10 Oldest Constitutions In The World

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There is a lot of talk about the US Constitution these days, mostly thanks to our divided political climate. However, what most people don’t realize is that there are constitutions in most of countries out there.

Though there are certainly people out there who believe that constitutions should be modernized, there are plenty out there that are hundreds of years old. They are still being used today and legally binding. The question you might be wondering is this: Which constitution is the oldest? The answer might surprise you! But first, here are a few other very old constitutions:

10. The Constitution of Australia

Date:  January 1, 1901
Type of Government:  Parliamentary Democracy Under a Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: Andrew Inglis Clark, John Quick, Charles Kingston, Sir Richard Baker
Status: Amended

The Constitution of Australia photo source: wikimedia

The Constitution of Australia is made of several documents. Originally, the Constitution of Australia gave the United Kingdom power to change the laws. In 1986, Queen Elizabeth II signed the Australia Act 1986, which ensured that the UK has no legal ties to Australia.

Though Australia is an independent country that makes its own laws and decisions, Queen Elizabeth II remains the Head of State. She appoints a Governor-General to represent her in the Australian government, but she doesn’t have any significant power over the country.

9. Constitution of Tonga

Date:  November 4, 1875
Type of Government:  Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: King George Tupou I
Status: Amended

Constitution of Tongaphoto source: wikimedia

If you don’t know, Tonga is an island state in Polynesia that consists of more than 160 islands, but only 39 of those are inhabited. The country is a constitutional monarchy, and has the ninth oldest constitution in the world.

The Tongan constitution, like the US constitution, was written to create a balance between the legislative, executive, and judiciary parts of the government. Each year, the constitution is celebrated throughout the land on Constitution Day. Tonga has a king, and he wields power through a Cabinet, and to keep that in check, there is alsd of State. She appoints a Governor-General to represent her in the Australian government, but she doesn’t have any significant power over the country.

8. Constitution of Luxembourg

Date:  October 17, 1868
Type of Government:  Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: William III, Grand Duke of Luxembourg
Status: Amended

Constitution of Luxembourg photo source: wikimedia

The Constitution of Luxembourg is the set of laws that people of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg follow. This is a modern constitution, but it dates back to 1868 and has been amended several times over the years.

This constitution brought in radical changes in the country, and technically, you can call this constitution an amendment of the original constitution of the country. The original constitution was created in 1841. There are 121 articles in this constitution, and it is divided into 13 different chapters.

7. Constitution of Canada

Date:  July 1, 1867
Type of Government:  Federal Parliamentary Democracy Under a Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: Parliament of the United Kingdom
Status: Amended

Constitution of Canada photo source: wikimedia

The Constitution of Canada, which was creased due to the Constitution Act, 1867, established Canada as patriated from the UK. 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.

One of the most interesting things about Canada is that it’s a bijural country, or one that has both a civil and common law system. This is thanks to Quebec, where private law is governed by civil law, not common law, which is applied in all other provinces. This means that every law passed in Canada must take both into account, and must print laws in both English and French.

6. Constitution of Argentina

Date:  May 1, 1853
Type of Government:  Presidential Republic
Key People: Juan Bautista Alberdi
Status: Amended

Constitution of Argentina photo source: wikimedia

The Constitution of Argentina is the main legal document of which all laws are based in the country. Drafted primarily by Juan Bautista Alberdi, he based much of the Argentinian constitution on the U.S. Constitution. This constitution has been reformed six times.

There are four parts to the Argentinian constitution and the rights of the people are divided into four different categories: Civil, Patrimonial, Politic, and Social. Like similar governments, Argentina has three branches of government: Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. There is also a Public Ministry that is an independent body.

5. Constitution of Denmark

Date:  June 5, 1849
Type of Government:  Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: King Frederick VII
Status: Amended

Constitution of Denmark photo source: thedanishparliament.dk

The Constitution of Denmark forms part of the laws of the Kingdom of Denmark, but not all, as the country is also ruled by Royal Law. Not only does the constitution affect the Kingdom of Denmark, but also the Faroe Islands and Greenland. Like most constitutions, this one lays out the basis of Denmark’s government, and also explains the rights of citizens, including freedoms of religion and speech. There is also information about 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 has been amended down to 89 sections.

4. Constitution of Belgium

Date:  February 7, 1831
Type of Government:  Federal Parliamentary Democracy/Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: King Leopold I of Belgium
Status: Amended

Constitution of Belgium photo source: Wikipedia Commons

The Constitution of Belgium is the main law of Belgium, and it was put into effect by the National Congress in February of 1831. At that time, Belgium declared independence from the Kingdom of the Netherlands and established itself as a constitutional monarchy under King Leopold I.

The constitution of Belgium remained largely unchanged until 1993. At that point, the original one from 1831 was revised and changed significantly. It also changed the government into a federal state with a constitutional monarchy. The last time the Belgian constitution was amended was in 2012.

3. Constitution of the Netherlands

Date:  March 29, 1815
Type of Government:  Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: King William I of the Netherlands
Status: Amended

Constitution of the Netherlands photo source: pinimg.com

The Constitution of the Netherlands is the supreme law of the nation. The original constitution was adopted in 1815, and then it was greatly revised on October 11, 1848. This changed to government to a parliamentary democracy. However, it has been changed many times since then, including in 2002, which was the final time.

The Netherlands’ constitution also contains rights for its citizens, but these were not added until 1983. Currently, the government of the Netherlands is controlled by King Willem-Alexander along with the Prime Minister and the Senate and House of Representatives, which make up Parliament.

2. Constitution of Norway

Date:  May 17, 1814
Type of Government:  Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
Key People: King Christian VIII
Status: Amended

Constitution of Norway photo source: Wikipedia Commons

The Constitution of Norway is the second oldest constitution in the world that is still being used. When it was enacted, most people in the world thought that this was a radical idea, but Crown Prince Christian Frederick had other ideas.

The Norwegian constitution was founded on ideals including the sovereignty of the people, human rights, and separation of power. This constitution established three branches of government, and it has been changed several times.

1. United States Constitution

Date:  June 21, 1788
Type of Government:  Constitutional Federal Republic
Key People: James Madison
Status: Amended

United States Constitution photo source: publicdomainfiles.com

The oldest constitution in the world is the United States Constitution. The US Constitution is made of seven articles, a preamble, and a closing endorsement. In addition, the constitution has a Bill of Rights and several amendments.

The Philadelphia Convention is credited with writing the US Constitution, and James Madison is known as the person who wrote much of the words, simply because he liked to take notes during the meetings of the convention. He also helped to write the constitution for Virginia, which was used as the basis of the US Constitution. Thus, he is known as the “Father of the Constitution.”

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There are 10 comments

  1. Miguel Angel Garcia Galindo |

    Hi, good list but you are also missing Spain (aside from some others I’ve read in the comments) Maybe you could extend the list to the 20 oldest? Thanks!

  2. I beleive The Constitution of 3rd May 1791, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth was second in the World and a first of its kind in Europe. 3rd of May is a national holiday in both Poland and Lithuania today celebrating the historical act.


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