For the average citizen in the United States today, the following question--"Where can I find the complete text of the U.S. Constitution?"--posed to a librarian at any library in the country will generally yield one of three answers: The encyclopedia, the almanac, or one of the various publications put out by either the State or United States Government.
None of the above sources contains an accurate copy of the text of the U.S. Constitution. It will not be found in your favorite encyclopedia nor in the latest almanac. You will not even find one in a government publication.
The most popular answer given by reference librarians is the encyclopedia. This may prove very unprofitable to the unsuspecting student or citizen.
The primary problem with most of the printed editions of the Constitution in circulation today is that they contain many errors in spelling, capitalization and punctuation. When the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution, they capitalized many words for a specific reason. For the most part it was a custom at the time to capitalize nouns. Almost all of the nouns in the original Constitution are capitalized, yet many printed editions of the Constitution published today have no words capitalized except those beginning a sentence, and proper nouns.
To overcome the notion that not capitalizing the words correctly is trivial and has no impact on the meaning of the text, the unsuspecting citizen is directed to the first paragraph of Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. The word "to" is used twice. The first time it reads "To" and the second time "to". Do you know why? In this particular clause, the first "To" denotes a power granted to Congress: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes..." The second "to" denotes a purpose: "The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare..." The purpose of laying taxes is to pay the Debts, etc. Paying the Debts is not, in itself, a power.
What happens when the "to" is not capitalized in both instances? It creates the impression in the reader's mind that the second "to" as well as the first "To" grants a power to Congress.
Did you know that there is a preamble to the Bill of Rights? It is difficult to find in any printed edition of the Constitution today. Almost all editions of the Constitution contain only the last paragraph of the preamble while omitting the first two. Some editions contain the first paragraph, and some others omit the preamble altogether.
The complete and definitive edition of the Constitution of the United States of America, which features all original spelling, capitalization and punctuation, the complete preamble of the Bill of Rights and informative appendix is available from The Institute for Constitutional Research.
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The Constitution of the United States of America: The Definitive Edition in handy pocket size is available at the following prices:
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"In questions of power, then, let no more be said of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." -- Thomas Jefferson