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Bills of attainder were repugnant to the Founders because they amounted to the legislature--or, under the death warrant theory, the President--usurping the courts' role in judging an individual's guilt and determining the appropriate punishment.
Jefferson subsequently defended bills of attainder in a letter of 1815:
303) The distinction between these two types of legislative actions is paramount;(304) the Framers regarded Bills of Attainder as especially egregious to a fundamental notion of justice, and as such, implicates all of the reasons the framers promulgated the Ex Post Facto Clause.
Concern over retroactive legislation is evident elsewhere in Article I, which also prohibits bills of attainder in two different sections.
prohibits the enactment of bills of attainder or ex post facto laws
That instrument contains no provision against private acts enacted by the federal government except for a prohibition of bills of attainder and grants of nobility.
Originally, bills of attainder were used to seize property from named individuals, to prevent them from inheriting property or to ensure that no one inherited from them--a condition known as "corruption of blood" (Taylor 1907).
Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligation of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact and to every principle of sound legislation.
303, 315-16 (1946) ("[L]egislative acts, no matter what their form, that apply either to named individuals or to easily ascertainable members of a group in such a way as to inflict punishment on them without a judicial trial are bills of attainder prohibited by the Constitution.
In contesting a challenge to the prosecution based on the prohibition of bills of attainder, the government argued that the intent of the statute was remedial and preventative, rather than retributive, in that Congress was not punishing members of the Communist Party; rather it was preventing them from creating future harm in unions.
Constitution, bills of attainder include bills of pains and
8, 1788), in 15 DOCUMENTARY HISTORY 284, 285 (pointing to prohibitions on the suspension of habeas corpus, ex post facto laws, bills of attainder, titles of nobility, and payment from Treasury without appropriation as powers that must have been in the power of Congress by implication because they are specifically prohibited); Brutus II, NEW YORK JOURNAL (Nov.