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Article Five Convention Applications: Nothing Unusual

A continuing series of discussions of Mark Levin’s new book,
The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic

(Discussion #14 – The Missing Balance and the Many Applications)

Note: I got to this late on Monday, then due to scheduling difficulties, I had to publish it in the early hours of Tuesday morning. Also, the dog ate my homework. – K-Bob

Mark Levin’s publishing house, Simon and Schuster, released his book in August of this year. Its reception in the eighteen weeks since then—three of them spent at number one on the New York Times List—has given a huge boost to the growing movement to restore the balance between and among the major divisions and branches of our Republic.

This balance was carefully crafted by the framers in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. It included not only the famous separation of powers in the federal branches, but also upheld the sovereign powers of the states as a counter to the tendency of governments toward centralization (and therefore concentration) of power. As we know, the balance conceived by the framers has taken major damage over the past century (especially including all of 1913). Once the states lost control over the growth of the federal components of government, the “strange attractor” of centralized power began the runaway process that destroys all Republics: the loss of fiscal restraint[1].

The best path we have toward a restoration of this balance is via the Article Five second process for amending the Constitution. Best, because it’s safe (as in, “It isn’t war”), legal (as in, “It’s the law of the land”), and rare (as in, “In over two-hundred years, no Amendment Convention has produced a ratified amendment”). But that rarity is not because of a lack of effort: every state has made application—at one time or another—to Congress, calling for a Convention for Proposing Amendments.

Despite what some detractors have been claiming, the call to hold an Article Five Convention is not something new, nor is it a novel approach. Applications have been made by various states beginning as early as 1789, when Virginia and New York saw fit to register Applications for an Amendments Convention. A quick scan of the Virginia and New York applications (which can be found at the article5library website) seems to indicate that they made them more on general principle that they could do so, and less on the need to address a specific call for amendment (although most state legislatures felt that the Constitution as ratified contained many defects)[2]. The point here is that many states have made applications[3] over the years, and many such applications are still considered to be “alive,” and waiting on the requisite number in order to cause Congress to call a Convention.



The reason so many Applications have lain dormant in Congress is that, defective or not, the Constitution has held us together as a Republic through many crises. With the lone exception of the Convention of 1861, the various calls for an Amendments Convention have not had a sense of dire urgency about them, and the needs they were trying to address were not national emergencies, even where they were considered vitally important. Unfortunately, dire urgency is now upon us, and if we do not restore the balance the framers designed, the Republic will no longer be a home to liberty nor to the notion of private property. The fundamental transformation will be permanent, and as with the failure of Congress to act after the Convention of 1861, civil war the most likely result.

Peace Convention 1861 excerpt

Detail from Peace Convention etching
from Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper – Dickinson College collection

If you’ve been following the conversation, those alarming concepts are not new. However, despite the danger in which we find ourselves, many are still nervous about the Article Five process. It turns out that the reason for that nervousness has been a deliberate misinformation campaign aimed directly at you. You are not to be trusted. You are to go to sleep and trust the masterminds (as Levin calls them) to take care of all your needs. You cannot be trusted to choose the way your state representatives will vote. It must all be in the hands of the US Congress. You must fear a runaway convention, despite all the obvious deterrents built into the process. You must fear your state legislators more than your federal ones, despite the obvious corruption in the federal system. Most importantly, you must somehow believe that your federal representatives will listen to you more closely than your local ones.

Those fears are based on misrepresentation of the process. This misrepresentation appears to be due to two main factors: 1) The lack of interest in the subject since the Convention in 1861 failed to result in Congressional action to make changes that the states felt would help avoid the Civil War[4]; and 2) The wave of writing about Article Five in the 1960s that was full of historical errors (notably the lack of scholarship regarding prior Conventions and their importance in establishing the Constitutional Convention). The fact is, work by Rob Natelson and others has restored the missing scholarship by legal writers on the subject. As Natelson has pointed out, legal writers are rarely good historians, and good historians are rarely legal scholars. So by restoring the missing history of the many Conventions that were actually held since the Founding, we now know that a legal framework exists that creates an orderly, limited process for amending the Constitution.

Over the next few months, I urge people to take a little bit of time to familiarize themselves with the many conventions that have been held, and the hundreds of applications for an Amendments Convention that have already been submitted to Congress[5]. The process is not new, it must conform to the acts passed by the state legislatures limiting the items to be discussed (and how their delegations may vote), and the amendments that are so proposed must be ratified by at least thirty-eight states.

The biggest fear we face is what happens if we do not restore the balance. If we fail to reign in the federal government, collapse is inevitable.


Footnotes

1. Many would say that a decline in morality is the ultimate cause of a Republic’s failure. But a Republic in moral decline is a prerequisite to a loss of fiscal control. Moral bankruptcy leads to fiscal bankruptcy, and it is the latter that characterizes the structural failure of a nation.

2. These first two applications did result in additional pressure for Congress to get on with the promised Bill of Rights amendments. The Bill of Rights was a critical condition upon which many states agreed to ratify the Constitution. The history of state applications includes several instances where Congress decided to act instead of leaving it to the states. So in that light, the Application process has already achieved successes that are significant, even though no Convention was achieved.

3. As many as four hundred. you can see the list at article5library.

4. Few know the history of the many conventions held since the founding. One of the most notable was the effort by several states to attempt to head off the impending civil war, even though many states had already invoked secession acts. The Peace Conference of 1861 was held in D.C., and was not called by Congress under Article Five rules. Like the concepts embodied in secession and nullification, the states simply took it upon themselves to attempt a solution. The product of the Convention was a proposal to Congress to pass a seven point amendment. Congress did not do so (one possible reason is that Congress was awash in compromise proposals), and the one related amendment Congress did pass on its own was never ratified. So while the process was a failure on many levels (not the least, that it would have preserved slavery), it did show that states know how to conduct a Convention, and how such conventions proceed. Critical to success is for any such Convention to Follow The Law. In other words: use the Article Five second process as intended, and produce Amendments that go directly to the states.

5. Two important resources here are James Madison and the Constitution’s Convention for Proposing Amendments and Amending the Constitution by Convention. These articles are part of The Source Code. Once you read them, you’ll be up to speed.


Previously:

Discussion #13: Activism, and the Scope of the Problem
Discussion #12: Cutting Back The Bureaucracy
Discussion #11: ArticleFiveProcess site news
Discussion #10: The Article Five process is how we go on offense
Discussion #9: the filthy habit of continuing resolutions
Discussion #8: Naysayers
Discussion #7: Tracking Our Progress
Discussion #6: Amendments on Spending and Taxes
Discussion #5: How much power do the states have?
Discussion #4: What If They Hijack the Convention?
Discussion #3: An Invitation to Our Friends on the Left
Discussion #2: Run Away!
Discussion #1: Zombie Doctrine, Tactics, and the Liberty Amendments

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28 thoughts on “Article Five Convention Applications: Nothing Unusual

  1. The 16th Amendment (Income Tax) and the 17th Amendment (Senators elected by popular vote) weren’t the only bad things that happened in 1913; That was the year of the Federal Reserve Act.

    The adoration-and-sacrifice loving dove sellers of the left formed an axis with the money-for-nothing loving money changers of the right:
    “You can collect interest from the taxpayers on money you print out of thin air, as long as you only give what you print to us, the government.”

    spending = taxing + borrowing + printing
    Levin’s Amendment 32, to Limit Federal Taxing (flat 15% for all taxes), should be expanded to deal with the whole right side of that equation:
    – Repeal the 16th
    – Abolish the Fed, cancel the taxpayers’ “debt” to it, and coin all “its” gold and silver in weight denominations for the people to redeem.
    – Borrow only for survival (war bonds), and pay off the true debt the government has accumulated, to seniors and bondholders alike, by the sale of Federal lands, over a 10 year period.
    – At all levels of government, if a service (such as education) is otherwise available from a commercial source, the taxpayer may avail himself of it, by denial of tax.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure plenty of progressives over at Ctr for Amer Progress are clinking their glasses to the trifecta and cutting a cake with “2013 = 100 years of elitists” on it. I like the targets you set, lets remember that as long as we reverse course, we’re heading in the right direction.

    1. As often as Levin references TRS, I kinda figured that he and Scoop were communicating behind the scenes. If I ever get through on his show again, I will most def be plugging the AFP site and what everyone can do to fill in the grid map and push their legislators on advocating the process.

  2. We need Tea Parties everywhere to come up to speed on this and be active in its execution. I am speaking to my local club in Feb to talk about the process and motivate those who would become active. Yes it’s slow but it’s legal. And if this country implodes, I need to know I did everything legal before that happens.

    1. Yes. Tea Party groups have been focused on elections, so it’s a bit of a change to get them to think about an Article Five Convention. Some of them jumped the gun early and declared Levin’s proposals to be for a “Con-Con,” which is simply false.

      To be fair to the detractors on the right, Patrick Henry and Sam Adams were NOT in favor of the Constitution being ratified. Many fine patriots are right to be leery. The problem is, clinging to the broken system we have now is nothing more than going down with the ship.

      We need a solution as big as the problem, and the Amendments Convention is the only one that comes close.

  3. The problem with an Article V Convention is, especially in the case of where I am from, Texas’ legislature is run by liberal Republicans and Democrats. Half of the bills signed into law were authored by Democrats. The delegates sent by Texas to a Convention would certainly not be chosen conservatives, but RINOs with instructions to impede and oppose.

    1. State Legislatures are the easiest to turn our way, though. That’s the whole reason people are gunning for a convention.

    2. Each state gets one vote. Also, each state determines the scope of what their delegation may discuss or vote upon. So they can’t do much impeding or imposing.

      Besides, even liberals (you probably mean progressives) at the statehouse level want to see the balance restored so that states have more power. All politicians want to increase their visibility and reach. They’ll do the math, and see that pulling control from DC is in their best interests.

      1. Exactly. The Democrats in some states may be as likely as any Republican states to vote for a balanced budget amendment, term limits for Federal positions, and election of Senators by the states.

        1. And should any of those basic amendments get struck down (and certainly talked down by DC) the nations public is going to say “Whaaaa? We got a bigger problem than we thought.”)

    3. However, success in this regard will give the state legislatures MUCH MORE POWER AND CONTROL! Failure leaves them with all of the federal mandates that consume huge swaths of their stat budgets. PLAY TO THEIR EGOS!

  4. Unfortunately none of the things Levin has proposed are going to happen. Its too far gone. The only way it would happen is if some camel rider commits a terrorist attack in this country of some great magnitude that would rock this nation into shape. Of course I would hate for that to happen but whenever you have time to argue over Santa Claus and not the seriousness of how bad shape we are in something major is the only way this country will wake up and MAYBE be open to something like this. Maybe a financial fallout or war with Russia or China would get people involved in government again. Hate for that to happen of course but still it would be a wake up call.

    1. No need to be so negative, Ryan, these are different times we’re living in, and I think the current state of affairs in our country (the huge debt, the run-away government, the lack of oversight, constant surveillance, and police-state mentality) is precisely the “wake up call” you are speaking of. It’s a calamity of significant proportions, and that is what is driving the COS movement. Hope you’ll join in and help make this happen…it’s very easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize, but you could be more useful if you would engage and become part of the movement.

    2. I think you’ve got it backwards. The major crisis will trigger a bigger police state, and it will become too late for peaceful resistance. NOW is the time to educate our neighbors on the false left-right argument, and to get our local legislators and sheriffs to take action. Hey, what’ve we got to lose?

    3. Meh. Quitter talk.

      You don’t get to decide what we do, you only get to decide if you’re in or out, Ryan. Are you in or out?

      If you’re in, you can definitely help us get it done. Maybe even come up with a better idea. (We’ve pointed out several places in the Liberty Amendments where better ideas are needed.)

      1. With all due respect k-bob, I’ve been IN my entire life. I’ve been in since I was a child when most kids didn’t even knew the word politics existed. With the media propaganda machine and the dumbing down of our children things have become more than dire. I’m just being a realist. I will fight to the end as I always have but realism is going to creep in. The public is too far gone. I agree with the Liberty Amendments. I love them. The public could care less. Stuff like this to them sounds dated and crazy. With the media that will always be that way. I believe these are the Last Days and this is inevitable. Pessimism? Yes but you must at least admit that what I’ve just stated is true. You do a great job so I wasn’t trying to minimize your work.

        1. I’ll only admit that you believe something I’d never believe. Look, we are sliding toward war. The way I see it, we have one chance to avoid it, so naysaying serves zero purpose. You either pull on your oar or sit back and explain to your kids why you didn’t bother.

          I at least won’t have to explain to my kids why I didn’t do more. What happens after I die is someone else’s problem.

          Of course, I know you’ll be there pulling, too. Just have some faith!

          1. I’m gonna have to say it again I guess. If you don’t believe that the media is dominating the way information flows and thus directing what people hear and don’t hear then you aren’t reading news for the past many years. The schools are the same…controlled by leftists which in turn control our kids thought processes. Is that not freaking real enojgh ? Read the news. You don’t have to go far. I’ve posted more than a dozen times what could be done to turn things around and those things MUST be done before any of the stuff you’re talking about can come to fruition. Like Christians banding together. Have you seen that???? Of course not because if you had we wouldn’t be having this discussion. I’ll fight till my dying day regardless of what you have to say. You don’t know me and if you did you wouldn’t step on my head like I’m some weak knee fool. The fact is others aren’t going to fight, like the Christian example I gave above. If they won’t fight than who will?? They have God on their side and that doesn’t motivate them. Thats called realism. It doesn’t mean that I can’t see things the way they are and not fight at the same time. It WILL take some manor catastrophe like 9/11 most likely. Remember after 9/11 happened and how the country came together and were filling churches and such??? One thing I didn’t appreciate in your comment was acting like I wouldn’t stand up for my or anyone else’s children. What a rude, ignorant thing to say. I guess you got “save the day” all to yourself? I don’t like being talked down to, period. Read my past posts and how I’ve been trying to get people off their asses and maybe then you’ll comprehend that I’m not a quitter. Quitting and realism of an almost fact are two different things. Maybe this will help you out…a platoon of soldiers have to take a hill and will do it no matter what but they also know under the circumstances that they’ll never make it out alive. That’s me!! Thanks for the demeaning comment.

          2. Maybe I got a little too fired up being that I didn’t read your last paragraph. Maybe put that at the top next time. 🙂

            1. Heh. I tend to be a fairly solid, sharp-edges guy when it comes to ideas. Ideas are meant to be clobbered. Percussive maintenance is good for them.

              I hit hard, but it’s the ideas I’m hitting, not the people with whom I’m discussing them.

              But I can try harder to be more diplomatic, I guess.

              Takes more time, tho. Feel free to hit back twice as hard anytime! Ideas deserve it.

    4. Yeah because the last time a camel rider committed a terrorist attack, power went out of DC and back to the states, and the Fed govt shrunk….

      Wow. Are you a plant?

  5. There is such an urgency for Conservatives to start fighting. We are being attacked every day- by our own GOP Establishment, not just the Democratic Socialists. The more get schooled the better chance we have. There is no single answer, buy many fronts. Thanks K-Bob for putting this out, I pass it on to all who I can.

  6. Dennis Miller once joked that the sign in Times Square indicating the number of murders in NYC was taken down because thugs were killing people just to watch the sign change, ha ha. I bring that up because at this early time in the AFP database, and entry or two can move a state way up the list. Oddly enough, I find myself compelled to see Florida change from blue to purple on the map. Time to stoke that competitive spirit in our political circles!

  7. I’ll update folks on the articlefiveprocess site in the comments later. I’ll just note here that some of these links in this article are really good things to read, even though it takes some time.

    Sorry for the lateness this week, folks!

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