created central government AND the consents of a specified number (usually at least 50%) of the states or provinces. Hence the central government cannot unilaterally change the arrangement between the states X", "Y", "Q" and "R" which caused them to become country "X-Y-Q-R"; and each of the states X", "Y", "Q" and "R", and not even all of the states X", "Y", "Q" and "R", can change the arrangement that caused country "X-Y-Q-R" to come into existence. To change the agreement that caused "X-Y-Q-R" to come into existence (ie. to change the constitution of "X-Y-Q-R"), agreement must be gotten between the central government of "X-Y-Q-R" and the constitutionally specified number of states "X", "Y", "Q" and "R" that are within country "X-Y-Q-R".
Therefore, when you have a real constitution the central government cannot simply decide to reduce the powers of the states or provinces and the states or provinces cannot decide to reduce the power of the central government. With a real constitution the central government cannot reduce or enhance the power of the Prime Minster or the President. With a real constitution no single governing body can make any changes to the fundamental nature of the country or to any parts of the country or to any of the highest offices in the country. With a fake constitution the central government can make fundamental changes to the nature of the country or to any parts of the country or to the highest offices in the country. In other words, a real constitution gives the country some guarantees, a fake constitution gives no guarantees.
A fake constitution is one that can be unilaterally changed at any time by the central government, because it was made by the central government after the country already existed, or it was made in some other way that allows the central government to have complete and absolute control over it. I call that a fake constitution because there is nothing in it that has to be followed, as any or all of it can be changed at any time by the central government. A fake constitution is like a promise a person makes to themself. You can break it whenever you want to break it because there is no-one that has any moral or legal authority to cause you to not break it.
People will talk about customs and conventions that are never broken, and claim them to be "constitutional in nature" or as "creating a constitution by custom and convention". That is not true; it there is nothing stopping that custom or convention from being broken then if you examine history closely enough you will discover that it has sometimes been broken and excuses were made for why it was OK to break it in that instance. In addition, if you discover that it has never been broken you will discover that is because it was meaningless and hence irrelevant to everything that ever happened, or that breaking it was never to the advantage of the central government, and hence they followed it not because they had to but because they wanted to.
The bottom line is, nothing important and meaningful is left as a custom or convention, because it is known that customs and conventions can be broken and will be broken when there is an advantage to breaking them, and hence they are nothing like a real constitution or real law. For example, why don't we have criminal and taxation customs and conventions which people are supposed to follow, but which aren't actually laws that people must follow ? The answer is because those things are important, hence they are not left to custom and convention. People in government are not better than anyone else. If the general population cannot be trusted to simply follow customs and conventions, then the people in government, who were part of that general population before they got elected and will become part of that general population again when they lose at the polls, also cannot be trusted to follow customs and conventions. Hence nothing important is ever left to custom and convention, because they can be broken.
Some of those countries with a fake constitution would respond that they have an independent court system, and should they ever break their declared constitution or change it, then their courts might disallow the change, and hence they are not free to change their constitution, but can only do so if their independent court system allows it, in which case it must have been the correct and legal thing to do.
However, in my opinion, the court system is NOT independent in any country in which:
- the judges are appointed by the government (ie. being a judge is a political appointment); even if a country
has a process through which people must go before they can be appointed as a judge, it is still a political
appointment if every person that gets appointed as a judge has strong personal or family political
- the judge's salaries are decided by and paid for by the government;
- the judge's expense accounts are decided by and paid for by the government;
- the promotion of judges to higher judicial offices is done by the government;
- the judge's offices, court rooms, and support staff are all paid for by the government;
- the judge's vacation time is decided by and paid for by the government; and
- the judge's pensions are decided by and paid for by the government.
There is also the issue of judicial discretion in countries where that discretion allows judges to:
- rule that something is a fact, even if there is NO independent evidence to support that ruling,
- rule that they believe person "A"s testimony and do not believe person "B"s testimony,
even when there is NO independent evidence to support person "A"s testimony, and
- interpret the words of the law and then say what the law says, and that whatever the judge says
the law says is what the law says, even if what the judge says the law says is NOT the same as
the actual written words of the law.
There is also the problem that judges do NOT go out and physically enforce their judgments. The only way a judgment gets enforced is if the government's police, army, sheriff's office, bailiff's office, prison system, etc. enforces that judgment. There is no way that a court can force the government to follow its judgment. Hence the government is free to follow or to ignore any court ruling, and there is nothing anyone in the country can do about it; because it is the government and its agencies that do the enforcing.
In my articles on the Canadian Constitution and on the American Constitution I will explain why a constitution that has great and noble clauses in it granting civil rights, freedom of speech and other good things to the population, in fact does VERY LITTLE toward giving civil rights, freedom of speech and other good things to the population.