Dictionary Definition



1 a constitutional system of government (usually with a written constitution)
2 advocacy of a system of government according to constitutional principles

Extensive Definition

constitutionalism- n -s 1: the doctrine or system of government in which the governing power is limited by enforceable rules of law, and concentration of power is limited by various checks and balances so that the basic rights of individuals and groups are protected 2: adherence to the principals of constitutionalism (Webster's Third New International Dictionary (unabridged))
The term Constitutionalism refers to the position or practice that government be limited by a constitution, usually written. The document may specify its relation to statutes, treaties, executive and judicial actions, and the constitutions or laws of regional jurisdictions. The term may also refer to a movement or effort to enforce such a legal order, usually called constitutional compliance. Constitutionalism is also concerned with the principles of constitutional design, which includes the principle that the field of public action be partitioned between delegated powers to the government and the rights of individuals, each of which is a restriction of the other, and that no powers be delegated that are beyond the competence of government.


United States

In the United States, a constitutionalist is a term referring to someone who advocates strict adherence to the U.S. Constitution, and the term is often synonymous with originalism. Constitutionalists are also called constitutional conservatives in the United States.

Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth

The Constitution of May 3, 1791 is generally recognized as Europe's first and the world's second modern codified national constitution, following the 1787–90 ratification of the United States Constitution. It was in effect for only a year.
The May 3rd Constitution was designed to redress long-standing political defects of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth and its traditional system of "Golden Liberty". The Constitution introduced political equality between townspeople and nobility (szlachta) and placed the peasants under the protection of the government,[4] thus mitigating the worst abuses of serfdom.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom is perhaps the best instance of constitutionalism in a country that does not have a written constitution. A variety of developments in seventeenth-century England, including "the protracted struggle for power between king and Parliament was accompanied by an efflourescence of political ideas in which the concept of countervailing powers was clearly defined," led to a well-developed polity with multiple governmental and private institutions that counter the power of the state.
Constitutionalist was also a label used by some Independent candidates in UK general elections in the early 1920s. Most of the candidates were former Liberal Party members, and many of them joined the Conservative Party soon after being elected. The best known Constitutionalist candidate was Winston Churchill in the 1924 UK general election. (See the Constitution of the United Kingdom.)

Dominican Republic

After the democratically elected government of president Juan Bosch in the Dominican Republic was deposed, the Constitutionalist movement was born in the country. As opposed to said movement, the Anticonstitutionalist movement was also born. Juan Bosch had to depart to Puerto Rico after he was deposed. His first leader was Colonel Rafael Tomás Fernández Domínguez, and he wanted Bosch to come back to power once again. Colonel Fernández Domínguez was exiled to Puerto Rico where Bosch was. The Constitutionalists had a new leader: Colonel Francisco Alberto Caamaño Deñó.

Other countries

In 1820 Constitutionalist revolutions occurred in Portugal and the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. In 1906, constitutionalism was introduced in Iran.

External links and references

See also

constitutionalism in Bulgarian: Конституционализъм
constitutionalism in German: Konstitutionalismus
constitutionalism in Persian: مشروطیت (حکومت)
constitutionalism in Latvian: Konstitucionālisms
constitutionalism in Japanese: 立憲主義
constitutionalism in Portuguese: Constitucionalismo
constitutionalism in Slovak: Konštitucionalizmus
constitutionalism in Swedish: Konstitutionalism
constitutionalism in Chinese: 宪政
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