For an example of Natelson’s ability to clarify an issue, check out “Qualifications On State Sovereignty: The Ban on Bills of Attainder” on page 56, where in four short paragraphs Natelson does an excellent analysis from the historical perspective of the original meaning of “attainder”:
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“At common law, attainder was the passing of sentence on a person convicted or outlawed for treason or felony. Such a person was ‘attained’ (i.e., ‘tainted’ or out of grace), in the eyes of the law. Originally, an attained person was punished by the punishment forfeiture of all his lands, by a sentence of death, and by ‘corruption of blood,’ Corruption of blood meant that the person could not inherit land from another, nor transmit it to his heirs or his spouse.
“However, these were not necessary punishments for attainder, for by the time of the Founding, Parliament had abolished corruption of blood for many attainted persons. An attainted person lost only a life estate in his land rather than a fee simple—meaning that when he died, his family would inherent his property.
“In the Anglo-American tradition, the legislature had a recognized prerogative to enact a law declaring a specific person to be guilty of a crime and imposing punishment. This was not thought to be an invasion of the judicial power. Thus, a legislature could adopt a bill of attainder to outlaw and attaint a person for treason or felony, or adopt a bill of pains and penalties for other purposes. However, the Constitution barred both Congress and the states from passing bills of attainder. The Fifth Amendment Due Process Clause subsequently prohibited Congress, although not the states, from passing bills of pains and penalties.
“Neither Congress nor the states were prevented from imposing attainder as part of a general criminal code applicable to everyone. Indeed, the Constitution explicitly recognized attainder as a permissible punishment for treason, so long as it did not include corruption of blood or forfeiture for longer than the ‘Life of the Person attainted.’ The clear inference was that Congress and the states could adopt general statutes mandating attainder, even with corruption of blood, as the punishment for other felonies.”
Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which, perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.
On Private Revenge, September 5, 1763
If men through fear, fraud or mistake, should in terms renounce & give up any essential natural right, the eternal law of reason and the great end of society, would absolutely vacate such renunciation; the right to freedom being the gift of God Almighty, it is not in the power of Man to alienate this gift, and voluntarily become a slave.
Natural Rights of the Colonists as Men. November 20, 1772
If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom—go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen!
Speech to the Philadelphia State House, August 1, 1776.
So great is the wickedness of some men, & the stupid servility of others, that one would be almost inclined to conclude that communities cannot be free. The few haughty families, think they must govern. The body of the people tamely consent & submit to be their slaves. This unravels the mystery of millions being enslaved by the few!
Letter to Richard Henry Lee, December 3, 1787
In vain may it be urged, that the good of the individual ought to yield to that of the community; for it would be dangerous to allow any private man, or even any public tribunal, to be the judge of this common good, and to decide whether it be expedient or no.
Blackstone’s Commentary, Ch. 1§III, 1765-1769
Upon the whole, we must not judge of one another by our fair pretensions and best actions; since the worst men do some good, and all men make fine professions: But we must judge of men by the whole of their conduct, and the effects of it. Thorough honesty requires great and long proof; since many a man, long thought honest, has at length proved a knave. And it is from judging without proof, or too little, of false proof, that mankind continue unhappy.
Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letter No. 31, 17221.
Men are naturally equal, and none ever rose above the rest but by force or consent: No man was ever born above all the rest, nor below them all; and therefore there never was any man in the World so good or so bad, so high or so low, but he had his fellow.
Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letter No. 45, 1721.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.
Ulysses S. Grant
But my later experience has taught me two lessons: first, that things are seen plainer after the events have occurred; second, that the most confident critics are generally those who know the least about the matter criticized.
Personal Memoirs, 1885
It is always dangerous, and has often proved in the last degree mischievous, to act on arbitrary maxims, vague conceits, or metaphorical expressions—the more mischievous and tragical, the higher the sphere of thought or action may be.
“The Latin Race”, [New York] Evening Post, November 1871
James Russell Lowell
Let us speak plain: there is more force in names than most men dream of; and a lie may keep its throne a whole age longer if it skulk behind the shield of some fair-seeming name.
Let us call tyrants tyrants, and maintain that only freedom comes by grace of God.
And all that comes not by His grace must fall; for men in earnest have no time to waste
In patching fig-leaves for the naked truth.
“A Glance Behind the Curtain,” 1843
No man, who knows aught, can be so stupid to deny, that all men naturally were born free, being the image and resemblance of God himself, and were, by privilege above all the creatures, born to command, and not to obey.
The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates, 1648
Henry Wheeler Shaw
I honestly beleave it iz better tew no nothin’ than tew no what ain’t so.
Josh Billings, Sollum Thoughts, 1874.
“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country to survive as half-property, half-loot” Ayn Rand