Written by my good friend and constitutional scholar, Scott N. Bradley.
At the beginning of the American Revolution, the great patriot Patrick Henry stated, “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.”
In The Tempest, William Shakespeare (act 1, scene 1) observed “What’s past is prologue,” meaning, the experience of the past is but an introduction to that which is to come.
In many ways, history repeats itself. If we are willing to learn the lessons of history, perhaps the nation may avoid the mistakes of the past.
There is national discussion occurring with prominent people in very public forums suggesting the possible need of a constitution convention to correct the current disaster facing the nation. That discussion is growing into a movement to call a constitution convention to revise the United States Constitution. I fear that this movement will precipitate crises in this nation that will pose a greater risk to the survival of the republic than anything we have experienced since the 1860’s.
One of the things which most concerns me is that many of those fostering this discussion claim to love and appreciate our constitution, but that say it has been polluted so thoroughly now that we need to call a convention to correct what they term “obvious defects.”
I fear that they are ignorantly or (in some cases) purposefully planting seeds in the hearts and minds of good and caring Americans, and that these good and caring Americans will ultimately become so frightened by the unfolding events that they will insist that a convention be called.
Risks of Calling a New Constitution Convention
After sitting through the arduous debates of the 1787 Convention, Benjamin Franklin stated: “I doubt too whether any other Convention we can obtain, may be able to make a better Constitution.”
In 1788 James Madison expressed grave concerns about the calling of another constitution convention, saying: “Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the Second, meeting in the present temper of America, and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned.” If Madison was concerned about the risks in his day, who would be so foolish to suggest that today we are in a political environment that is better suited to bring forth more sound doctrines of liberty and proper government?
There are enormous unmeasured risks associated with a constitution convention!!!
Our nation’s only experience with a constitution convention testifies that if an Article V convention is started, there is no way to keep it from even creating an entirely new constitution; and we are at risk of losing our constitution and having it replaced by an entirely new constitution.
In fact, that is exactly what happened in the Convention of 1787.
When Congress called the Convention of 1787, the convention was called “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation,” thereby rendering “the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of government, and the preservation of the Union.”
However, when the delegates gathered in Philadelphia in May of 1787, they recognized that they were legally authorized to set the existing constitution aside and create an entirely new constitution.
Modern Founding Fathers?
Fortunately, they were honorable men who loved liberty and understood the great Americanist principles of individual God-given rights, that the purpose of government was to preserve those rights, that powers must be limited and enumerated, and that they must be checked and balanced and divided and subdivided if tyranny was to be prevented.
These men were uniquely suited to bring forth the magnificent work they established. And in numerous ways they recognized that the inspiration of God had been upon them as they sat and deliberated the magnificent precepts they incorporated into the United States Constitution.
I submit that men of the caliber of the American Founders are exceptionally rare today, and individuals of infinitely lesser caliber and character and understanding of the eternal principles of liberty will almost assuredly sit in any modern constitutional convention, with infinitely less desirable outcome! Where in the entire world today may we find even one or two statesmen of the character and understanding exhibited by George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason, James Wilson, James Madison, and the others who, under the inspiration of God, framed our marvelous Charter of Liberty: The United States Constitution? We will search the world in vain for such individuals.
The Article V Process
Article V of the United States Constitution allows two ways to change the Constitution. The first way is the ONLY way it has been changed since it was ratified: 2/3’s of both Houses of Congress pass a proposed amendment and then forward it to the States for ratification. When 3/4’s of the States ratify the amendment, it is part of the Constitution. The other way (which has never been done since the Constitution was ratified, but was the way the old Constitution—The Articles of Confederation—was thrown out) is a constitution convention, or Con-Con. That process involves 2/3’s of the States applying for (requesting) a convention. When that happens, the Constitution says that Congress SHALL call a convention. If that happens we will lose our Constitution. Upon reaching that required threshold of 2/3’s of the States, the Congress shall call the convention, and the convention will go forward.
Constraints on a Convention?
Our experience in 1787 demonstrates that it is impossible to call a convention and limit it to just one item or subject (such as a single specific amendment that someone or some State or some group of States has put forth). It is impossible to limit the scope of authority of a convention once it has been called. Remember, our 1787 convention experience is a perfect example of how powerful a convention is. The convention of 1787 was called with specific instructions to meet and develop possible changes to suggest regarding how to improve the existing constitution (the Articles of Confederation), and return and report them to Congress. This 1787 convention immediately exercised their authority, set aside the existing constitution, and wrote an entirely new one.
Not withstanding views and expressions to the contrary by those who foster a new constitution convention, many prominent modern legal minds, such as former U.S. Solicitor General and BYU President Rex Lee, former U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Arthur Goldberg, former Notre Dame Law Professor Charles E. Rice, Professor Christopher Brown of the University of Maryland School of Law, Professor Neil H. Cogan of the Southern Methodist University School of Law, Jefferson B. Fordham of the University of Utah College of Law, Professor Gerald Gunther of the Stanford School of Law, and Charles Alan Wright of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law have gone on record expressing their conviction that it is impossible to limit or constrain a convention once it has been called. Why risk our divinely inspired Constitution to the legal arguments and whims of today?
Safety in the Ratification Process?
As they wrote the new Constitution in 1787, the Founding Fathers also changed the rules of ratification to facilitate its ratification, because the rules that existed under the “old” constitution, The Articles of Confederation, required 100% of the States to agree to changes and were too difficult to succeed under. Consequently, the founders determined that ratification of the new Constitution they wrote in 1787 would occur with agreement of 2/3’s of the States. Most assuredly, any new constitution brought forth by a modern convention would include a new ratification process that would virtually guarantee its ratification.
The Politics of the 21st Century
Fortunately, the men who met in 1787 were honorable men who sought to preserve the blessings of liberty and proper government for themselves and their posterity, and, under the inspiration of God, they brought forth the most marvelous charter of government the world has ever known. Again, where in the entire world today can we find even one or two such men as walked across the stage of the world during the time this nation was founded? I know of none I would trust with such power today!!! In the current political environment, with the current lack of soundly-principled statesmen, and with the current state of ignorance among the electorate, we must NOT be led into the trap of a Con-Con!
State Control of a Constitution Convention?
Many suggest that the States will control the call to convention, and the naming of delegates. There is little justification for such a position. Read Article V of the U.S. Constitution carefully. Congress calls the convention when 2/3’s of the States apply for a convention. The States are out of the picture once they make the call. Who would name the delegates to a modern convention? Are Polosi and Reid then going to name the delegates? Will California have 55 delegates and Utah 5? Will special interest groups control or influence the decisions Congress makes in naming the delegates? Will a new constitution be submitted which was written by some elite “progressive” group as a “modern solution” for our government? Will a new constitution be brought forth with a new ratification methodology defined (a mere 50% of States ratify, or a democratic majority vote of the masses, or text messages for votes, or whatever inane process that could come up?)? We don’t know the answers to these questions, but I am certain I do not wish to risk it!
Ploys to Agitate for a Convention
There have been many deceptive ways that those who wish to destroy our divinely inspired Constitution have attempted to “pull the wool over the eyes” of America and by hook or crook get a convention called (and at times they have been VERY close to succeeding—in 1983, 32 of the required 34 States had called for a convention so they could get a Balanced Budget Amendment passed), but, to date, they have not pulled it off. There is a multi-faceted concerted effort being developed today (including various schemes and ploys playing to a desire for a Balanced Budget Amendment, Term Limits, Line Item Veto, Flag Burning Amendment, repeal of the 14th, 16th, 17th Amendments, the reinvigoration of the 10th Amendment, amendments granting the power to States to propose and ratify amendments independent of Congress, amendments granting States the power to override federal enactments, etc., etc. etc.) which will grow to a ground-swell of frustrated good and caring people calling for a convention, and which will lead to greater danger to this nation than it has ever faced if we heed the call for a convention.
Do not be deceived into supporting ANY proposal that will result in a call for a convention! If a State or a group of States desire an amendment, and we want to keep the effort out of the danger zone of a convention, the State or States must work with their congressional delegation (or at least a member of that delegation) to foster that amendment through the Congress so they can attempt to get the 2/3’s of both Houses to pass it so it can then be sent out to the States to attempt to get 3/4’s of them to ratify it. The process is tried and proven. It doesn’t happen very often, and for good reason! Even as difficult as the process is it has not prevented some VERY BAD amendments from sneaking through, but at least the bulk of the Constitution and its original intent (to date) is still intact, and we may return to it if we have the political fortitude to do so!
If people want to get rid of the 16th and 17th Amendments and some others (a good idea so we can get back to the original intent of the Constitution), we need to do it the same way the nation repealed the 18th amendment (with the 21st Amendment). The 21st Amendment went through 2/3’s of both Houses, and was ratified by 3/4’s of the States. No call for a convention! There is another valid way to expunge the 17th Amendment, but it bears more explanation in another article which could be devoted to that process.
Thomas Jefferson said: “A nation that expects to be ignorant and free…expects what never was and never will be.” We face that problem today. Through many years of apathy, we have become ignorant of the great foundation upon which our liberty is vouched safe. It is astounding how many people claim to love the Constitution, but so many are quick to foster the idea that something is wrong with it and that it is necessary to change it (even by a “pull-it-up-by-the-roots” convention process). The problem is not that the Constitution is flawed. The problem is that we have ceased to abide by it. If we went back and lived by the exact words of the Constitution, the problems they claim require a change in the Constitution will be resolved, and the nation will straighten up and fly right.
The people seeking a constitution convention are barking up the wrong tree. If they succeed in their efforts to call a convention we will lose the Constitution. We must not allow this to happen.
Do we wish today to put our Constitution at risk by our early and preemptive strike in a time when evil and designing men and women will likely hijack the movement to further advance their decades-old efforts to destroy our form of government and merge us into a globalist-socialist one-world government that contradicts everything God established? In spite of well intended efforts by good and caring people at this time, our feeble attempts to “correct” what God established will assuredly result in the effort being lost to the likes of the foundations of Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, the Council on Foreign Relations cabal, and a whole raft of others who have been attempting to get a constitution convention called for many decades (and who have already laid the plans to control such a convention, and who already have compiled new constitutions to be adopted through that process).
The Wise Solution
The solution is a return to the constraints of power on the federal government which exist within the United States Constitution. The problem is not with the Constitution. The Constitution is not flawed. It does not need to be changed. The problem is that we have stopped applying the Constitution. We do not have to amend the Constitution to solve this problem, and we do not have to risk a Con-Con to bring things back into proper order. The solution is to begin again to abide within the constraints so carefully defined within the plain English words of the United States Constitution. James Madison stated that the powers of the national government were “few and well defined.” Perhaps, when the people of the Nation again understand that fact, the Nation’s leadership will be compelled to abide by their oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
I will close with the position that I currently hold in regards to the challenges which face this great nation:
I hope that the electorate will become soundly-founded “constitutionalists” that will vigorously insist that their representatives abide by their oath to uphold the Constitution, and that they will not hesitate to remove from office any and all who violate that strict oath.
Statesmen of the caliber of the American founders must be raised up. The timeless wisdom that established the United States must again be vigorously applied. The foundational Americanist principles must be learned, understood, and embraced. The results will be as they were in the beginning. America may become again the freest, most prosperous, most respected, and happiest nation on earth if we will return to the plain English words of the Constitution. Education in the correct foundational principles established by God is the key to our preparation for the RESTORATION we are all working for.Published in