Page:Attainder of treason and confiscation of the property of Rebels - 1863.pdf/24

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(1.) By corruption of blood, in consequence of which they could inherit nothing from him, or even through him from their ancestors. (2.) By bills of attainder passed after the death of the offender, and when his property had passed into the hands of his heirs, who might be perfectly innocent of his crime.

I have already spoken of the English law as allowing attainder after the offender himself was dead. Now, nothing seems more natural, than to suppose the framers of our Constitution had these post mortem visitations upon the posterity of the offender in mind, when they added the words in our Constitution: "or forfeiture except during the life of the person attainted." Fortunately, such a thing as attainder after the death of the offender is entirely unknown in practice in our country. And it does not appear to have occurred, very generally, at least, to the minds of our people, that that English practice could have had anything to do with the insertion of this limitation to forfeiture in our Constitution. But, at the time of the Revolution, such cases were of comparatively recent occurrence. "Many such attainders," says Woodesson, (Lec., Vol. II, p. 623,) "have been made." And a recurrence to English history shows, that it had been a very frequent resort of the Crown, not only for the sake of punishing offenders, but as a means of supplying the royal exchequer, and of providing for the reward and ennoblement of a favorite. In fact, it was part and parcel of the policy, of which bills of attainder were another part, for making the power of the monarchy complete, and so breaking down the rights of the people, as to make them completely and helplessly submissive to those in authority.

Of the nature and necessity of this, as a principle of feudal tenure and monarchical institutions, it is not necessary to speak at length. There the landed property was for the most part held in large estates, by feudal tenures, and is a part of the policy of the kingdom. If a baron should turn traitor and die on the battle-field in the act of committing his treason, or if he should flee the country and die abroad, there would be no way for the King to recover what was essential to the integrity of the realm, except some process by which he could be attainted after his death. The estate must be recovered to the support of the