The Yale Law Journal

March 2012

“Done in Convention”: The Attestation Clause and the Declaration of Independence

Jesse Cross

121 Yale L.J. 1236 (2012).

This Note offers a response to commentators who have argued that the Attestation Clause is best read as a straightforward attempt by the Founders to import the spirit and values of the Declaration of Independence into the Constitution. This argument distorts the Constitution more than it illuminates it, for this argument obscures the fact that the Attestation Clause reached out to a large set of domestic and international documents. In so doing, the Clause offered important assurances of continuity and cooperation in a time of national transformation, giving the Clause a distinctive spirit that only emerges when we read it in dialogue with the legal instruments and practices of the time. Such a contextual reading reveals that, while the Declaration signaled a dramatic break from the past, the Constitution’s Attestation Clause conveyed a much more nuanced and far less radical set of signals.