Intergenerational Justice in the United States Constitution,
The Stewardship Doctrine:
III. Constitutional Text

C Corruption of Blood, Slavery, and Equal Protection

Just as the anti-nobility provisions addressed unjust intergenerational advantages which were familiar to the founders, other provisions addressed the inequitable intergenerational disadvantages with which they were familiar.

One such provision was Article III, section 3's requirement that "no Attainder of Treason shall work Corruption of Blood . . .."f263 The phrases 'corruption of blood' and 'attainder' referenced a now defunct legal doctrine according to which persons 'attainted' of certain crimes lost the legal right to inherit or pass property. The doctrine's effect was to punish descendants for the crimes of their ancestors. f264 The practice represented a clear violation of one of the oldest maxims of intergenerational justice: that "the son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son." f265

The prohibition against corruption of blood was somewhat ironic, given that one of the most extreme violations of the principle imaginable - slavery - was explicitly protected by other constitutional provisions. f266 In the case of slavery, extreme hereditary disadvantages were granted the force of law without even the slim justification of an ancestral treason or felony. f267 It would be more than sixty years before the framers of the civil war amendments would rectify this gross inconsistency of constitutional doctrine, and abolish slavery. f268

The constitutional tool which was eventually chosen to eradicate slavery, the 13th Amendment, has extraordinary intergenerational significance. Besides abolishing hereditary servitude, the amendment also provides a striking precedent as to the accommodations to be reached in cases of conflict between intergenerational rights and private property rights.

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