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Opinion

History of the Article V Convention

capitol last solution conventionBy – Mike Kapic

Polls indicate that Americans are rightly concerned about the direction their government is heading

Rising debt, attacks on speech and religion, falling trust in federal agencies, insolvency threats to entitlements (Social Security, Medicare), political elitism, distrusted media, divisiveness, and the disintegration of religious values with increasing secularism.

There’s a growing feeling our Congressional representatives are not listening to us because nothing changes. The problems keep getting worse.

When America found itself in trouble in colonial days, we organized ourselves into an effective gathering with the purpose of resolving a specific issue. More times than not, we corrected our path, leading to growth, prosperity, and an enduring freedom envied by the world for centuries to come.

There was, however, period between the beginning of the Revolutionary War and the signing of our Constitution; from 1775 to 1787 that we stumbled while learning to walk. Because of our weak and ineffective first constitution, the Articles of Confederation, the United States nearly destroyed itself.

We had, for example, a single body Congress that that was led by a new president every year, states sent as many Congressmen as they wanted, but had only one vote per state, Congress had no power to tax or raise revenue, the government printed ‘greenbacks’ that quickly ignited inflation, states would rarely send their revenues to Congress, War veterans were rarely paid, no defined judicial authority, and each state was its own sovereign, to name but a few of our foibles.

As our country was nearing collapse, the Annapolis MD convention of 1786 called for another to resolve the problems of the Articles of Confederation and reform the US government. Soon, Virginia called a convention to “render the constitution of the federal government adequate to the exigencies of the Union.”

This convention process had been used hundreds of times in towns and colonies since the 1630’s and proved to be an effective tool for resolving issues not solvable by local legislators. They gathered to find solutions to safety, defense, inflation, currency, government reform, trade, etc. A uniform set of operating procedures evolved which continue today.

During the Founding era, conventions occurred, on average, every 3 ½ years. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 reformed the US government into a federal republic by integrating the Articles of Confederation into the new US Constitution giving the country the structure it needed to not only survive but to thrive. The same process was last used in September 2017 in Phoenix, Arizona.

The same method could be used again to propose amendments to limit government through term limits and a balanced budget, for example. The Founders codified the process in Article V for times like these. They knew that Congress wouldn’t self-correct and that the people needed a legal and safe way to reform our government should the need arise.

To learn more, visit the Article V Library.

Mike Kapic is an AMAC Delegate for Arizona CD08 and author of ‘Conventions That Made America: A Brief History of Consensus Building’.

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PaulE

The Constitution is NOT broken. The fact that a significant portion of the voting public neither takes their responsibilities as American citizens seriously. with respect to who and how they choose their elected representatives, and in many cases don’t even bother to vote at all in elections, will NOT be fixed by amending the Constitution. The problem isn’t the Constitution. It is the American citizens that have become both apathetic and indifferent to what the federal government does until such actions result in some sort of crisis. then all we hear is “How could this have happened?” Look in the mirror people. This republic, nor any other free nation on earth where the public has chosen to abdicate their responsibilities to manage the people they elect to represent them in that nation’s capitol, was never designed to operate on auto-pilot. Which is what many seem to really want at the… Read more »

Kyle S

The Constitution is not broken. The electorate is not educated on politicians and issues facing the nation. That is the problem. The Constitution is the solution. An Article V Convention is a recipe for disaster because the left could essentially rewrite the Constitution as they see fit. Reducing the size of the federal government is the answer and giving more power to the states (as intended) is the right answer. Any powers not granted to the federal government as written in the Constitution are 10th Amendment issues and belong to the states. Educated yourselves. Article V is not the way to fix the country, article VI is the right way.

Sterling Smith

I was surprised to see this opinion piece that appears to support an Article V convention. Is this the official position of AMAC? If so, then I have some follow up questions. How carefully does the federal government currently follow the Constitution? Does it limit itself to the “few and defined” powers (James Madison’s words) that were delegated to it? Why should we expect that adding a few more amendments, even beneficial ones, would suddenly cause the government to adhere faithfully to the Constitution? The role of the states, as described in the actual text of Article V, is to apply for the convention. Congress then calls the convention. There is nothing in the Constitution that defines the process of delegate selection, voting, etc. Congress would most likely make those rules. There is no guarantee that the scope of the convention would be limited, nor that it would be “one… Read more »

Paul G

I am waiting on an answer to how nullification would work today with 50 state governments? Do you think for one minute that all 50 states would agree to uniformly nullify anything? Not workable. My question remains: how can either Article VI or X can be used to, for instance, limit the terms for people serving in Congress to only 12-15 total years. Or how Article VI or X can be used, for example, to give a super majority of state legislatures (30 state governments) an override power over any federal law, policy, regulation, or judicial decision (including SCOTUS decisions) that are deemed by the states to be financially burdensome such as unfunded mandates or otherwise egregious in some manner. These type systemic changes to fed gov’t operations can only come by amendments—proposed amendments generated at a convention of states.

Paul G

As I appear to be ignorant to one respondent, perhaps someone can explain to me how either Article VI or X can be used to, for instance, limit the terms for people serving in Congress to only 12-15 total years for example. Or how Article VI or X can be used to give a super majority of state legislatures (30 state governments) an override power over any federal law, policy, regulation, or judicial decision (including SCOTUS decisions) that are deemed by the states to be financially burdensome such as unfunded mandates or otherwise egregious in some manner. The above are only two sample amendments that, if ratified, would systemically change how the feds operate.

Joel Sizemore

As long as AMAC supports Convention of States I will be a member.

Paul G

Many people do not understand how a convention of states would work and the safeguards therein against a leftist takeover of matters. Each state legislature represented at such a convention would have only one vote per proposed constitutional amendment. Each state legislature would set the rules and authorities for its delegates to the convention including penalties for trying to operate/vote outside the authority granted to them by their sponsoring legislature. These penalties can include, for example, a felony charge, financial fine, and/or immediate recall from the convention. The ultimate “check” on any proposed amendment coming from a convention of states is that the amendment would have to be ultimately ratified by 3/4 of the state legislatures (38 states) in order to become part of the constitution and law of the land–a very high bar that has been crossed only 27 times in over 200 years. So the risk of a… Read more »