Was it ever ruled not legal by a court?The U.S. was created by two acts of revolution. The first was from Britain. The second was a revolution to overturn the Articles of Confederation. Otherwise there was no legal way they could make the changes they made.
Looks like in the following case there no revolution, one government simply superseded the other in a normal legal manner.
Owings v. Speed, 18 U.S. 420 (1820)
ERROR TO THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE UNITED
STATES FOR THE DISTRICT OF KENTUCKY
The present Constitution of the United States did not commence its operation until the first Wednesday in March 1789, and the provision in the Constitution that "no state shall make any law impairing the obligation of contracts" does not extend to a state law enacted before that day and operating upon the rights of property vested before that time.
The books of a corporation, established for public purposes, are evidence of its acts and proceedings.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
This was an ejectment brought by the plaintiff in the Circuit Court of the United States for the District of Kentucky to recover a lot of ground lying in Bardstown.
Page 18 U. S. 421
This town was laid off in 1780, on a tract of land consisting of 1,000 acres, for which, in 1785, a patent was issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia to Bard and Owings. In 1788, the Legislature of Virginia passed an act vesting 100 acres, part of this tract, in trustees, to be laid off in lots, some of them to be given to settlers and others to be sold for the benefit of the proprietors. The cause depends mainly on the validity of this act. It is contended to be a violation of that part of the Constitution of the United States which forbids a state to pass any law impairing the obligation of contracts.
Much reason is furnished by the record for presuming the consent of the proprietors to this law, but the circuit court has decided the question independently of this consent, and that decision is now to be reviewed.
Before we determine on the construction of the Constitution in relation to a question of this description, it is necessary to inquire whether the provisions of that instrument apply to any acts of the state legislatures which were of the date with that which it is now proposed to consider.
This act was passed in the session of 1788. Did the Constitution of the United States then operate upon it?
In September, 1787, after completing the great work in which they had been engaged, the Convention resolved that the Constitution should be laid before the Congress of the United States, to be submitted by that body to Conventions of the several states to be convened by their respective legislatures,
Page 18 U. S. 422
and expressed the opinion that as soon as it should be ratified by the Conventions of nine states, Congress should fix a day on which electors should be appointed by the states, a day on which the electors should assemble to vote for President and Vice President, "and the time and place for commencing proceedings under this Constitution."
The conventions of nine states having adopted the Constitution, Congress, in September or October, 1788, passed a resolution in conformity with the opinions expressed by the Convention and appointed the first Wednesday in March of the ensuing year as the day, and the then seat of Congress as the place, "for commencing proceedings under the Constitution."
Both governments could not be understood to exist at the same time. The new government did not commence until the old government expired. It is apparent that the government did not commence on the Constitution's being ratified by the ninth state, for these ratifications were to be reported to Congress, whose continuing existence was recognized by the Convention, and who were requested to continue to exercise their powers for the purpose of bringing the new government into operation. In fact, Congress did continue to act as a government until it dissolved on the first of November by the successive disappearance of its members. It existed potentially until 2 March, the day preceding that on which the members of the new Congress were directed to assemble.
The resolution of the Convention might originally
Page 18 U. S. 423
have suggested a doubt, whether the government could be in operation for every purpose before the choice of a President; but this doubt has been long solved, and were it otherwise, its discussion would be useless, since it is apparent that its operation did not commence before the first Wednesday in March, 1789, before which time Virginia had passed the act which is alleged to violate the Constitution.