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Full-Text Articles in Law

What The Constitution Means By “Duties, Imposts, And Excises”—And “Taxes” (Direct Or Otherwise), Robert G. Natelson Mar 2015

What The Constitution Means By “Duties, Imposts, And Excises”—And “Taxes” (Direct Or Otherwise), Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This Article recreates the original definitions of the U.S. Constitution’s terms “tax,” “direct tax,” “duty,” “impost,” “excise,” and “tonnage.” It draws on a greater range of Founding-Era sources than accessed heretofore, including eighteenth-century treatises, tax statutes, and literary source, and it corrects several errors made by courts and previous commentators. It concludes that the distinction between direct and indirect taxes was widely understood during the Founding Era, and that the term “direct tax” was more expansive than commonly realized. The Article identifies the reasons the Constitution required that direct taxes be apportioned among the states by population. It ...


Does “The Freedom Of The Press” Include A Right To Anonymity? The Original Meaning, Robert G. Natelson Mar 2014

Does “The Freedom Of The Press” Include A Right To Anonymity? The Original Meaning, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This Article examines relevant evidence to determine whether, as some have argued, the original legal force of the First Amendment’s “freedom of the press” included a per se right to anonymous authorship. The Article concludes that, except in cases in which freedom of the press had been abused, it did. Thus, from an originalist point of view, Supreme Court cases such as Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld statutes requiring disclosure of donors to political advertising, were erroneously decided.


Does “The Freedom Of The Press” Include A Right To Anonymity? The Original Meaning, Robert G. Natelson Feb 2014

Does “The Freedom Of The Press” Include A Right To Anonymity? The Original Meaning, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This Article examines relevant evidence to determine whether, as some have argued, the original legal force of the First Amendment’s “freedom of the press” included a per se right to anonymous authorship. The Article concludes that, except in cases in which freedom of the press had been abused, it did. Thus, from an originalist point of view, Supreme Court cases such as Buckley v. Valeo and Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which upheld statutes requiring disclosure of donors to political advertising, were erroneously decided.


The Origins And Meaning Of “Vacancies That May Happen During The Recess” In The Constitution’S Recess Appointments Clause, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2014

The Origins And Meaning Of “Vacancies That May Happen During The Recess” In The Constitution’S Recess Appointments Clause, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

There has been longstanding uncertainty about the meaning of “the Recess” and “Vacancies that may happen” in the Constitution’s Recess Appointments Clause. This Article finds that both “the Recess” and close variants of “Vacancies that may happen” were standard terms in Founding-Era legislative practice, and appear copiously in legislative records. Those records inform us that “the Recess” means only the intersession recess and that a vacancy “happens” only when it first arises.


Appendix - Delegates To Founding-Era Conventions, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2013

Appendix - Delegates To Founding-Era Conventions, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This appendix to the Founding-Era conventions article lists alphabetically and by state the names of all delegates to American inter-colonial and interstate conventions held between 1754 and 1787.


Founding-Era Conventions And The Meaning Of The Constitution’S “Convention For Proposing Amendments”, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2013

Founding-Era Conventions And The Meaning Of The Constitution’S “Convention For Proposing Amendments”, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, two thirds of state legislatures may require Congress to call a “Convention for proposing Amendments.” Because this procedure has never been used, commentators frequently debate the composition of the convention and the rules governing the application and convention process. However, the debate has proceeded almost entirely without knowledge of the many multi-colony and multi-state conventions held during the eighteenth century, of which the Constitutional Convention was only one. These conventions were governed by universally-accepted convention practices and protocols. This Article surveys those conventions and shows how their practices and protocols shaped the ...


The Founders’ Hermeneutic: The Real Original Understanding Of Original Intent, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2012

The Founders’ Hermeneutic: The Real Original Understanding Of Original Intent, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This Article addresses whether the American Founders expected evidence of their own subjective views to guide future interpretation of the U.S. Constitution. The Article considers a range of evidence largely overlooked or misunderstood in earlier studies, such as contemporaneous rules of legal interpretation, judicial use of legislative history, early American public debate, and pronouncements by state ratifying conventions. Based on this evidence, the Article concludes that the Founders were “original-understanding originalists.” This means that they anticipated that constitutional interpretation would be guided by the subjective understanding of the ratifiers when such understanding was coherent and recoverable and, otherwise, by ...


A Republic, Not A Democracy? Initiative, Referendum, And The Constitution's Guarantee Clause, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2012

A Republic, Not A Democracy? Initiative, Referendum, And The Constitution's Guarantee Clause, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article debunks the myth, first arising in the 1840s, that the Founders sharply distinguished between a "republic" and a "democracy." It explains that by a "republic," most of the Founders meant a government controlled by the citizenry, following the rule of law, and without a king. Accordingly, state provisions for initiative and referendum are fully consistent with the Constitution's requirement that each state have a republican form of government; in fact, most of the governments the Founders called "republics" had featured analogous forms of direct democracy.


Paper Money And The Original Understanding Of The Coinage Clause, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2012

Paper Money And The Original Understanding Of The Coinage Clause, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Over a century ago, the Supreme Court decided the Legal Tender Cases, holding that Congress could authorize legal tender paper money in addition to metallic coin. In recent years, some commentators have argued that this holding was incorrect as a matter of original understanding or original meaning, but that any other holding would be absolutely inconsistent with modern needs. They further argue that the impracticality of functioning without paper money demonstrates that originalism is not a workable method of constitutional interpretation. Those who rely on the Legal Tender Cases to discredit originalism are, however, in error. This Article shows that ...


Proposing Constitutional Amendments By Convention: Rules Governing The Process, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2011

Proposing Constitutional Amendments By Convention: Rules Governing The Process, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Much of the mystery surrounding the Constitution’s state-application-and-convention amendment process is unnecessary: History and case law enable us to resolve most questions. This Article is the first in the legal literature to access the full Founding-Era record on the subject, including the practices of inter-colonial and interstate conventions held during the 1770s and 1780s. Relying on that record, together with post-Founding practices, understandings, and case law, this Article clarifies the rules governing applications and convention calls, and the roles of legislatures and conventions in the process. The goal of the Article is objective exposition rather than advocacy or special ...


The Original Scope Of The Congressional Power To Regulate Elections, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2010

The Original Scope Of The Congressional Power To Regulate Elections, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Courts testing the constitutionality of federal campaign finance laws usually focus on First Amendment issues. More fundamental, however, is the question of whether campaign finance laws are within Congress’s enumerated power to regulate the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections.” This Article is an objective examination into the intended scope of this congressional power, using numerous sources overlooked by other legal writers. The Article concludes that the intended scope of the power was wide enough to authorize most modern congressional election statutes, but not wide enough to support modern federal campaign finance laws.


The Original Meaning Of The Constitution's “Executive Vesting Clause”—Evidence From Eighteenth Century Drafting Practice, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2009

The Original Meaning Of The Constitution's “Executive Vesting Clause”—Evidence From Eighteenth Century Drafting Practice, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Advocates of presidential power from the days of George Washington at least to the time of George W. Bush have claimed that the Constitution’s so-called “Executive Vesting Clause,” the first sentence of Article II, not only designates the President as chief executive, but also confers broad authority. Some commentators support that view, while others maintain that the President’s powers are limited to those enumerated elsewhere in the Constitution. This study addresses the previously-overlooked question of which interpretation is more consistent with contemporaneous drafting customs. It concludes that treating the “Executive Vesting Clause” as a mere designation is consistent ...


The Original Meaning Of The Privileges And Immunities Clause, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2009

The Original Meaning Of The Privileges And Immunities Clause, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article explains the meaning of the U.S. Constitution's Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, as the Founders understood it. It explains that the terms "privileges" and "immunities" had well-understood content in 18th century law---as benefits created by government. The Clause protects states from discriminating against visitors as to the benefits of citizenship (such as access to the courts), but does not address "natural rights" such as freedom of speech and religion.


Judicial Review Of Special Interest Spending: The General Welfare Clause And The Fiduciary Law Of The Founders, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2007

Judicial Review Of Special Interest Spending: The General Welfare Clause And The Fiduciary Law Of The Founders, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article surveys the principles of 18th century fiduciary law that the Founders incorporated into the U.S. Constitution-- principles they referred to as rules of "public trust." The article also suggests standards the courts can use to determine if particular congressional appropriations are within the "general welfare" limitation of the Constitution's so-called Spending Clause


The Original Understanding Of The Indian Commerce Clause, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2007

The Original Understanding Of The Indian Commerce Clause, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

The United States Congress claims plenary and exclusive power over federal affairs with the Indian tribes, based primarily on the Constitution’s Indian Commerce Clause. This article is the first comprehensive analysis of the original meaning of, and understanding behind, that constitutional provision. The author concludes that, as originally understood, congressional power over the tribes was to be neither plenary nor exclusive.


Tempering The Commerce Power, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2007

Tempering The Commerce Power, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

The Supreme Court's modern interpretation of the Necessary and Proper Clause in the realm of interstate commerce is textually problematic, unfaithful to the Constitution's original meaning, and contains positive incentives for Congress to over-regulate. The Necessary and Proper Clause was intended to embody the common law doctrine of principals and incidents, and the Court should employ that doctrine as its interpretive benchmark. The common law doctrine contains less, although some, bias toward over-regulation, and it is flexible enough to adapt to changing social conditions. Adherence to the common law doctrine would markedly improve Commerce Power jurisprudence and reduce ...


Federal Land Retention And The Constitution's Property Clause: The Original Understanding, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2005

Federal Land Retention And The Constitution's Property Clause: The Original Understanding, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article examines the original meaning of the Constitution's clauses authorizing federal land ownership. It finds that the power granted to Congress was broad enough to include land ownership for enumerated purposes, even without complying the procedures necessary for the creation of federal enclaves. But it finds that the power was not broad enough to include indefinite landholding for unenumerated purposes.


The Agency Law Origins Of The Necessary And Proper Clause, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2004

The Agency Law Origins Of The Necessary And Proper Clause, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This is the first of several writings by the author on the original meaning of the Constitution's Necessary and Proper Clause. It explains part of the legal background of the Clause, identifies it as a recital (not an independent grant of power) of the 18th century doctrine of incidental powers, and explains the content of that doctrine. The article has since been updated and supplemented by the author's signed chapters in Lawson, Miller, Natelson & Seidman, The Origins of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010).


The General Welfare Clause And The Public Trust: An Essay In Original Understanding, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2004

The General Welfare Clause And The Public Trust: An Essay In Original Understanding, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article explains the original meaning/understanding of the Constitution's General Welfare Clause, including the scope of the taxing and spending power granted to Congress


The Constitution And The Public Trust, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2004

The Constitution And The Public Trust, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

The American Founders believed that public officials were bound by fiduciary obligations, and they wrote that view into the Constitution. This article copiously documents their position.


The Enumerated Powers Of States, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2003

The Enumerated Powers Of States, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article lists and discusses the powers reserved exclusively to the states, according the representations made to the ratifying public during the debates over the U.S. Constitution.


The Constitutional Contributions Of John Dickinson, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2003

The Constitutional Contributions Of John Dickinson, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article reviews the impact on the drafting and adoption of the U.S. Constitution of the man sometimes referred to as the most underappreciated Founder


Statutory Retroactivity: The Founders' View, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2003

Statutory Retroactivity: The Founders' View, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

The article explains the extent to which the Founders' Constitution permitted and prohibited retroactive legislation, and the provisions in that document relevant to the question.


A Reminder: The Constitutional Values Of Sympathy And Independence, Robert G. Natelson Jan 2003

A Reminder: The Constitutional Values Of Sympathy And Independence, Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

Nearly all participants in the American Founding shared constitutiona/ values of "sympathy" and "independence." According to the ideal of sympathy, government actors should mirror the full range of popular attitudes. According to the ideal of independence, voters should remain independent of other citizens and of governmental entities, and those entities should remain independent of, and competitive with, each other. Sympathy and independence were central, not peripheral, to the Founders' Constitution, so the document cannot be interpreted properly without keeping them in view. The author provides examples of how constitutional practice might be altered had these central values not been overlooked.


James Madison And The Constitution's “Convention For Proposing Amendments", Robert G. Natelson Jan 2001

James Madison And The Constitution's “Convention For Proposing Amendments", Robert G. Natelson

Robert G. Natelson

This article traces the progress of James Madison's thought on the Constitution's "convention for proposing amendments as a way for states to assert themselves against the federal government. Madison saw the convention as an important part of the Constitution, and a constitutional alternative to nullification.