US Government exceeds “sell-by”date

In a letter from Thomas Jefferson to James Madison (I believe they both had something to do with the Constitution), dated Sept. 6, 1789, Jefferson had this to say:

On similar ground it may be proved that no society can make a perpetual constitution, or even a perpetual law. The earth belongs always to the living generation. They may manage it then, and what proceeds from it, as they please, during their usufruct [right to use another’s property]. They are masters too of their own persons, and consequently may govern them as they please. But persons and property make the sum of the objects of government. The constitution and the laws of their predecessors extinguished then in their natural course with those who gave them being. This could preserve that being till it ceased to be itself, and no longer. Every constitution then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of 19 years [my emphasis]. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right.–It may be said that the succeeding generation exercising in fact the power of repeal, this leaves them as free as if the constitution or law has been expressly limited to 19 years only.

Read the actual letter to understand how he came to a natural lifespan of 19 years for constitutions, laws, and public debts.

If the US Government seems to have a bad smell about it, perhaps it is because it has badly exceeded its “sell-by” date. Perhaps this generation will do the prudent thing and exercise our power of repeal.