CONSTITUTION (Lat. ronstitutio, a settle ment of a controversy; then a decree: from con stiturre, to cause to stand, to establish, from con- + slat sere, to erect. to establish). Formerly used of any law promulgated by sovereign au thority. In the Roman Empire, the imperial leg islation, decreed and put into effect by the will of the Emperor, was ,comprehensively described by the term constitutioncs. These included re scripts, or answers to questions or petitions; mandates, or instructions to officials, administra tive and judicial: dcracs, or judgments on causes brought before him, directly or on appeal; and edicts, or general proclamations. See Gtvu. LAW.
So in early English law. constitution sig,ni tied any statute, though it was not commonly employed except with reference to certain impor tant legislation affecting the relations of the State and the Church. Thus, the Constitutions of Clarendon were laws enacted in the reign of Henry II. at a Parliament held at Clarendon in 1164, restricting time power of the clergy, limiting the right of appeal to the Pope, and virtually making the King the supreme head of the Church in England.
At the present time. however, the term is used in the more restricted sense of the fundamental law of a State, society, or corporation, public or private. More specifically, the Constitution of a State or society is the body of legal rules by vir tue of which it is organized and governed, and which determines its legal relations to other States and societies and to its own members. This Constitution may be created by the political or other body whose powers it defines and regu lates, or by the individuals composing it and from whom its powers are derived, or it may be the creation of an external authority to which it is subject. Examples of the last form of consti tution arc afforded by the case of the ordinary private corporation. whose fundamental law is prescribed by the State to which it owes its exist ence; by municipal corporations, such as cities and villages, which derive their authority from their charters of incorporation and from the municipal law of the State to which they belong; and by subject States, territories, or colonies, whose constitutions are to be looked for in the legislation of the parent or sovereign State. The
constitutions of Canada, of Hawaii, of Porto Rico, and to a certain extent that of the Repub lic of Cuba, belong to this class—the act of the American Congress, under the authority and the limitations of which the Cuban Constitution was recently enacted, being in effect a part thereof.
Examples of the second form of fundamental law exist, in the political sphere, in popular con stitutions like those of the United States, of the several States of the American Union, of the French Republic., and of Switzerland; and, in the domain of private law, by the rules adopted by the stockholders of corporations and volun tary associations for the conduct of their affairs by their boards of directors and other officers.
The first type of constitution, in which the fundamental law is the creation of the powers wielding the sovereign authority of the State, is to be found in all of the monarchical States of Europe which have adopted, in whole or in part, a constitutional form of government. The free Constitution of England, so popular in character and so largely the produet of custom, in a strict legal sense, belongs in this category as clearly as does the government of the Czar, the autocratic character of which has been modified by imperial concessions. To this class also we must refer the Constitution of the Roman Empire. as well as of the Republic, and of the free commonwealths of ancient Greece. It is to this form of constitution, because it is alterable by the ordinary legisla tive authority of the State. that Mr. Bryce ap plies the term 'flexible; while consfitAttions of the second and third classes, which are superior to the ordinary law-making power and not capa ble of amendment except by the higher authority which created them, be describes as 'rigid' con stitutions.