Article V Convention: Why not?

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James Madison, writing to George Turberville, 2 November 1788, about the prospect of another Constitutional Convention before the ink was dry on the 1787 Constitution:

"You wish to know my sentiments on the project of another general Convention as suggested by New York. I shall give them to you with great frankness . . .

3. If a General Convention were to take place for the avowed and sole purpose of revising the Constitution, it would naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress appointed to administer and support as well as to amend the system; it would consequently give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partizans on both sides; it wd. probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already too much heated men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric. Under all these circumstances it seems scarcely to be presumeable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good. Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second, meeting in the present temper of America, and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned. . . .

Retired Chief Justice Warren Burger, writing in 1988, during his service as chairman of the Commission of the Bicentennial of the U. S. Constitution:

I have repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The Convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the Convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the Convention would obey. After a Convention is convened, it would be too late to stop the Convention if we don't like its agenda...Our 1787 Constitution was referred by several of its authors as a 'miracle.' Whatever gain might be hoped for from a new Constitutional Convention could not be worth the risks involved....

Eagle Forum has a section of its website devoted to the problems with a proposed Article V Convention (sometimes called a "Convention of the States").

Our 1787 Convention was developed by men who were classically educated and immersed in a culture suffused with the teaching of Scripture. The Great Awakening had produced a revival of religion and a reformation of manners throughout the American States. The Framers of the Constitution understood the innate dignity of man and his innate depravity. They read the ancient historians on the strengths and weaknesses of Athenian democracy. They read histories and contemporaneous accounts of the rise of the Roman Republic and its decline into dictatorship and empire. The evolution of Britain's constitutional monarchy and her brief experiment with republicanism was in the not-too-distant past.

Anyone seriously believe that a new Constitutional convention would be populated by delegates with the same depth of education and capacity for complex thought?

We have judges who are quite happy to twist constitutional language to suit the social and political aims of the Cultural Revolution. How will more words stop them? We have senators who won't block judges of the aforementioned type, out of fear of being thought judgmental and obstructionist. We have citizens who twice elected a President who had described his purpose as "fundamentally transforming the United States of America." What kind of men and women will they elect to a Constitutional Convention?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 29, 2015 8:09 AM.

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