Skip to main content

A Surprise Amendment

March 2023
1min read

With few exceptions, the constitutional amendments suggested by experts in “Taking Another Look at the Constitutional Blueprint” have been discussed in the legal literature and in recent books. But one surprise among your list was the amendment to dismiss the exclusion of the foreign-born from presidential eligibility, suggested by Hiller B. Zobel and John Kenneth Galbraith. The Canadianborn Galbraith gets top honors for combining insight and whimsy as he muses at how his life (and ours) might have been different had such an amendment been adopted in his early years.

A few authors suggested means of taming the Supreme Court, but none suggested an amendment restricting the term of office for the Justices themselves. In a little-known article published in the George Washington Law Review in 1938, Charles Collier suggested such a move in the wake of FDR’s failed court-packing attempt. He contemplated a system of rotation whereby one seat on the Supreme Court would be replaced each year with a new appointment. Under one version of this scheme, each of the nine Justices would serve a nine-year term. In order to initiate the system of rotation, current appointees would be assigned a fixed term of ten to eighteen years by lot, with no two Justices assigned the same number of years’ service. After serving on the High Court, Justices would be allowed the opportunity to serve as circuit court judges without diminution of compensation. In the recent past Justice Potter Stewart served as a role model for such a plan, resigning from the Supreme Court at age sixty-six, then sitting on numerous courts of appeals. As Justice Stewart said upon his resignation from the High Court, “Better to go too soon than to stay too long.”

The proposed system of rotation would serve to provide each administration an opportunity to appoint new Justices and ensure that the Court is continually infused with new perspectives, whilst maintaining enough stability among the Court’s membership to take advantage of Justices’ individual and collective expertise.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "September/October 1987"

Authored by: Irwin F. Fredman

An old, familiar show is back in Washington. There’s a new cast, of course, but the script is pretty much the same as ever. Here’s the program.

Authored by: Edward Abrahams

In a career that made her one of the greatest American artist of the century, Georgia O’Keeffe claimed to have done it all by herself—without influence from family, friends, or fellow artists. The real story is less romantic though just as extraordinary.

Authored by: Megan Marshall

Elizabeth, Mary, and Sophia Peabody managed to extend the boundaries that cramped the lives of nineteenth-century women. Elizabeth introduced the kindergarten movement to America, Mary developed a new philosophy of mothering that we now take for granted, and Sophia was liberated from invalidism by her passionate love for her husband.

Authored by: Ruth Schwartz Cowan

Modern technology enables the housewife to do much more in the house than ever before. That’s good- and not so good.

Authored by: Charles L. Mee, Jr.

After a summer of debate, three of the delegates in Philadelphia could not bring themselves to put their names to the document they had worked so hard to create

Authored by: The Editors

Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner for 150 Years

Authored by: Benedict B. Kimmelman

Of the thousands of American soldiers court-martialed for desertion in World War II, Eddie Slovik was the only one put to death. One of the judges who convicted him looks back with regret.

Featured Articles

Famous writers including Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne, and the Alcotts turned Sleepy Hollow Cemetery into our country’s first conservation project.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.

Roast pig, boiled rockfish, and apple pie were among the dishes George and Martha enjoyed during the holiday in 1797. Here are some actual recipes.

Born during Jim Crow, Belle da Costa Greene perfected the art of "passing" while working for one of the most powerful men in America.