Constitution

Constitution of the Year XII (First French Republic)
Constitution of the Kingdom of Naples in 1848.
Detail from Hammurabi's stele shows him receiving the laws of Babylon from the seated sun deity.
Diagram illustrating the classification of constitutions by Aristotle.
Third volume of the compilation of Catalan Constitutions of 1585
The Cossack Constitution of Pylyp Orlyk, 1710.
A painting depicting George Washington at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 signing of the U.S. Constitution
Constitution of May 3, 1791 (painting by Jan Matejko, 1891). Polish King Stanisław August (left, in regal ermine-trimmed cloak), enters St. John's Cathedral, where Sejm deputies will swear to uphold the new Constitution; in background, Warsaw's Royal Castle, where the Constitution has just been adopted.
Presidential copy of the Russian Constitution.
Magna Carta
United States Constitution

Aggregate of fundamental principles or established precedents that constitute the legal basis of a polity, organisation or other type of entity and commonly determine how that entity is to be governed.

- Constitution
Constitution of the Year XII (First French Republic)

83 related topics

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John Locke

Separation of powers

Separation of powers refers to the division of a state's government into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches.

Separation of powers refers to the division of a state's government into branches, each with separate, independent powers and responsibilities, so that the powers of one branch are not in conflict with those of the other branches.

John Locke
Montesquieu
George Washington at Constitutional Convention of 1787, signing of U.S. Constitution

Constitutions with a high degree of separation of powers are found worldwide.

Page one of the officially engrossed copy of the Constitution signed by delegates. A print run of 500 copies of the final version preceded this copy.

Constitution of the United States

Supreme law of the United States of America.

Supreme law of the United States of America.

Page one of the officially engrossed copy of the Constitution signed by delegates. A print run of 500 copies of the final version preceded this copy.
Signing of the Constitution, September 17, 1787 (1940 by Howard Chandler Christy)
Dates the 13 states ratified the Constitution
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"We the People" in an original edition
Closing endorsement section of the United States Constitution
United States Bill of Rights
Currently housed in the National Archives.
John Jay, 1789–1795
John Marshall, 1801–1835
Salmon P. Chase {{refn|group= lower-alpha|The Chase Court, 1864–1873, in 1865 were Salmon P. Chase (chief Justice); Hon. Nathan Clifford, Maine; Stephen J. Field, Justice Supreme Court, U.S.; Hon. Samuel F. Miller, U.S. Supreme Court; Hon. Noah H. Swayne, Justice Supreme Court, U.S.; Judge Morrison R. Waite}}
William Howard Taft {{refn|group= lower-alpha|The Taft Court, 1921–1930, in 1925 were James Clark McReynolds, Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., William Howard Taft (chief justice), Willis Van Devanter, Louis Brandeis. Edward Sanford, George Sutherland, Pierce Butler, Harlan Fiske Stone}}
Earl Warren {{refn|group= lower-alpha|The Warren Court, 1953–1969, in 1963 were Felix Frankfurter; Hugo Black; Earl Warren (chief justice); Stanley Reed; William O. Douglas. Tom Clark; Robert H. Jackson; Harold Burton; Sherman Minton}}
William Rehnquist {{refn|group= lower-alpha|The Rehnquist Court, 1986–2005.}}
José Rizal
Sun Yat-sen

It superseded the Articles of Confederation, the nation's first constitution.

A person casts their vote in the second round of the 2007 French presidential election.

Democracy

Form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to choose governing officials to do so ("representative democracy").

Form of government in which the people have the authority to deliberate and decide legislation ("direct democracy"), or to choose governing officials to do so ("representative democracy").

A person casts their vote in the second round of the 2007 French presidential election.
Democracy's de facto status in the world as of 2020, according to Democracy Index by The Economist
Democracy's de jure status in the world as of 2020; only Saudi Arabia, Oman, the UAE, Qatar, Brunei, Afghanistan, and the Vatican do not claim to be a democracy.
Nineteenth-century painting by Philipp Foltz depicting the Athenian politician Pericles delivering his famous funeral oration in front of the Assembly.
Magna Carta, 1215, England
John Locke expanded on Thomas Hobbes's social contract theory and developed the concept of natural rights, the right to private property and the principle of consent of the governed. His ideas form the ideological basis of liberal democracies today.
Statue of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, in front of the Austrian Parliament Building. Athena has been used as an international symbol of freedom and democracy since at least the late eighteenth century.
The establishment of universal male suffrage in France in 1848 was an important milestone in the history of democracy.
The number of nations 1800–2003 scoring 8 or higher on Polity IV scale, another widely used measure of democracy
Corazon Aquino taking the Oath of Office, becoming the first female president in Asia
Age of democracies at the end of 2015
Meeting of the Grand Committee of the Parliament of Finland in 2008.
Countries autocratizing (red) or democratizing (blue) substantially and significantly (2010–2020). Countries in grey are substantially unchanged.
designated "electoral democracies" in Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2021 survey, covering the year 2020.
A Landsgemeinde (in 2009) of the canton of Glarus, an example of direct democracy in Switzerland
In Switzerland, without needing to register, every citizen receives ballot papers and information brochures for each vote (and can send it back by post). Switzerland has a direct democracy system and votes (and elections) are organised about four times a year; here, to Berne's citizen in November 2008 about 5 national, 2 cantonal, 4 municipal referendums, and 2 elections (government and parliament of the City of Berne) to take care of at the same time.
Queen Elizabeth II, a constitutional monarch
Banner in Hong Kong asking for democracy, August 2019

In the common variant of liberal democracy, the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority—usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech or freedom of association.

Palace of Westminster in February 2007

Legislature

Assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city.

Assembly with the authority to make laws for a political entity such as a country or city.

Palace of Westminster in February 2007
Map showing the terminology for each country's national legislature
The Congress of the Republic of Peru, the country's national legislature, meets in the Legislative Palace in 2010
The British House of Commons, its lower house
The German Bundestag, its theoretical lower house
The Australian Senate, its upper house

Some political systems follow the principle of legislative supremacy, which holds that the legislature is the supreme branch of government and cannot be bound by other institutions, such as the judicial branch or a written constitution.

The three constitutional monarchs of the Scandinavian kingdoms of Sweden, Norway & Denmark gathered in November 1917 in Oslo.
From left to right: Gustaf V, Haakon VII & Christian X.

Constitutional monarchy

Form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises their authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding.

Form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises their authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding.

The three constitutional monarchs of the Scandinavian kingdoms of Sweden, Norway & Denmark gathered in November 1917 in Oslo.
From left to right: Gustaf V, Haakon VII & Christian X.
A meeting in the Japanese privy council in 1946 led by emperor Hirohito.

Constitutional monarchy may refer to a system in which the monarch acts as a non-party political head of state under the constitution, whether written or unwritten.

World administrative levels

Government

System or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state.

System or group of people governing an organized community, generally a state.

World administrative levels
Map of European nations coloured by percentage of vote governing party got in last election as of 2022

In many countries, the government has a kind of constitution, a statement of its governing principles and philosophy.

Prime ministers of the Nordic and Baltic countries in 2014. From left: Erna Solberg, Norway; Algirdas Butkevičius, Lithuania; Laimdota Straujuma, Latvia; Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Iceland; Alexander Stubb, Finland; Anne Sulling, Estonia (trade minister); Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark; Stefan Löfven, Sweden.

Prime minister

Head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system.

Head of the cabinet and the leader of the ministers in the executive branch of government, often in a parliamentary or semi-presidential system.

Prime ministers of the Nordic and Baltic countries in 2014. From left: Erna Solberg, Norway; Algirdas Butkevičius, Lithuania; Laimdota Straujuma, Latvia; Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Iceland; Alexander Stubb, Finland; Anne Sulling, Estonia (trade minister); Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark; Stefan Löfven, Sweden.
Narendra Modi, The Prime Minister of India
The prime ministers of five members of the Commonwealth of Nations at the 1944 Commonwealth Prime Ministers' Conference.
Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964), the first Prime minister of India
John A. Macdonald (1815–1891), first Canadian Prime Minister.
Sirimavo Bandaranaike (1916–2000), former Prime Minister of Sri Lanka and the first female head of government
British prime minister William Pitt (1759–1806), the youngest head of government at the age of 24.
Countries with prime ministers (blue) and those that formerly had that position (dark red + Mexico).

(Some constitutional experts have questioned whether this process is actually in keeping with the provisions of the Irish constitution, which appear to suggest that a taoiseach should remain in office, without the requirement of a renomination, unless s/he has clearly lost the general election.) The position of prime minister is normally chosen from the political party that commands majority of seats in the lower house of parliament.

Constitution of the Year XII (First French Republic)

Entrenched clause

Constitution of the Year XII (First French Republic)

An entrenched clause or entrenchment clause of a basic law or constitution is a provision that makes certain amendments either more difficult or impossible to pass, making such amendments invalid.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.

Law

System of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate.

System of rules that are created and are enforceable by social or governmental institutions to regulate behavior, with its precise definition a matter of longstanding debate.

Iustitia ("Lady Justice") is a symbolic personification of the coercive power of a tribunal: a sword representing state authority, scales representing an objective standard and a blindfold indicating that justice should be impartial.
Classic symbol of law in heraldry.
"The Law" sculpture at interior of the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland.
Bentham's utilitarian theories remained dominant in law until the 20th century.
King Hammurabi is revealed the code of laws by the Mesopotamian sun god Shamash, also revered as the god of justice.
The Constitution of India is the longest written constitution for a country, containing 444 articles, 12 schedules, numerous amendments and 117,369 words.
Colour-coded map of the legal systems around the world, showing civil, common law, religious, customary and mixed legal systems. Common law systems are shaded pink, and civil law systems are shaded blue/turquoise.
Emperor Justinian (527–565) of the Byzantine Empire who ordered the codification of Corpus Juris Civilis.
First page of the 1804 edition of the Napoleonic Code.
King John of England signs Magna Carta.
A trial in the Ottoman Empire, 1879, when religious law applied under the Mecelle.
The Chamber of the House of Representatives, the lower house in the National Diet of Japan.
The G20 meetings are composed of representatives of each country's executive branch.
Officers of the South African Police Service in Johannesburg, 2010.
The mandarins were powerful bureaucrats in imperial China (photograph shows a Qing dynasty official with mandarin square visible).
In civil law systems such as those of Italy, France, Germany, Spain and Greece, there is a distinct category of notary, a legally trained public official, compensated by the parties to a transaction. This is a 16th-century painting of such a notary by Flemish painter Quentin Massys.
A march in Washington, D.C., during the civil rights movement in 1963.
Providing a constitution for public international law, the United Nations system was agreed during World War II.
The Italian lawyer Sir Alberico Gentili, the Father of international law.
The French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.
A depiction of a 17th-century criminal trial, for witchcraft in Salem.
The famous Carbolic Smoke Ball advertisement to cure influenza was held to be a unilateral contract.
The "McLibel case" was the longest-running case in UK history. It involved publishing a pamphlet that criticised McDonald's restaurants.
A painting of the South Sea Bubble, one of the world's first ever speculations and crashes, led to strict regulation on share trading.
The Court of Chancery, London, England, early 19th century.
A trade union protest by UNISON while on strike.
The New York Stock Exchange trading floor after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, before tougher banking regulation was introduced.
Richard Posner, one of the Chicago School, until 2014 ran a blog with Bank of Sweden Prize winning economist Gary Becker.
Max Weber in 1917, Weber began his career as a lawyer, and is regarded as one of the founders of sociology and sociology of law.

The creation of laws themselves may be influenced by a constitution, written or tacit, and the rights encoded therein.

The British Houses of Parliament are situated within the Palace of Westminster, in London

Westminster system

Type of parliamentary government that incorporates a series of procedures for operating a legislature.

Type of parliamentary government that incorporates a series of procedures for operating a legislature.

The British Houses of Parliament are situated within the Palace of Westminster, in London
Canadian Parliament at night
The Sansad Bhavan (Parliament House) building in New Delhi, India
Knesset Building, Jerusalem
The Australian Senate

Unlike the uncodified British constitution, most countries that use the Westminster system have codified the system, at least in part, in a written constitution.