Time Limits on Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Greetings from the home of college basketball’s newest dynasty–Indianapolis!

I was reading the Constitution the other day (doesn’t everyone?) and I noticed something that I hadn’t focused on before.  The Eighteenth Amendment was the first one to contain a time limit for the ratification process, holding that the proposal would be inoperative it did not receive the necessary three-fourths of the states within seven years.  The Twentieth, Twenty-First, Twenty-Second Amendments had a similar provision, as did the unsuccessful Equal Rights Amendment.

The Nineteenth, Twenty-Third, Twenty-Fourth, Twenty-Fifth, and Twenty-Sixth Amendments, though, did not have a ratification time limit in them.  (The Twenty-Seventh, which was proposed in 1791 and ratified in 1992 obviously had none.)  Why this inconsistency?  Does anyway know why some amendments had a time limit and some did not?

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3 Responses

  1. WPB says:

    Not a direct answer to your question, but are you familiar with Dillon v. Gloss, 256 U.S. 368 (1921), upholding that restriction in the Eighteenth Amendment on the grounds that “the fair inference or implication from Article V is that the ratification must be within some reasonable time after the proposal.”

  2. Joe says:

    See also, COLEMAN V. MILLER. But, the author is aware of that one, since he cited it in a recent article.

  3. Scott Bauries says:

    The Dillon case also cites, in footnote six, portions of the Congressional Record reflecting the debates over whether a time limit should be imposed. I have not read these transcripts, but Justice Van Devanter seemed to think that Congress was moved by the four amendements that had remained pending for many decades prior to the 18th: “These were the circumstances in the light of which Congress, in proposing the Eighteenth Amendment, fixed seven years as the period for ratification. Whether this could be done was questioned at the time and debated at length, but the prevailing view in both houses was that some limitation was intended, and that seven years was a reasonable period.” (citation to Cong. Rec.).