Constitutional FAQ Answer #132 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

Constitutional FAQ Answer #132

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Q132. “I have a friend who is taking an American
Government course presently. The professor told the class this past week that
the U.S. Constitution was plagiarized completely. Is there any validity to this

A. The Constitution was written by some of the same people who wrote some of
the constitutions of the various states, and it makes some sense that they would
pull pieces of those that were usable. Many of the framers were also members of
Congress and had access to many of the documents that Congress produced, allowed
them to draw from them as well. Plagiarized is a strong word today, with
negative connotations.

According to The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution of the
United States
by Pauline Maier, Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was largely based on prior
works, specifically Virginia’s revolutionary constitution and the Virginia Virginia Declaration of Rights. Jefferson has worked on
the former and George Mason on the latter. According to Maier, this use of
existing material was entirely within the ethical standards of the day, and, in
fact, encouraged. It is little wonder that parts of the new Constitution would
similarly be based on prior work.

I think the simpler, and closer to the truth, thing to say is that parts of
the Constitution were based on other governmental documents familiar to the

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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