By world standards, the United States is a relatively young nation; however, no other country’s constitution has been in effect as long as ours. The U.S. Constitution is the oldest, as well as the shortest, of any constitution in the world. It is truly amazing when one thinks about it, and it is a great tribute to the men who worked together in the summer of 1787 to create this document.
In 1787, before there was a United States of America, the Continental Congress invited each of the thirteen original colonies to send delegates to Independence Hall in Philadelphia to consider revising the Articles of Confederation. Twelve of the colonies chose to attend and only one, Rhoda Island, declined to attend or to send a delegate. In May of 1787, fifty-five delegates from twelve colonies came together to begin their work. Realizing there were too many problems without a strong centralized federal government —diverse currency issues, individual states trying to negotiate with foreign countries, the need for a unified federal voice, etc.— the delegates pushed for a new government that was to be centered around a new constitution. The young nation was beginning to grow and at this time had a population of four million people. Philadelphia was the largest and most modern city of that day with almost 40,000 residents. Following completion of their work on September 17, thirty-nine delegates signed the Constitution, after which it was sent on to the states for ratification.
Once ratification of the Constitution was completed by all the colonies—including Rhode Island—they officially became known as the United States of America. The new nation’s constitution laid out the framework for the organization of the United States’ government and for the relationship of the federal government with state and local governments.
Even though today we have the benefit of the hindsight that the framers lacked, the U.S. Constitution has withstood the test of time and attests to the strength and versatility of the original document and the tenacity and foresight of its designers. For example, the framers recognized the importance of providing a means by which the Constitution could be amended, if needed, and the provisions are outlined in Article V of the Constitution. To date, there have been twenty-seven amendments added to the original document. Some are now wondering if it is time to look at additional amendments through an Article V national convention.
I have been receiving inquiries about Mark Levine’s new book The Liberty Amendment. Levine, a Constitutionalist and news commentator, has been looking at ways to restore Constitutional government while by-passing the entrenched federal bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. His strategy is to take advantage of Article V of the U.S. Constitution that gives the power to the states to call a convention and propose amendments.
The idea of passing new amendments through an Article V Constitutional convention is to slow the federal government’s expansion of their powers, while gradually restoring a more balanced form of constitutional government that the founding fathers intended.
Never before in American history have states invoked their Article V power. There is a serious risk such a Constitutional convention might become a “rogue convention” that may push through an agenda that could basically shred the protections of the original constitution.
There may be a solution to the problem of a runaway convention. A group of influential constitutionalists calling themselves the Madison Coalition may have found a workable solution to avoid dangers of a runaway convention. Briefly, their strategy is to first have the states draft legislation that would eliminate the possibility of the delegates to an Article V constitutional convention from going “rogue.” The strategy of using an Article V constitutional convention combined with the Coalition’s strategy to neutralize the fear of a runaway convention is perhaps America’s best hope of restoring constitutional government to what it once was and what it is intended to be.
As citizens become more discouraged and disgruntled with the abuses of federal power, various groups are beginning to look at taking steps to amend the Constitution in efforts to limit federal overreach..