Cites to case law relating to the Preamble
The Federal Government must consider the impacts of Federal actions on posterity; Case cites:

(cases open in new window)

Richfield Oil v. State Board, 329 U.S. 69 (1946) 77-78

All words in the Constitution are meaningful. Quoting Holmes v. Jennison, 14 Pet. 540, 570-71: Every word appears to have been weighed with the utmost deliberation, and its force and effect to have been fully understood. No word in the instrument, therefore, can be rejected as superfluous or unmeaning..."


Jacobson v. Mass, 197 U.S. 11 (1904)

The only case in which the Supreme Court has directly addressed a claim based on the Preamble. In this case the court examined the Constitutional rights of Jacobson, and rejected his claim to a personal right, derived from then Preamble, to the "blessings of liberty". In rejecting Jacobsonís claim, the Court wrote that "the Preamble indicates the general purpose for which the people ordained and established the Constitution" and went on to point out that "[the Preamble] has never been regarded as the source of any substantive power conferred on the Government..." .


Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137(1803)

An act "repugnant to the constitution" is void; the Courts can enforce the Constitution. (See pg. 175, 176, 179)


Ex Parte Yarbough, 110 U.S. 651 (1884)

In construing the Constitution, the doctrine that what is implied is as much a part of the instrument as what is expressed "is a necessity by reason of the inherent inability to put all derivative powers in words." (at 658) Court used "implication" to expand express powers, surely this must be reversible; if implication can expand powers, it can contract those same powers.


Boyd v. U.S., 116 U.S. 616 (1885)

"constitutional provisions for security of persons and property should be liberally construed"... "it is the duty of the courts to be watchful for the constitutional rights of the citizen, and against ant stealthy encroachments thereon"


Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1972)

When presented with a controversy about the point at which the State's compelling interest in a embryo or fetus (by anyone's definition, this must be an instance of the stateís interest in "posterity") overrides a woman's privacy rights, the court wrote "Our task, of course, is to resolve the issue by constitutional measurement, free of emotion and of predilection." (At 116) After an extensive recital of the various theories of when life begins the court wrote "When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology, are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary at this point in the development of man's knowledge is not in a position to speculate as to an answer" (at 159) and then went on to articulate a purely pragmatically drawn sharp line between the two conflicting interests.

Two applications to the "Posterity" argument: 1) Roe includes a clear recognition of the state's need to protect posterity. 2) when faced with irresolvable differences between various moral and religious belief systems, the Court rejected all and found a pragmatic line based upon logic and rational analysis.


Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 U.S. 419 (1793)

Justice Wilson relies upon the preamble to explain the State's relationship to the Federal Government. Parses the objectives as in my version (a) i.e.: sees "Blessings of liberty" as part of a list of goals, implying that "to ourselves and our Posterity" applies to full list. (at 463)

Chief Justice Jay also relies on preamble to analyze the State's role, but does not separate "Blessings..." from "ourselves...", thus implying my version (b) or (c) of syntax.(at 475)

Interesting as it is first, or certainly one of the first, attempts by the SC to interpret Constitution. Two framers, now on court, both started at the preamble, and accorded it considerable interpretive value.


U.S. v. Boyer, (85 F 425)

Preamble does not "enlarge the powers confided to the general government (Court quotes heavily from "Mr. Justice Story, in his work on the Constitution.") This case comes at the preamble from a slightly different tack from Jacobson: in Jacobson the court finds no substantive power in preamble. In Boyer, court finds that preamble does not expand on the substantive powers granted to the Federal Gov. by the explicit substantive provisions of the Constitution.

forward to Journal Articles and other material >

On This Site:
Does the United States Constitution Provide Environmental Protection?
-by Charlie Ogle. An Article giving a textual analysis of the Preamble, arguing the relevance of the posterity clause to environmental issues.
The Stewardship Doctrine: Intergenerational Justice in the United States Constitution -by John Davidson. An Article examining the historical antecedents and philosophical context of the work by the Founding Fathers, with particular attention to Intergenerational issues raised by them in the Preamble, U.S. Constitution, and related State documents.
Cites to case law relating to the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution- Case citations
Journal Articles, etc. relating to the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution - Articles relating to the Preamble.


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