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The Original Meaning of the Indian Commerce Clause

The Original Meaning of the Indian Commerce Clause

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By Rob Natelson
85 Denv. U. L. Rev. 201 (2007).
By Rob Natelson
85 Denv. U. L. Rev. 201 (2007).

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Categories:Types, Research, Law
Published by: Independence Institute on Sep 24, 2010
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201
 
T
HE
O
RIGINAL
U
 NDERSTANDING OF THE
I
 NDIAN
C
OMMERCE
C
LAUSE
 
OBERT
G.
 
 N
ATELSON
 A
BSTRACT
 
The United States Congress claims plenary and exclusive power over federal affairs with the Indian tribes, based primarily on the Consti-tution’s Indian Commerce Clause. This article is the first comprehensiveanalysis of the original meaning of, and understanding behind, that con-stitutional provision. The author concludes that, as originally under-stood, congressional power over the tribes was to be neither plenary nor exclusive.
“[A]s exception strengthens the force of a law in cases not excepted;so enumeration weakens it in cases not enumerated.” – Sir Francis Bacon
1
 T
ABLE OF
C
ONTENTS
 I.
 
I
 NTRODUCTION
:
 
T
HE
T
ANGLED
O
RIGINS OF
F
EDERAL
S
UPREMACY
203
 
 A.
 
Plenary Authority: The Search for a Convincing Justification..
203
 
1.
 
Justifying Plenary Authority by Extra-Constitutional Means203
 
2.
 
Justifying Plenary Authority by Constitutional Clauses........207
 
3.
 
Justifying Plenary Authority by Trusts and Treaties..............209
 
4.
 
Justifying Plenary Authority by the Indian CommerceClause....................................................................................210
 
 B.
 
The Elusive Basis for Exclusive Authority.................................
211
 
C.
 
The State of the Literature and Role of this Article...................
212
 
II.
 
T
HE
O
RIGINAL
P
UBLIC
M
EANING OF
“T
O
EGULATE
‘C
OMMERCE
 WITH THE
I
 NDIAN
T
RIBES
...........................................................214
 
 A.
 
The Meaning of “Commerce” and “Affairs”............................
214
 
 B.
 
 History Before the Articles of Confederation.............................
218
 
1.
 
The Jurisdictional Problem.....................................................218
 
Professor of Law, The University of Montana. The author would like to thank ProfessorsRay Cross, Maylinn Smith, and Elizabeth Kronk for the guidance they provided; The University of Montana School of Law for financial support; Elizabeth J. Natelson for editing; Sara Tappen, UMSchool of Law Class of ‘08, for her research assistance; and Geri Fox for secretarial assistance.All translations from Latin to English in this Article are by the author, and all opinions and errorsare his sole responsibility.1. L
ORD
B
ACON
,
 
A
DVANCEMENT OF
L
EARNING
399 (Joseph Devey ed., 1901).
 
202
 DENVER UNIVERSITY LAW REVIEW 
[Vol. 85:22.
 
The Regulation of Commerce Before the Articles of Confederation........................................................................219
 
3.
 
Other Colonial and Early State Governance of IndianAffairs....................................................................................223
 
4
.
 
The Drafting of the Articles of Confederation.......................225
 
5.
 
Life Under the Confederation.................................................231
 
C.
 
The Constitutional Convention..................................................
235
 
 D.
 
The Resulting Constitutional Text..............................................
241
 
 E.
 
Summary: The Original Public Meaning...................................
243
 
III.
 
T
HE
O
RIGINAL
U
 NDERSTANDING
...................................................244
 
 A.
 
The Founders’ Touchstone for Constitutional Interpretation....
244
 
 B.
 
The Ratification Process in General..........................................
245
 
C.
 
The Indian Commerce Clause in the Ratification Process........
247
 
IV.
 
D
EALING
W
ITH
H
ISTORICAL
E
RROR 
..............................................250
 
 A.
 
 Introduction................................................................................
250
 
 B.
 
The Indian Intercourse Act of 1790...........................................
250
 
C.
 
Unfamiliarity With the Record of the Federal Convention........
256
 
 D.
 
 Errors of Historical Anachronism.............................................
258
 
1.
 
Errors of Language.................................................................258
 
2.
 
Unfamiliarity with Founding-Era Values...............................260
 
3.
 
Employment of Sources Out-of-Time:
Worcester v. Georgia
260
 
 E.
 
 Mohegan Indians v. Connecticut...............................................
262
 
V.
 
C
ONCLUSION
2
...................................................................................265
 
2
. Bibliographical Note
: This footnote collects alphabetically the secondary sources citedmore than once in this Article. The sources and short form citations used are as follows:Albert S. Abel,
The Commerce Clause in the Constitutional Convention and in ContemporaryComment 
, 25 M
INN
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 432 (1940-41).F
RANCIS
A
LLEN
,
 
A
 
C
OMPLETE
E
 NGLISH
D
ICTIONARY
(London 1765) [hereinafter A
LLEN
,
 
D
ICTIONARY
]. N.
 
B
AILEY
,
 
A
 
U
 NIVERSAL
E
TYMOLOGICAL
E
 NGLISH
D
ICTIONARY
(Edinburgh 25th ed. 1783)[hereinafter B
AILEY
,
 
D
ICTIONARY
].
USSEL
L
AWRENCE
B
ARSH
&
 
J
AMES
Y
OUNGBLOOD
H
ENDERSON
,
 
T
HE
OAD
:
 
I
 NDIAN
T
RIBESAND
P
OLITICAL
L
IBERTY
(1980).Robert N. Clinton,
The Dormant Indian Commerce Clause
, 27 C
ONN
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 1055 (1995) [here-inafter Clinton,
 Dormant 
].Robert N. Clinton,
 Review
, 47 U. C
HI
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 846 (1979-80) [hereinafter Clinton,
 Review
].Robert N. Clinton,
There is No Federal Supremacy Clause for Indian Tribes
, 34 A
RIZ
.
 
S
T
.
 
L.J.113 (2002) [hereinafter Clinton,
Supremacy
].F
ELIX
C
OHEN
,
 
C
OHEN
S
H
ANDBOOK OF
F
EDERAL
I
 NDIAN
L
AW
(LexisNexis 2005).V
INE
D
ELORIA
,
 
J
.
 
&
 
C
LIFFORD
L
YTLE
,
 
T
HE
 N
ATIONS
W
ITHIN
:
 
T
HE
P
AST AND
F
UTURE OF
A
MERICAN
I
 NDIAN
S
OVEREIGNTY
(Pantheon Books 1984).T
HE
D
OCUMENTARY
H
ISTORY OF THE
ATIFICATION OF THE
C
ONSTITUTION
(Merrill Jensen et al.eds., 1976) [hereinafter D
OCUMENTARY
H
ISTORY
] (multiple vols. projected; not all completed).E
ARLY
A
MERICAN
I
 NDIAN
D
OCUMENTS
:
 
T
REATIES AND
L
AWS
,
 
1607-1789
 
(Alden T. Vaughaned., 1998-2004) [hereinafter E
ARLY
A
MERICAN
I
 NDIAN
D
OCUMENTS
].J
ONATHAN
E
LLIOT
, T
HE
D
EBATES IN THE
S
EVERAL
S
TATE
C
ONVENTIONS ON THE
A
DOPTION OFTHE
F
EDERAL
C
ONSTITUTION
(photo reprint 1941) (2d ed. 1836) [hereinafter E
LLIOT
S
D
EBATES
].T
HE
ECORDS OF THE
F
EDERAL
C
ONVENTION OF
1787 (Max Farrand ed., 1937) [hereinafter F
ARRAND
].Matthew L.M. Fletcher,
Same-Sex Marriage, Indian Tribes, and the Constitution
, 61 U.
 
M
IAMI
L.
 
EV
. 53 (2006) [hereinafter Fletcher,
Same-Sex Marriage
].Matthew L.M. Fletcher,
The Supreme Court and Federal Indian Policy
, 85 N
EB
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 121(2006) [hereinafter Fletcher,
Federal Indian Policy
].
 
2007]
THE INDIAN COMMERCE CLAUSE 
203
 
I. I
 NTRODUCTION
:
 
T
HE
T
ANGLED
O
RIGINS OF
F
EDERAL
S
UPREMACY
 
 A. Plenary Authority: The Search for a Convincing Justification
1. Justifying Plenary Authority by Extra-Constitutional Means
E
SSAYS ON THE
C
ONSTITUTION OF THE
U
 NITED
S
TATES
P
UBLISHED
D
URING
I
TS
D
ISCUSSION BYTHE
P
EOPLE
1787-88 (Paul Leicester Ford ed., 1892) [hereinafter F
ORD
].T
HE
F
OUNDERS
 
C
ONSTITUTION
(Philip B. Kurland & Ralph Lerner eds., 1987) [hereinafter T
HE
F
OUNDERS
 
C
ONSTITUTION
].G
OVERNOR AND
C
OMPANY OF
C
ONNECTICUT AND
M
OHEGAN
I
 NDIANS
,
 
C
ERTIFIED
C
OPY OF
B
OOK OF
P
ROCEEDINGS
B
EFORE
C
OMMISSIONERS OF
EVIEW
, MDCCXLIII (London 1769) [herein-after M
OHEGAN
P
ROCEEDINGS
].G
EORGE
G
RENVILLE
,
 
T
HE
EGULATIONS
L
ATELY
M
ADE
C
ONCERNING THE
C
OLONIES
,
AND THE
T
AXES
I
MPOSED
U
PON THEM
,
 
C
ONSIDERED
(London 3d ed. 1775).A
LEXANDER 
H
AMILTON
,
 
J
OHN
J
AY
&
 
J
AMES
M
ADISON
,
 
T
HE
F
EDERALIST
(George W. Carey &James McClellan eds., 2001) [hereinafter T
HE
F
EDERALIST
].S
UPPLEMENT TO
M
AX
F
ARRAND
S
T
HE
ECORDS OF THE
F
EDERAL
C
ONVENTION OF
1787 (JamesH. Hutson ed., 1987) [hereinafter H
UTSON
].S
AMUEL
J
OHNSON
,
 
A
 
D
ICTIONARY OF THE
E
 NGLISH
L
ANGUAGE
(London 1756) [hereinafter J
OHNSON
,
 
D
ICTIONARY
].2 I
 NDIAN
A
FFAIRS
:
 
L
AWS AND
T
REATIES
(Charles J. Kappler ed., 1904) [hereinafter K 
APPLER 
].F
ORREST
M
C
D
ONALD
,
 
 N
OVUS
O
RDO
S
ECLORUM
:
 
T
HE
I
 NTELLECTUAL
O
RIGIN OF THE
C
ONSTITUTION
(1985).Robert G. Natelson,
The Constitution and the Public Trust 
, 52 B
UFF
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 1077 (2004) [here-inafter Natelson,
Public Trust 
].Robert G. Natelson,
The Enumerated Powers of States
, 3 Nev. L. J. 469 (2003) [hereinafter  Natelson,
 Enumerated 
].Robert G. Natelson,
The Founders’ Hermeneutic
, 68 O
HIO
S
T
.
 
L.
 
J. (forthcoming 2007) [hereinaf-ter Natelson,
Founders
].Robert G. Natelson,
The Legal Meaning of “Commerce” in the Commerce Clause
, 80 S
T
.
 
J
OHN
S
L.
 
EV
. 789 (2006) [hereinafter Natelson,
Commerce
].Robert G. Natelson,
Tempering the Commerce Power 
, 61 M
ONT
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 95 (2007) [hereinafter  Natelson,
Tempering
].T
HEODORE
F.
 
T.
 
P
LUCKNETT
,
 
A
 
C
ONCISE
H
ISTORY OF THE
C
OMMON
L
AW
(Little, Brown andCompany 5th ed. 1956).Saikrishna Prakash,
 Against Tribal Fungibility
, 89 C
ORNELL
L.
 
EV
. 1069 (2004) [hereinafter Prakash,
Fungibility
].Saikrishna Prakash,
Our Three Commerce Clauses and the Presumption of IntraSentence Uni- formity
, 55 A
RK 
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 1149 (2003) [hereinafter Prakash,
Uniformity
].M
ONROE
E.
 
P
RICE
&
 
OBERT
 N.
 
C
LINTON
,
 
L
AW AND THE
A
MERICAN
I
 NDIAN
(Michie 2d ed.1983).1 F
RANCIS
P
AUL
P
RUCHA
,
 
T
HE
G
REAT
F
ATHER 
(1984) [hereinafter P
RUCHA
].Michael D. Ramsey,
The Myth of Extraconstitutional Foreign Affairs Power 
, 42 W
M
.
 
&
 
M
ARY
L.
 
EV
. 379 (2000).Mark Savage,
 Native Americans and the Constitution: The Original Understanding
, 16 A
M
.
 
I
 NDIAN
L.
 
EV
. 57 (1991).J
OSEPH
H
ENRY
S
MITH
,
 
A
PPEALS TO THE
P
RIVY
C
OUNCIL FROM THE
A
MERICAN
P
LANTATIONS
 (Columbia University Press 1950).S
TATISTICAL
ECORD OF
 N
ATIVE
 N
ORTH
A
MERICANS
(Marlita A. Reddy ed., 1993).Robert L. Stern,
That Commerce Which Concerns More States Than One
, 47 H
ARV
.
 
L.
 
EV
. 1335(1934).T
HE
C
OMPLETE
A
 NTI
-F
EDERALIST
(Herbert J. Storing ed., 1981) [hereinafter S
TORING
].C
HARLES
V
INER 
,
 
A
 
G
ENERAL
A
BRIDGMENT OF
L
AW AND
E
QUITY
(London 2d. ed. 1793).C
HARLES
F.
 
W
ILKINSON
, A
MERICAN
I
 NDIANS
,
 
T
IME
,
AND THE
L
AW
(1987).

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