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1798 (1): Justice Paterson and the Missing Fundamental Principle

1798 (1): Justice Paterson and the Missing Fundamental Principle

V. 1798 (1): Justice Paterson and the Missing Fundamental Principle
A Community Built on Words
University of Chicago Press

Justice William Paterson was one of the most active and influential members of the Philadelphia convention that framed the Constitution, and the reference to his ardent desire “to have extended the provision” presumably alludes to his agreement with Dickinson, Gerry, and others who unsuccessfully sought to ensure that the Constitution banned retrospective legislation on civil as well as criminal matters. Paterson's construction of the clauses in Calder v. Bull thus contradicted what he thought the Constitution should have provided. Why Paterson did not come to the opposite conclusion, that the Constitution means what in his view it ought to mean—given the fact that doing so would have been entirely possible. In his opinion, Paterson argued that the ex post facto clause of Article I, section 10 ought to be read as limited to criminal matters because if it extended to civil laws the following clause, prohibiting state interference with the obligation of contracts, would be rendered superfluous.

Keywords:   Justice William Paterson, Philadelphia convention, Constitution, legislation, Calder v. Bull, civil laws, state interference

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