Intergenerational Justice in the United States Constitution,
The Stewardship Doctrine:
I. Historic Overview

A. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Old Testament Traditions.
The Old Testament - page 2

The old testament's intergenerational disposition also manifested in the form of cross-generational punishments or curses, threatened or meted out by God for a single generation's wrongdoing. f24 Such curses may seem, superficially, to demonstrate an insensitivity or outright animosity on the part of God towards later generations, but, considered in another light, the use of such warnings reflects an intense concern on the part of the community for its descendants. As Auerbach explains, "If people did not care intensely about the fate of their descendants, then the threat of God's punishment falling on their descendants would not be an effective spur to action." f25

Elsewhere, the old testament evinces a more sophisticated notion of intergenerational justice, one which remains a useful maxim today:

"The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself." f26

Two hundred years ago, American politicians were well versed in these biblical ideas. Leviticus 25's jubilee system was familiar enough for John Quincy Adams to confidently allude in his public speeches to "the jubilee of the Constitution" and "the year of jubilee since the first formation of our Union." f27 Several of the original states retained in their legal codes the biblical mandate that the land lie fallow every seven years. f28

To review briefly, then: the intergenerational philosophy of the old testament incorporates: 1) a conception of society as an intergenerational community, 2) a conception of the earth as an intergenerational commons, under the Creator's ownership; and 3) a conception of each generation's responsibility to steward the earth out of respect for the Creator and for the benefit of all generations. All of these themes would prove to be hugely influential upon later English legal theory, and upon the American framers who would rely so heavily upon such theory.

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