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Sources of a Constitution

Sources of a Constitution

Recall that a constitution can be defined as the rules, regulations, customs and conventions according to which a country is governed. A constitution may be written or unwritten. It is called a written constitution when all the laws are codified into a single document but where it is made up mainly of conventions and customs with a few written aspects such as the British constitution, then it is called an unwritten constitution. Let’s look at some of the sources of constitutions:

1. Opinions of political and constitutional writers

Another source of a country’s constitution is the writings of great political thinkers. Concepts such as Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, Rule of Law, Socialism, Capitalism etc, were proposed by great writers on politics. The writings of Karl Marx, for example, influenced the constitution of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic.

2. Constitutions of other countries

Framers of a country’s constitution may study the constitution of other countries and pick up best practices which are then incorporated into the new constitution. It is believed that parts of the 1960 Constitution of Ghana were derived from the content of the American, French and British Constitutions. 

3. Customs and conventions

The customs and practices of the people can also be the source of a constitution. These are the portions of the constitution that have not been written down but which over the years have been accepted as practices under the constitution.

4. Previous constitutions

Also, previous constitutions serve as the source of a country’s new constitution. In coming out with a new constitution after a previous one has failed or after a long period of military rule, the earlier constitution is studied and aspects that are relevant are incorporated into the new one. It is believed that 1960 constitution of the republic of Ghana, influenced some of the provisions of the 1969 constitution. 

5. Decisions of a constituent Assembly

Another source of a constitution is the decision of a Constituent Assembly that has been put together to draft a constitution for a country. Proposals are forwarded to the constituent assembly from various quarters of the country and these proposals are thoroughly discussed and decisions arrived at as to what to include and what not to include in the proposed constitution.

6. Judicial Precedents

These are rulings of the courts that have found their ways into the constitution. In constitutional cases, especially, whenever a judiciary rules on a matter before it, that then becomes the new law. That decision is used as the bases of another decision in the future, especially where the cases are similar.

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