Skip to Main Content

Introduction to Law

This guide provides a practical overview to the legal resources at the Highline library and available over the web.

Constitution: Definition

For a country or state, a constitution can be defined as the system of fundamental laws and principles that prescribes the nature, functions, and limits of a government or another institution. The word “constitution” is given to the document in which such a system is recorded.


The United States Constitution is arranged by Preamble, Articles, and Amendments. The Preamble establishes the purpose of the Constitution. The seven Articles establish the three branches of government (Legislative, Executive, and Judicial) and their respective powers. The Amendments are additions to the original Constitution (1787). There are 27 amendments at this time, with the first ten amendments being known as the “Bill of Rights.”

Preamble to the Constitution of the United States
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

The Washington State Constitution (1889) consists of a Preamble and Articles establishing the structure and purpose of the Washington State government. Changes to the Washington State Constitution over the years, instead of being listed as separate amendments, are folded into its 32 articles.

Preamble to the Washington State Constitution
We, the people of the State of Washington, grateful to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe for our liberties, do ordain this constitution.

Citing a Constitution