Intergenerational Justice in the United States Constitution,
The Stewardship Doctrine:

II. The Intergenerational Philosophy of the Founders and Their Contemporaries

A. A Pervasive concern for future generations - Edmund Burke, Thomas Paine

One interesting way to gauge the prevalence of the intergenerational mindset during the late 18th century is to study the arguments put forth by commentators of the day on a prominent issue such as the French Revolution. Both the proponents and the detractors of that revolution chose to frame their arguments in terms of generational rights. In his popular Reflections on the Revolution in France, Edmund Burke decried France's departure from monarchy on generational entitlement grounds.f103 In a famously eloquent passage, he describes society as a sacred partnership:

". . . a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of each particular state is but a clause in the great primeval contract of eternal society." f104

Later in the same piece, Burke would phrase his concerns in the language of estate preservation, a language with surprisingly modern environmental overtones:

"[O]ne of the first and most leading principles on which the commonwealth and the laws are consecrated is [that] the temporary possessors and life-renters in it [should be mindful] of what is due to their posterity . . . [and] should not think it among their rights to cut off the entail or commit waste on the inheritance by destroying at their pleasure the whole original fabric of society, hazarding to leave to those who come after them a ruin instead of a habitation . . .." f105

Thomas Paine penned his highly popular Rights of Man as a response to Burke. Paine commended the French revolution for erasing a host of feudal and ecclesiastical privileges which the favored classes and families of past generations had claimed for themselves into perpetuity -- at the expense of later generations' majorities. f106 Responding directly to Burke's arguments, Paine asserted, "I am contending for the rights of the living, and against their being willed away, and controuled and contracted for, by the manuscript assumed authority of the dead; and Mr. Burke is contending for the authority of the dead over the rights and freedom of the living." f107

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