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The United States of America vs the United States


The Articles of Confederation, ratified in 178...

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I received a comment elsewhere on this blog that asked for an analysis of the difference between “The United States of America” and “United States”.  I replied as follows:

As I understand it, the word “constitution” signifies a document that originally creates, incorporates or “constitutes” some new entity.  We say “The Constitution of the United States,” but the same text might just as easily have been entitled “The Charter of the United States” or “The Incorporation Papers of the United States”.  As I understand it, the instrument entitled “The Constitution of the United States” is the document that “constituted” the entity named “United States”.

Note that even though a document that performs the function of  “constituting” or creating a new entity, that document need not be expressly named “The Constitution of [That Entity]”.  It could have an name that never used the word “constitution” but still performed the function of “constituting” a new entity.

We’re all familiar with the federal “Constitution”.  There’s a problem with that document.  The author’s never attached an explicit title at the top of that document and so there’s some confusion about its proper name.  Some think that document is properly named “The Constitution of the United States”.  Some say, “The Constitution of The United States of America.”  Others say, “The Constitution for the United States of America”.

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