Article V Convention – What and Why?

I am going to attempt to answer a bunch of questions I keep getting about the upcoming Article V Convention popularly known as the Convention of States. I will do this by referencing the Federalist Papers a lot. Why? The Federalist (they weren’t called the Federalist PAPERS until the twentieth century) was written by three of the founding fathers – James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and John Jay – to explain the thinking of those founders when they dreamed up that radical document we call The Constitution of the United States and trust me, at the time it was indeed a ‘radical’ document. It is a group of 85 documents that explain the intent of the constitution.
This new Constitution was an experiment in government that gave the people the power. Those six pages were the first time an attempt was ever made to give the people of a nation the power to decide their own destiny. The writers of that document were intelligent. So intelligent that they knew they would not, could not, foresee all eventualities. So they included several ways to modify it so the people would have a defense against tyranny in government. Article V of that document gives us two of them. We will be looking at the one given directly to the people and that is what the Convention of States is founded upon.
Let’s begin by examining the opening paragraphs of The Federalist: “It has been frequently remarked, that it seems to have been reserved to the people of this country, by their conduct and example, to decide the important question, whether societies of men are really capable or not, of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend, for their political constitutions, on accident and force.”
Let us be very clear here. An Article V convention is NOT a Constitutional Convention. A constitutional Convention is called to write a new and overriding constitution. An Article V Convention is called only to amend the current convention and the one that is now being proposed has some very strict limitations on even that. The Federalist made it very clear that the PEOPLE had the power not the government. In point of fact the Constitution was designed to limit the power of the federal government. However it must be remembered that is was written by honorable people and honorable people have a blind spot where dishonorable people are concerned. They simply can’t envision the lengths some people will go to to obtain and maintain power. So they didn’t adequately provide for a defense against the power hungry. When they set up the government they divided the powers along strict lines that have become blurred, indeed, even non-existent. They foresaw a government by gentlemen who would serve in the government for a term and go back to their homes and families and jobs. They could not conceive of anyone making politics a career of all things.
So one of the limited and stated intents of this Article V convention is to limit the terms of ALL federally elected officials and many appointed ones.
Another of the stated goals is to limit the POWER of the federal government. The Constitution clearly gave the greater power to the states. The federal government was formed to protect that and allow for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”. To provide for the common defense of the nation, to regulate interstate commerce (never intrastate) among others. Actually it was designed to follow the Declaration of Independence by codifying it into the supreme law of the land. Yep, both the Constitution and the Federalist are quite emphatic on this point, but that is another blog.
Perhaps it would clarify some of these points if I quoted from an article by one of the founders of the project, Michael Farris: “Rather than calling a convention for a specific amendment, Citizens for Self-Governance (CSG) has launched the Convention of the States Project to urge state legislatures to properly use Article V to call a convention for a particular subject—reducing the power of Washington, D.C. It is important to note that a convention for an individual amendment (e.g. a Balanced Budget Amendment) would be limited to that single idea. Requiring a balanced budget is a great idea that CSG fully supports. Congress, however, could comply with a Balanced Budget Amendment by simply raising taxes. We need spending restraints as well. We need restraints on taxation. We need prohibitions against improper federal regulation. We need to stop unfunded mandates.
A convention of states needs to be called to ensure that we are able to debate and impose a complete package of restraints on the misuse of power by all branches of the federal government.
What Sorts of Amendments Could be Passed?
The following are examples of amendment topics that could be discussed at a convention of states:
A balanced budget amendment
A redefinition of the General Welfare Clause (the original view was the federal government could not spend money on any topic within the jurisdiction of the states)
A redefinition of the Commerce Clause (the original view was that Congress was granted a narrow and exclusive power to regulate shipments across state lines–not all the economic activity of the nation)
A prohibition of using international treaties and law to govern the domestic law of the United States
A limitation on using Executive Orders and federal regulations to enact laws (since Congress is supposed to be the exclusive agency to enact laws)
Imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court
Placing an upper limit on federal taxation
Requiring the sunset of all existing federal taxes and a super-majority vote to replace them with new, fairer taxes
Of course, these are merely examples of what would be up for discussion. The convention of states itself would determine which ideas deserve serious consideration, and it will take a majority of votes from the states to formally propose any amendments.
The Founders gave us a legitimate path to save our liberty by using our state governments to impose binding restraints on the federal government. We must use the power granted to the states in the Constitution.”

As my regular readers know I try to limit these treatises to 1000 words so I don’t lose those with limited time and/or attentions spans so I will follow this in a day or two with part two.
As always comments, questions, suggestions and complaints are both requested and welcomed.

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