Tom Kratman, as part of his series on Civic Nationalism, took a very different stance in an essay entitled Ourselves and Our Posterity. He claims that in this particular case, "our posterity" means nothing more than "succeeding generations". Read the whole thing, it's not an incompetent case, merely an incorrect one. Not only that, but he also claims that the alternative definition to which I subscribe, "actual legal descendants and heirs", is "utter nonsense". He wrote:
I'm not sloppy Vox, you're just wrong, your genetically based posterity argument utter nonsense, start to finish.
He also added, rather confidently, that he can match me IQ point for IQ point.
Vox, since you set store by it, I can match you IQ point for IQ point. Yes, I can... Once again. you have a word in the preamble which doesn't carry it's own definition. The dictionaries of the day do not help you, because they use three definitions. Within the document, itself, you have clear, absolutely unambiguous evidence that they intended immigration and naturalization because they provided from immigrants to eventually, within their lifetimes, be able to hold any elective office in the land but one. You have the 1790 act, which is commentary on the intent, but not actually necessary because the constitution itself, as mentioned above, provides for the ability of naturalized citizens to become senators and reps. ANd then there is the problem of omission. I mentioned Hobbes in my first post in this thread. Why? I mentioned it because he had translated Thucydides 148 or so years before the revolution; they had that in their libraries, and so they knew about more restrictive - genetic posterity-based - rules for citizenship and neglected to use them. Would have been easy. Didn't bother. Did, once again, put in provisions for non-genetically based citizens in the highest office.
Now, I don't mind people calling me out. It adds a certain flavor to the discourse. The problem, however, is that one's ability to match me in the decathalon is irrelevant when the contest concerned is the 100-meter dash. This is particularly relevant if you happen to know that I can't pole vault over my own height. As I warned Tom, his case is an eminently reasonable one, but it is a purely logical argument of the sort preferred by lawyers, the very sort of argument that reliably fails when the relevant evidence is examined. As with many an economic model, Tom's case relies upon imputing a false rationality and coherence to the behavior of all-too-often irrational and self-contradictory human beings. I could come up with a dozen alternative explanations to his logical conundrum, but I won't bother, because I have a considerably more effective response to offer.
The question is this: how do we determine which of the three definitions of posterity should correctly apply to the term "posterity" as it is used in "ourselves and our posterity"? The answer, as I previously suggested, is straightforward. To understand how the term was meant to be understood in the Preamble, we must look at how the same people using it were using it in their other writings. Fortunately, there are more than a few mentions of "posterity" in both the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers which are discussing the very constitution in question. There are seven instances in the Federalist Papers.
- To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of private rights and public happiness. (DEFINITION 3: future history)
- In framing a government for posterity as well as ourselves, we ought, in those provisions which are designed to be permanent, to calculate, not on temporary, but on permanent causes of expense. (DEFINITION 3: future history)
- This dependence, and the necessity of being bound himself, and his posterity, by the laws to which he gives his assent, are the true, and they are the strong chords of sympathy between the representative and the constituent. (DEFINITION 1: descendants)
- WE, THE PEOPLE of the United States, to secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ORDAIN and ESTABLISH this Constitution for the United States of America. (TBD)
- No partial motive, no particular interest, no pride of opinion, no temporary passion or prejudice, will justify to himself, to his country, or to his posterity, an improper election of the part he is to act. (DEFINITION 1: descendants)
- …upon Congress, as they are now constituted; and either the machine, from the intrinsic feebleness of its structure, will moulder into pieces, in spite of our ill-judged efforts to prop it; or, by successive augmentations of its force an energy, as necessity might prompt, we shall finally accumulate, in a single body, all the most important prerogatives of sovereignty, and thus entail upon our posterity one of the most execrable forms of government that human infatuation ever contrived. (TBD)
- Whence could it have proceeded, that the Athenians, a people who would not suffer an army to be commanded by fewer than ten generals, and who required no other proof of danger to their liberties than the illustrious merit of a fellow-citizen, should consider one illustrious citizen as a more eligible depositary of the fortunes of themselves and their posterity, than a select body of citizens, from whose common deliberations more wisdom, as well as more safety, might have been expected? (DEFINITION 1: descendants)