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Article V Convention Used in Attempt to Change Our Constitution (1 of 2)

Updated on June 28, 2015
Can we write a better constitution today?
Can we write a better constitution today? | Source

This is an open letter to all State Legislators and should be read by every American Citizen.

Greetings. I am Alexander Reagan, an average American who is troubled with the direction American is heading in. I am writing to you today to address a concern of such national magnitude that it has the potential of changing our form of government and the power it has over us and our children. I appeal to your sense of decency to study the following facts you may not have considered concerning this matter.

All States, except for Hawaii, have numerous applications petitioning Congress to call an Constitutional Article V Convention. One of the most recent is for proposing a balanced budget amendment. Please reconsider these applications and then support rescinding them as soon as opportunity permits as the future of America depends on your action.

There is a deep rooted discontent among Republican and conservative minded Citizens as to the current occupant of the Oval Office who, with the help of a recently Democratic controlled Congress, has sought to, “fundamentally transform America.” This trouble has helped give rise to the Tea Party movement.

Currently there are several efforts to have the Legislatures of the several States petition Congress to call for an Article V Convention. These convention efforts have been initiated by some high minded individuals. These high minded individuals have latched themselves on to the mood of these discontented Citizens, who have recently lost meaningful focus, and helped them focus on efforts that purport to help swing the political pendulum to more favorable circumstances. These convention efforts were not largely started at the grassroots level, but were structured from the top down.

It can be frustrating to talk with some of the rank and file of these efforts because they refuse to look at evidence that refutes the claims of their leaders who say that a convention is a safe avenue to address their concerns. The arrogant confidence of these leaders can have a mesmerizing effect on their followers, leaving the followers to believe their leaders can not nor will not lead them astray.

Of the efforts to hold an Article V Convention the one that has made the most progress of late, is for proposing a balanced budget amendment. There needs to be only several more States that submit some kind of balanced budget petition for Congress to call a convention.

A main problem many Americans have with a constitutional provision convention is that it could be a runaway convention. This is true despite item specific, general subject matter, and convention restrictive petitions to Congress.

Should an “amendments convention,” as the Article V Convention advocate organization Convention of States likes to call it, implying that is all it could ever be, were ever to be convened, it is inherent in this type of a 50 State convention to be a runaway convention should the properly convened delegates of it choose it to be so as precedent was set in 1787. And this is further true under the God given Doctrine of Self-Preservation as expressed in the Declaration of Independence which reads, “That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive to these ends [i.e., to secure the Rights of Men], it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government.” That is what the American colonial revolution against England was all about. To deny this Right now, no matter what the underlying motive of an Article V Convention is, is un-American.

Michael Farris is an attorney representing the interests of his clients, the Convention of States corporation and its parent company, Citizens for Self-Governance. Needless to say, as a full time privately retained attorney, Farris gets a substantial fee from his clients.

As an attorney for the Convention of States, Farris’ implied mission is not to seek justice as the layman may know it, that is, to advance what is right or the truth. As an attorney for the Convention of States, Farris’ mission is to seek justice as a relative term, relative to his clients, as in what is in his clients best interests, and can be exclusive to what is right or the truth. As an attorney for the Convention of States, Farris’ expressive mission is to do his clients bidding as in this case, “to get ‘us’ into an Article V Convention [by any means necessary]." In doing so, as an attorney, Farris uses a theory of the facts, that is, an explanation and interpretation of facts that advance his clients interests. Facts presented may not be the truth, but merely presented as the truth. As an open secret, in a court of law if these misrepresentations of the facts, or as the layman sees it, lies, are not rebutted with an alternative theory, these lies stand as fact or truth. The lies may also stand as fact or truth should the presentation of the alternative theory of the facts be weak.

On the other hand, as an unpaid private American Citizen, my only motivation is to advance actual facts and the truth, and the safely and security of our Country and our Constitution. This leaves me at odds with Farris and other conservatives paid handsomely to influence the court of public opinion by the emotions of their admirers who are in awe of these seemingly larger then life personalities, who in turn pressure state legislators into supporting something that may very well end American Constitutional self government as we know it. As the maxim goes, “If my leaders say it okay then it must be okay,” and as a result they forget to do due diligence by doing their own research into what is the truth.

In a June 5, 2015 post on the Convention of States web page, Farris attempts to refute mine and others’ presentations of the facts regarding the runaway Convention of States of 1787. In this article Farris makes the claim the federal convention called for by Congress was strictly the result of the 1786 Mount Vernon Conference and needed no consent from Congress. It was in fact, just one year after the complete ratification of the Articles of Confederation in 1781 that there were stirrings in the states and Congress to amend the Articles.

The Mount Vernon Conference, organized by James Madison and hosted by George Washington, was seen by some at the conference as somewhat of an embarrassment since it was intended that representatives from all 12 States converge there, when delegates from only five States actually attended.

On April 1, 1783, in Congress, Alexander Hamilton, after he sought the opinion of his constituents, sought to propose to Congress a national convention, “to strengthen the federal Constitution.” and, “Mr. Higginson said he wished with Mr. Hamilton to see a General Convention for the purpose of revising and amending the federal [constitution],” but the timing was not right.

Also of significance on the same day, as seen in Madison’s Notes on Debates, there was distress expressed in Congress at word that the New England States, at the invitation of the Massachusetts and New York Legislatures, were “about to form a convention for regulating matters of common concern.”

“Mr. Mercer expressed great disquietude at this information.”

“Mr. Bland said he had always considered those Conventions as improper & contravening the spirit of the federal Government. He said they had the appearance of young Congresses.”

Likewise, “Mr. Madison & Mr. Hamilton disapproved of these partial conventions, not as absolute violations of the Confederacy, but as ultimately leading to them & in the mean time exciting pernicious jealousies.”

Note 6 for this date says that, “Members of Congress who held that the [New England] convention would violate the ‘spirit’ of the Confederation probably had in mind the following portion of Article VI of the Articles of Confederation: ‘No two or more states shall enter into any treaty, confederation or alliance whatever between them, without the consent of the united states in congress assembled, specifying accurately the purposes for which the same is to be entered into, and how long it shall continue.’”(Emphasis mine.)

The same thing could be said about the abortive Mount Vernon Conference of September 11, 1786; that it was an extra-legal gathering that had no constitutional authority, and in all probability, the reason it did not have more states represented in it.

On page XX in the Congressional Research Services’ “THE CONSTITUTION of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION - Centennial Edition - Document No. 112-9” it says about the Mount Vernon Conference’s proposed Philadelphia convention, “New York and several other States hesitated [to appoint delegates] on the ground that, without the consent of the Continental Congress, the work of the convention would be extra-legal; that Congress alone could propose amendments to the Articles of Confederation.” And that “[George] Washington was quite unwilling to attend an irregular convention. Congressional approval of the proposed convention became, therefore, highly important.” (Emphasis mine.)

That’s right,

“Congressional approval of the proposed convention became, therefore, highly important,”

and not as Farris asserts in his June 5 article that, “What role was Congress to play in calling the Convention?” To which he answers, “None.”

It should be noted as precedent, that most of the commissioners of the Annapolis Convention exceeded their delegated authority (no matter how extra-legal it already was) “to formulate recommendations for improvements in international trade and interstate commerce” (Emphasis mine.) when they discussed and then approved their report for a Philadelphia convention.

This Article V Convention will be the second Convention of States or Amendments Convention to address the defects of an American Constitution. The first one was called for by Congress in 1787. Like the first Convention, the second one could be a runaway convention.

Article XIII of The Articles of Confederation authorizes Congress to call a Convention of States Amendments Convention, and reads, “nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of [the Articles of Confederation]; unless such alteration be agreed to in a Congress of the United States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.”

On February 21, 1787, Congress, after receiving the Report of the Commissioners, concurred with the Annapolis Convention and called a Conference of States with these words, “Whereas there is provision in the Articles of Confederation & perpetual Union for making alterations therein by the assent of a Congress of the United States and of the legislatures of the several States; And whereas experience hath evinced that there are defects in the present Confederation, as a mean to remedy which several of the States and particularly the State of New York by express instructions to their delegates in Congress have suggested a convention for the purposes expressed in the following resolution and such convention appearing to be the most probable mean of establishing in these states a firm national government.

“Resolved that in the opinion of Congress it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several states be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation and reporting to Congress and the several legislatures such alterations and provisions therein as shall when agreed to in Congress and confirmed by the states render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of Government & the preservation of the Union.”

This “Convention of States” or “Amendments Convention” clearly exceeded its authority and in Federalist Paper No. 40 James Madison confirms this. He said, “In one particular it is admitted that the convention have departed from the tenor of their commission." In other particulars Madison asserts that while the letter of the commission of the convention was breached, the spirit of it was carried out to the pleasure of more favorable circumstances which gave cause to our new constitution. To justify this breach in authority Madison says in his own words, “Suppose, then, that the expressions defining the authority of the convention were irreconcilably at variance with each other; that a NATIONAL and ADEQUATE GOVERNMENT could not possibly, in the judgment of the convention, be affected by ALTERATIONS and PROVISIONS in the ARTICLE OF CONFEDERATION; which part of the definition ought to have been embraced, and which rejected? Which was the more important, which the less important part? Which the ends; which the means? Let the most scrupulous expositors of the delegated powers; let the most inveterate objectors against those exercised by the convention, answer these questions. Let them declare, whether it was of most importance to the happiness of the people of America, that the articles of Confederation should be disregarded, and an adequate government be provided, and the Union preserved; or that an adequate government should be omitted, and the articles of Confederation preserved. Let them declare, whether the preservation of these articles was the end, for securing which a reform of the government was to be introduced as the means; or whether the establishment of a government, adequate to the national happiness, was the end at which these articles themselves originally aimed, and to which they ought, as insufficient means, to have been sacrificed.”

Walter Dellinger, Assistant Attorney General from the Office of Legal Counsel for the Department of Justice, gave sought after testimony at a hearing of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee on the prospects of a Balanced Budget Amendment. He had this to say, “The primary concern of the Department of Justice is that the proposed amendments fail to address the critical question of how they will be enforced. Were a balanced budget amendment to be enforced by the courts, it would restructure the balance of power among the branches of government and could empower unelected judges to raise taxes or cut spending -- fundamental policy decisions that judges are ill-equipped to make. If the amendment proves unenforceable, it would diminish respect for the Constitution and for the rule of law,” and would thus provide an incentive for its repeal.

James A. Michener, world famous author, was Secretary for the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1967 -1968. As a result of his experience at this convention, he gave his testimony against an Article V Convention at the, “Hearing Before the Subcommittee on the Constitution of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, November 29, 1979.” This hearing was convened as result of an increasing number of State petitions to Congress in the late 1970's for a convention. His testimony in the next five paragraphs is as follows:

“I am, however, totally opposed to any measure that would encourage the 50 states of our nation to amend our national Constitution by means of the convention method, for I, better than most, appreciate the hidden dangers inherent in this system....

“I object [to convening an Article V Convention] for two reasons: The plan we are using has served us so well and so constructively in the 182 years since 1789 that as a traditionalist I see no need for meddling with the system; but more important, I know from history and from experience that once a constituent assembly has been convened, there is no power that can restrict it to limits arbitrarily set.

“Any such a convention contains the right and the implied power to become a runaway convention, and this is the most dangerous possibility that should be avoided if at all possible. And in the case like the present, when we already have a splendidly functioning system of amendment, it would be folly to lurch off irresponsibly to an alternative method which has not been proved and which contains dangers of the most treacherous kind.

“History is replete with examples of innocent conventions, assembled for one purpose, which exploded into unforeseen directions, the two most memorable being the Legislative Assembly which gave hideous guidance to the French Revolution and the Long Parliament which supervised the more peaceful revolution in England. I am afraid of such runaway conventions.

In today's political climate, do you think its wise to change the Constitution by Convention?

See results

© 2015 Alexander Reagan


Submit a Comment

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    I fail to see how a convention called specifically to make changes to the existing Constitution could result in wholesale changes in the rules without ever getting ratified.

  • do-what-is-right profile imageAUTHOR

    Alexander Reagan 

    3 years ago

    Convention delegates could change the ratification process, and also eliminate the 50 States to several federal regions as the proposed Constitution for the NewStates of America puts forth.

  • profile image


    3 years ago

    Even if several ridiculous proposed amendments make it out of this convention, they must be ratified by 3/4 of the states. How is this a bad thing?

  • do-what-is-right profile imageAUTHOR

    Alexander Reagan 

    3 years ago

    While laws are intended for everyone, more laws, or in this case more amendments to our Constitution and by convention, will not restrain an out of control Congress or president for that matter. The proposed "cure" may very well kill the patient.

  • profile image

    Howard Schneider 

    3 years ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

    Excellent and very thought provoking Hub, Alexander. Opening another Constitutional Convention would open up a Pandora's box to many dangerous ideas from both sides of the political spectrum. The system we have is quite imperfect but it does evolve and embraces change. We know not what we might wrought if we try again.


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