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World’s Oldest Constitutions World’s Oldest Constitutions

Bronze medal Reporter Adv. Aneeta Posted 25 Oct 2020
World’s Oldest Constitutions

A Constitution is defined as “…the basic principles and laws of a nation, state, or social group that determine the powers and duties of the government and guarantee certain rights to the people in it…”

This implies that the nation or state possessing a Constitution is a Republic. The Constitution then is the outcome of the discussions and negotiations that form the Republic or democratic state.

Have you ever wondered which are the oldest Constitutions? Here are some of the oldest Constitutions around the world.

1. San Marino (October 1600)

The Republic of San Marino is said to have the oldest Constitution in the world which came into effect 8th October 1600. The Constitution is a series of six books written in Latin known as “The Statutes of 1600.” It is considered the oldest surviving national constitution in the world. The new system was an update on the Statuti Comunali (Town Statutes) which had served San Marino from about 1300.

2. United States (June 1788)

The United States Constitution is one of the oldest constitutions in the world. It has seven Articles, a preamble, and a closing endorsement. The initial ratification was in June 1788 and came into force in1789.   James Madison helped to write the Constitution of Virginia which was used as the basis of the US Constitution.  Therefore he is known as the father of the US Constitution.

3. Constitution of Norway (May 1814)

Norway became its own sovereign state with the adoption of the Norwegian Constitution. This Constitution followed after 434 years of a Danish-Norwegian monarchical union. The ideals of this Constitution include the sovereignty of the people, human rights, and separation of powers.

4. Belgium (February 1831)

The Constitution of Belgium was adopted by its National Congress on the 7th of February, 1831.  A significant amendment to the Constitution was made on the 14th of July, 1993. This amendment transitioned Belgium's form of government from that of a Constitutional monarchy to that of a Federal state. The most recent amendments to the Belgian Constitution were made in 2012.

5.  Constitution of Denmark (June 1849)

The Danish Constitution came into effect on the 5th of June, 1849. Demark was established as a constitutional monarchy. This Constitution lays out the basis of Denmark’s government and also explains the rights of citizens, including freedom of religion and speech. There is a section detailing the country’s military service, which is compulsory.

As one of the oldest Constitutions in the world, Denmark’s Constitution only has a few amendments. The original Constitution had 100 Sections, which have been amended down to 89 Sections.

6. Argentina (May 1853)

The Constitution of Argentina has been amended or newly created six times. The first Constitution of this Latin American country came into effect on May 1, 1853. Over the next several decades, starting in 1860, the Constitution underwent a series of Amendments, with the final changes to date coming into force 24th of August, 1994.

The Constitution establishes Argentina as the Federal Republic and defines the role of its Federal and local governments and their respective constituent parts. However, several military coups have disrupted the Constitutional government, only to have popular agitation create a return to Constitutional rule each time.

7. Constitution of Canada (July 1867)

The Constitution of Canada came into being through the Constitution Act, 1867. This established Canada as still under the monarchy of  the United Kingdom (“U.K.”)

From 1867 to 1982, the UK could technically make changes to the Canadian Constitution at will, but after the passage of the Constitution Act, 1982, changes to the Constitution only occur in Canada.

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