-8

Was the Constitution of the United States meant to be perpetual?

The Constitution replaced the Articles of Confederation which specifically says is perpetual yet the constitution has no such wording.

The founding fathers had no authority to bind anybody but themselves.

And also it states in the Constitution “ No person except a natural born citizen, or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the office of President” The “at the time of the adoption of this Constitution” leads me to believe they did not want anybody become president that was not a citizen at the time it was adopted. They wanted the people to write a new constitution like they do with the States constitution.

16
  • 3
    Note that the "or a citizen of the United States, at the time of the adoption of this Constitution" bit was added explicitly for the benefit of Alexander Hamilton, who was born in the West Indies. The Constitution has the option to be edited in any way, which adds a philosophical "ship of Theseus" aspect to the question, i.e. after how much change is the Constitution not the constitution?
    – sharur
    Oct 6 at 23:47
  • 3
    "They wanted the people to write a new constitution like they do with the States constitution." - Yes. And that's exactly what they did. Which is why it exists now. I'm not sure what exactly the confusion is, here. Generally speaking, people expect things they make to remain made until action is taken to unmake them, be it a bed, a pizza, an investment, or a nation-state constitution.
    – Nij
    Oct 7 at 0:05
  • 2
    If your question is in the meaning of the citizenship requirement, we already have that answered: law.stackexchange.com/questions/7194 . You appear to have the misconception as that Q&A resolves, separately from whatever this question is about.
    – Nij
    Oct 7 at 0:07
  • 4
    The preamble has a pretty good hint: "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity". Oct 7 at 0:44
  • 1
    @DonutConnection: That is true; however note that it was posted as a comment, rather than an answer (Answers would be posted down below). Also, apparently Hamilton himself wrote the clause (something that I did not know until right now): moglen.law.columbia.edu/twiki/bin/view/AmLegalHist/…. While that does conclusively prove the intent behind its addition, I would hold that to be strong supporting evidence.
    – sharur
    Oct 7 at 1:06
4

Was the Constitution of the United States meant to be perpetual?

Yes, the Constitution of the United States was meant to be perpetual, subject to the amendment procedure contained in the Constitution itself.

There are two possibilities, either it was perpetual, or it was intended to cease to be effective at some point in time that is defined somewhere.

No court or legal scholar has ever seriously suggested that the Constitution had an expiration date. Neither does any legislation ever adopted (apart from the efforts of the former Confederate States to leave the Union without its consent which was repudiated by the U.S. Civil War and related legal and political proceedings).

As Nate Eldredge noted in a comment, the preamble of the United States Constitution states that it was adopted "secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity".

The fact that the Constitution contained a transition provision in relation to its "natural born citizen" requirement for a country that didn't exist prior to 1776 does nothing to change any of this analysis.

The founding fathers had no authority to bind anybody but themselves.

The assumed rule that someone has no authority to bind anyone but themselves is not now, and never has been, the law.

The authority of people to bind people other than themselves, including successors who aren't even born yet, to legal documents, is long standing in both Western and Eastern legal systems.

Agents can bind principals. Employees can bind employers. Union officials can bind their members. Partners can unilaterally bind each other. People creating trusts can bind the trustees and beneficiaries of the trust long after they are dead; charitable trusts can be perpetual. Military officers can bind their subordinates. Parents can bind their children in many jurisdictions. Guardians and conservators can bind their wards. Executors of estates can bind a decedent's heir and devisees. Home owners associations can bind member property owners and their guests. Governments can bind their residents. Sovereigns can bind their subjects.

Before the modern concept of property arose in the early modern period (i.e. prior to around 1500 CE), real estate ownership was primarily hereditary and inalienable, as was the serf-lord relationship. Transfers of property are not undone when the person who makes them ceases to exist. Real estate covenants routinely "run with the land" after they are created by the current owners.

The legal obligations you enter into while you are alive are binding upon your estate at death. In the civil law countries with legal systems based upon those of Continental Europe (derived in turn from Roman law), the default rule is still that the obligations of a decedent are binding upon the decedent's next of kin, although it is not terribly difficult to opt out of that default rule in the heir's discretion after death if they elect to do so (and many do). Until not long before the Industrial Revolution, in the late early modern period of history, most Western legal systems, and East Asian legal systems, provided that your descendants continued to be bound by your debts and could not opt out of that obligation.

When a legal entity is bound, all successor owners, directors, officers, managers, and partners of the entity are bound perpetually by anything done by someone with apparent authority to do so and by judgments entered against the entity.

The United States of America is, of course, a legal entity which is not operated for profit, so the ability of its founders to bind successive generations is a pedestrian principle that follows from ordinary non-constitutional law anyway.

A treaty between nations are binding long after every single person who signed of on it is dead.

The assumed rule that someone can bind only themselves simply does not pass even casual examination.

16
  • you claim no legal scholar has ever seriously suggested that the constitution had an expiration date. Lysander Spooner has. Read “No Treason: The constitution of no authority” it was a series of articles written by him after the civil war. You also quoted what Nate Eldridge wrote about the preamble saying “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our prosterity”. The founding fathers had no authority to bind anybody other than themselves. All authority resides in the people. If they would have wrote “we built these log cabins to provide safety for us and our prosterity” Oct 8 at 6:41
  • Would they have had the authority to bind their children to those cabins? The children would have had to live in them even after all their parents have died? Oct 8 at 6:42
  • 3
    @DonutConnection To call Lysander Spooner a legal scholar is to call Donald Trump a physician because he recommended certain medical treatments. LS was a revolutionary thinker, but he wasn't trying to construe the constitution in a manner that would secure authoritative agreement. He was justifying revolution. Authority is socially constructed and they had such authority.
    – ohwilleke
    Oct 11 at 18:55
  • they had no authority to bind anybody other than themselves. You can’t delegate more authority than you actually have to begin with. If you have no authority to tell another man what types of clothing to wear you can’t delegate authority to government giving them some imaginary right to have all men dress the same. Oct 15 at 1:32
  • What is the constitution anyway has the Supreme Court ruled it was a contract? And if so how did it bind anybody other than those that signed it? Oct 15 at 1:34

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.