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003 The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution.

3. The idea of self-government is in the first three words of the Constitution.
What are these words?
Answer: We the People

The idea behind the words “We the people” is one of the most important ones in a democracy. A democracy is a government where the citizens (the people who are part of a country) vote for and elect (or choose) the people who will govern (or lead and make decisions for) them. The United States has a representative democracy, which means that citizens vote for people who then represent them in the government, making laws and decisions that reflect (or are the same as) what the citizens want.

These first three words of the Constitution, “We the people,” also tell us about the main difference between the United States and the European countries that most of the United States’ first citizens came from. Back in the 1700s, countries like England and France, where many of the first Americans came from, were ruled by a monarch (or a king). These monarchs usually inherited their power (or received it because one of their relatives had been a ruler or a king and then died) and often made decisions that their citizens did not like. One of the reasons that the American colonists (or the people who moved to the new country) fought the Revolutionary War to get their independence from Great Britain was because the colonists felt that the English king, George III, was treating them badly. Americans said that they were fighting the Revolutionary War for the right to self-government, or to have the ability to create their own government and elect their own officials or leaders.

The authors (or writers) of the Constitution were not writing it for just themselves. The writers of the Constitution wrote it on behalf of (or in the name of) all
Americans. This is because they believed that for a government to be fair, it would have to be made by the people (that is, elected by citizens) and for the people, meaning doing things for the good of all citizens, not just a few.


citizen – a person who is part of a country; a person who belongs to a country
* If you want to work in the U.S. government, you must be a U.S. citizen.

to elect – to select or choose a person to work in a government job
* The mayor was elected with 62% of the votes.

to govern – to lead and make decisions for a group of people
* Russia used to be governed by a tsar and now it is governed by a president.

representative democracy – a type of government in which citizens vote for people who represent them in the government, usually making laws and decisions that the citizens want
* In a representative democracy, citizens can call their representatives to tell them how they would like them to vote.

monarch – a king or queen
* How long was King Henry I the monarch of England?

to inherit – to receive something when a relative dies
* Isabelle inherited $35,000 when her grandfather died.

colonist – a person who lives in an area of land that belongs to a country that is far away
* The first colonists who came to North America from Europe had to work very hard to build farms, towns, and cities.

self-government – the ability of a group of people to create their own government and decide who will represent them in that government
* Native Americans had to fight for self-government for many years.

on behalf of (someone) – in the name of someone; doing something for someone else or because someone else has asked one to
* I'd like to accept this award on behalf of Dr. Holmes who couldn't come to the ceremony tonight.