Faria: A Constitutional Convention — Not the Way to Amend the U.S. Constitution!

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Recently, Bill Ferguson, a local columnist in The Macon Telegraph, opined it is “time to call for a new constitutional convention.” To make his points, he tells us about the public’s general dissatisfaction with the state of affairs in our nation, and then tries to scare us to death with the frightening scenarios of a government shutdown, the U.S. defaulting on the national debt, and the gridlock in Congress, so that “these once-unthinkable situations could come to pass.”(1)

No blame is placed on President Barack Obama, who is at the helm of the ship of state navigating the “unchartered waters.” But that is not all: “The stock market could collapse. Your cash and investments could become virtually worthless overnight. Government benefits like Social Security and Medicaid might be dramatically scaled back or not paid at all.” And so Mr. Ferguson writes, “I think it’s fair to say that our government is fundamentally broken at this point, and I don’t see it getting any better unless we somehow shake things up and change the status quo. But how could we do that?” His solution is to call for a constitutional convention to set things right. That idea, of course, is a very bad one.

Why? Because there is no “consensus” as to whether a convention of the states can be limited to a single or a few subjects (e.g., a balanced budget or term limit amendments). There is considerable writing expounding on this subject, and most authorities fear instead of a single or a few subjects on the table, a convention would not be limited. In fact, an all powerful constitutional convention could convene that would abrogate the entire U.S. Constitution and a new form of government created, as in fact it happened in Philadelphia in 1787.

Painting of the original Convention of States, the Constitutional Convention in 1787

A little history is helpful. The Founding Fathers convened a national convention in Annapolis in 1786 to discuss interstate commerce among the states under the Articles of Confederation. It was ineffective but was used as a sounding board for another convention on the same subject a year later. And instead of limiting the discussion to interstate commerce, James Madison immediately seized the opportunity to overturn the Articles of Confederation, which he thought completely inadequate for an effective federal government. Led by Madison, the founders then framed a completely new constitution, which was not what was originally intended! Thus the Convention of the States in Philadelphia became, in fact, the path blazing Constitutional Convention of 1787 that completely altered our form of government. Obviously, that was for the better at the time, given the talent, erudition and wisdom of the founders.(2)

But in today’s flagging educational establishment and the rudderless political climate, as Mr. Ferguson has himself described, imagine the outcome of a new convention! So let’s be serious. Presently, we have but few statesmen of the caliber of the founders, the intellectual giants of 1787 who framed our Constitution. Where are the principled men of firm convictions and possessed of moral compasses ready to navigate the treacherous and unchartered waters? Where are we going to find men and women of the caliber of James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Gouvernor Morris, Benjamin Franklin, George Mason, Richard Henry Lee? What kind of constitution would the modern politicians draft? Our founders were well read, and they based our founding documents on historical precedents of government, the classical political philosophy of the enlightenment, and natural rights theory. Today’s politicians, urged on by the progressive academicians and the biased liberal media, would write a “living” constitution — likely authoritarian, oligarchical and collectivist, or a travesty of a “consensual” document not worth the paper it is printed on!

Mr. Ferguson writes: “We need to make the same sort of radical change. It’s time for the states that make up this union to call for another constitutional convention. I would not suggest throwing out our current Constitution as I think it is a worthy foundation to build a government on.” Frankly, I think that last statement is a red herring evincing the possibility that Ferguson wants to have it both ways. Nevertheless I will extend him the benefit of the doubt and sincerity when he says he says he doesn’t want to “throw out our current Constitution.” Mr. Ferguson continues, the U.S. Constitution “has loopholes that our representatives have exploited much to the nation’s detriment, and those loopholes need to be closed.”  He then lists three amendments he would suggest: First, a balanced budget; second, term limitation; and third, an amendment reiterating congressional power to declare war and only “when our national security is under threat or one of our allies has been attacked.” I disagree with the “loopholes” bit, but I agree with those specific proposals and particularly support Ferguson’s last limitation in his third proposal: “No more ‘nation building’ or ‘peace keeping’ exercises at a president’s discretion.” Indeed! But convening a constitutional convention is not the answer.

These three sound principles of governments proposed would have been de facto accomplished, if our progressive politicians and consensual representatives had followed and obeyed the Constitution as it stands.

First, term limits can take place at every election by simply voting the ineffectual or corrupt representatives out by an informed and vigilant electorate, prerequisites for effective self-government. Amendments may be necessary only as a last resort. The Founders presupposed the informed and vigilant citizenry would elect men of character and integrity as their chosen representatives in the U.S. House of Representatives, in the state legislatures, and as presidential electors.(3)(4)(5)

Second, as it regards a balanced budget, for example, consider Article I, Section 9, paragraph 7 of the Constitution that reads: “No money should be drawn from the Treasury, but in consequence of Appropriations made by law; and a regular statement and account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public money shall be published from time to time.” Moreover, it is fiscally responsible and common sense that a budget should be balanced, whether specifically mandated by the Constitution or not. Thomas Jefferson opined: “To preserve our independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty or profusion and servitude…And the fore-horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression…I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.”(6) And for many years the founder’s advice was followed, and the United States prospered and did not incur a persistently climbing and crushing national debt — until the federal government transcended its constitutional limitations and became a completely unrestrained leviathan with the advent of LBJ’s Great Society.

And third, as it pertains to waging war: Article I, Section 8, paragraph 11 of the Constitution already authorizes Congress “to declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisals….” Needless to say, our founders and their successors, until the 20th century, believed in the concept of just and defensive wars. Let’s return to the concept of peace, unless our national security, or that of our allies, is threatened or we are attacked. And if common sense and the existing constitutional constraints are not enough to fix the problems, the present Constitution already has a simpler mechanism in place for amendment, a process which has already been used successfully 27 times. Article V reads: “The Congress, whenever two-thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, should propose Amendments to this Constitution… which should be valid to all Intents and Purposes as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by three fourths of the several states.” The other method of amending the Constitution requires convening a constitutional convention, which as we have stated may not be limited to a single or a few subjects, and can therefore be a dangerous double-edged sword.

Granted, there is much insanity in Washington, but President Obama is at the helm, and much of the fiscal profligacy, economic mayhem, and irresponsible misuse of military power, as in Libya, has emanated from the White House supported mostly by his Democratic Party. Let us not tamper with the U.S. Constitution but elect legislators who will abide by the venerable document — and vote out those who don’t! There is still time to save and keep our Republic!

See my subsequent article on this topic: “Concerns remain on calls for a ‘Convention of States’ to restore the nation.”

References

1. Ferguson B. Time to call for a new constitutional convention. The Macon Telegraph, September 20, 2013.

2. The authoritative 753-page biography of James Madison by Ralph Ketcham (1990; University of Virginia Press) is an imposing tome, but well-worth the read for those interested in the life of the Master Builder of the U.S. Constitution, the forging of the document, and the mechanism involved in convening a constitutional convention.

3. Madison J. and Hamilton A. The Federalist Papers, #57 and #68.

4. Faria MA. The Electoral College in the U.S. Constitutional Republic. GOPUSA.com, August 24, 2011.

5. Faria MA. The Political Spectrum (Part II) —  The Center:  A Democracy or a Constitutional Republic? GOPUSA.com, October 14, 2011.

6. Jefferson T. Letter to Samuel Kervechal, June 12, 1816.

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.) Mercer University School of Medicine. He is an Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI), and an Ex-member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2002-05; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002). Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002). His website is https://HaciendaPublishing.com.

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Faria: A Constitutional Convention — Not the Way to Amend the U.S. Constitution! GOPUSA.com, September 23, 2013. Available from: https://haciendapublishing.com/faria-a-constitutional-convention–not-the-way-to-amend-the-u-s-constitution.

The images used to illustrate this commentary came from a variety of sources and did not appear in the original versions published either in GOPUSA.com on September 23, 2013 or in the Macon Telegraph on October 18, 2013. They were added here for the enjoyment of our readers at HaciendaPublishing.com.

Copyright ©2013 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD

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1 thought on “Faria: A Constitutional Convention — Not the Way to Amend the U.S. Constitution!”

  1. No difference between the Parties? A Convention of States is what is needed? Oct 7, 2021 form FB discussion.

    Friends, I get tired sometime of people claiming there is no difference between parties, but it is an excuse for not doing and fulfilling civic duties or for remaining ignorant and bolstering defeatism! The choices are stark & clear, and it is not only in this race, but in 90-95% of races (the 5-10 % exemptions are RINOs!). — MAF

    MAF, There is a difference, but both are corrupt in different ways. Until we break the stranglehold of the 2 party system and have a viable alternative we must pick the lesser of 2 evils. Which is the Republican party. While they are also not really fiscally responsible (as much as they should be), they do support the Constitution and free market.—BB

    BB, There is corruptness in the Church, but that doesn’t make the Church bad (and I am not comparing RINOs to the Pope!!) There are Republicans that claim to be, but, in reality just Democrats in Republican states (Romney comes to mind). The important thing to remember is, even the worst Republican can give us a majority in the House or Senate – Nancy & Chucky have proven how important that is. Even the most proLife or Constitutional Democrat gives them the majority and the power to kill babies and increase government. that borders very closely on “throw the baby out with the bath water.” I say we shore up the government by defeating ALL Democrats. Then we heal the Republicans from within by whittling away the RINOs.— Matthew Hampton

    MH, I agree with that analogy, but unfortunately both parties seem to kowtow to the fringe and don’t standup to their principles. I agree with the Republican platform, but they don’t stand up when it counts. We need to get rid of the entrenched and complacent members on both sides. — BB

    BB, I must disagree with you on this immensely and agree with Matthew Hampton. 1. There is a huge difference between the parties on every issue: Corruption galore in the Democrat (socialist) Party; wealth redistribution; control of peoples’ lives; liberty vs servitude to the mighty State; gun control; hatred of Christianity; hatred of tradition and traditional institutions, including the Constitution (the “living document” which is of course the complete opposite); use of deception, lies and disinformation, etc. . Of course you know all of this! 2. Re. “[the GOP] don’t standup to their principles. I agree with the Republican platform, but they don’t stand up when it counts.” You are confusing deception with fear of the electorate as incited by the media, the school system, the popular culture, and higher academia “Platos’ guardians” — all establishments of the left, and all of them support the Democrat (socialist) Party, which, does not have to kowtow to them and, of course, makes them formidable and fearless! The GOP, on the other hand, is frankly intimidated, as they should be to some extent, because the stupid and fickle electorate can go one way or the other based on PC indoctrination and disinformation. A Republic was founded for an honest and informed electorate. Even this has been eroded by the public school system and media propaganda. 3. Yes we need to get rid of RINOs who are indeed traitors, but not Republicans here and there because we don’t agree with them on every issue; after all they had to respond to THEIR constituents in the various states, which vary in conservative intensity. While ALL DEMOCRATS today are socialists if there was no pressure on them as in the case of Sen. Manchin. 4. The Two Party system in America is here to stay, whether we like it or not, as Americans have demonstrated in the last two centuries. Parties may replace each other but always end up with two opposing each other by the electorate. And frankly, I prefer it to the Parliamentary system (social democracy) of Europe. I think I have said enough.This should entitled me for a free ticket to the GOP convention in 2024 to elect either Trump or DeSantis! —MAF

    MAF, I am not saying I disagree with most of your post, but can’t help recall what Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and Washington expressed as their concern about the dangers of a 2 party system. They stated basically that it would breed corruption and polarization. I feel that the reason a third party hasn’t broken through was because most feel that the 2 parties are so strong that they would waste their vote. I really liked the last Libertarian presidential candidate, but realized she was a long shot. Right now I think we need to focus on the Convention of States movement and get Congress back on track. I think that will also weaken the Democrat and Republican stranglehold on the system giving them more competition from 3rd parties and force them to walk the talk on their platforms.—BB

    BB, I’m aware of the Founders view of a two-party system, but that was one rare instance when they turned out to be wrong because man is fallible. I also don’t agree with the Convention of State because i don’t think the problem lies with the document, but with the same fallible people we both have in mind in different ways. We will need to disagree in these two instances, although we are both on the same side. Friends don’t have to agree on everything.— MAF

    As I wrote in another article about the dangers of a Convention of states: “Thus the Convention of the States in Philadelphia became, in fact, the path blazing Constitutional Convention of 1787 that completely altered our form of government. Obviously, that was for the better at the time, given the talent, erudition and wisdom of the founders.

    “But in today’s flagging educational establishment and the rudderless political climate, as Mr. Ferguson has himself described, imagine the outcome of a new convention! So let’s be serious. Presently, we have but few statesmen of the caliber of the founders, the intellectual giants of 1787 who framed our Constitution. Where are the principled men of firm convictions and possessed of moral compasses ready to navigate the treacherous and unchartered waters? Where are we going to find men and women of the caliber of James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, George Mason and Richard Henry Lee?

    “What kind of constitution would the modern politicians draft? Our founders were well read, and they based our founding documents on historical precedents of government, the classical political philosophy of the enlightenment, and natural rights theory. Today’s politicians, urged on by the progressive academicians and the biased liberal media, would write a “living” constitution — likely authoritarian, oligarchical and collectivist, or a travesty of a “consensual” document not worth the paper it is printed on!” — MAF

    BB & MAF, I’m all in favor of a Convention of States, but ONLY if it is presided over by Thomas Jefferson with James Madison, John Adams, and George Mason as co-chairmen, AND only if you can guarantee me that George Soros and Wallenberg have absolutely NO involvement and are not allowed to load the convention with their puppets.— Matthew Hampton, FB

    MAF, They are not going to `rewrite the Constitution’ they are going to propose an Amendment to impose term limits, end perks, limit Congressional power (to what it originally was) and impose more oversight. The process is pretty clear. You have to out line your intent and get 2/3 of the States to ratify the Convention, then once your proposal is done it must conform to the initial parameters of ratification and then approved by 2/3 of the States to become law. Most of the concern is due to misunderstanding the process and disinformation as to their mission. It is the only lawful process to bypass Congress and the President.— BB

    BB, I hope you notice you contradict yourself, my good friend and usual ally. Here we are in a dangerous situation that could result in severe changes in the Constitution and you are putting your trust, not in the Founders, wise and principle men of honor, but in politicians of both parties who you have already described as “corrupt” and “irresponsible,” and who “kowtow to the fringe and don’t standup to their principles”! I must again admit that I share your desperation given the dire condition of the country, but given the caliber of our modern, political sages, I regrettably must point out you are grasping at straws and that is not the way to go.” Read my articles and if you find any errors of fact, let me know. But I must end my discussion on this topic here because of the exigencies of fleeting time. — MAF

    MAF, An Article 5 convention of the states is not a constitutional convention. It is a meeting of representatives from all of the states’ legislatures to address specific concerns the federal government is neglecting. Other than scheduling of the venue an Article 5 COS does not involve members of the federal legislature — because they are deemed to be the problem. That is the idea: when the people realize that the federal legislature is serving interests other than their own, and the state legislatures, who have a much clearer understanding of the peoples’ desires choose to meet to propose, consider, and perhaps approve new amendments to correct the federal government’s betrayal of the people, they propose such a COS. When 2/3 of the states’ legislatures agree that such a COS is called for then it is to be scheduled and then performed. That is, nothing is even started without 2/3 of the states agreeing that a change is called for. And when the convention is underway, no law can be changed unless 2/3 of the member legislatures agree. Then, no proposed amendment that is agreed upon by a vote of all of the states can amend the Constitution until 3//4 of the states’ legislatures ratify it by their vote. That is not a recipe for a runaway convention by a political faction. Instead, it is a recipe to gain sensible law as seen by 3/4 of the states. —Don Cannon, FB

    DC, thanks but not… I have written at least two articles on the subject and respectfully disagree! I can not put my finger either on the Constitution or evidence in the pages of history to corroborate your assertion of limitation of “a meeting of representatives.”—MAF

    BB, Check Article V. There are two methods to amend the Constitution. One method, the usual method, which has been used many times, is OK. The other method has only been used once — in 1787! No one knows what would happen if it is invoked and I for one oppose it for reasons I have previously stated. There is no “consensus” as to whether a convention of the states can be limited to a single or a few subjects (e.g., a balanced budget or term limit amendments). There is considerable writing expounding on this subject, and most authorities fear instead of a single or a few subjects on the table, a convention would not be limited. In fact, an all powerful constitutional convention could convene that would abrogate the entire U.S. Constitution and a new form of government created, as in fact it happened in Philadelphia in 1787.

    A little history is helpful. The Founding Fathers convened a national convention in Annapolis in 1786 to discuss interstate commerce among the states under the Articles of Confederation. It was ineffective but was used as a sounding board for another convention on the same subject a year later. And instead of limiting the discussion to interstate commerce, James Madison immediately seized the opportunity to overturn the Articles of Confederation, which he thought completely inadequate for an effective federal government. Led by Madison, the founders then framed a completely new constitution, which was not what was originally intended! Thus the Convention of the States in Philadelphia became, in fact, the path blazing Constitutional Convention of 1787 that completely altered our form of government. Obviously, that was for the better at the time, given the talent, erudition and wisdom of the founders.— MAF

    DC, Article 5: “on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress;” Please read it carefully. The “Legislatures of two-thirds of the several States” call the Convention for proposing Amendments. They DO NOT preside over the Convention or have further control or management of it. Representation at the Convention for Amendments is ASSUMED to be determined by the individual States, but can (and will likely be) determined by the deep pockets and favoritism. I will agree that, on the surface, a Convention of States sounds like a solution. But, in reality, it is likely to be stuffed with “new world order” sycophants and power-hungry individuals.

    MAF, Even if that were so, as much difficulty as they have had for support to convene one, what chance do you think they would have getting it ratified if they went totally off the rails?—BB

    BB, re., “what chance do you think they would have getting it ratified …” Very small, but when you have voracious liberal wolves (radical politicians) supported by the guardians of academia and the opinion cartel molders of the intolerant media, against intimidated GOP politicians and a fickle, PC-indoctrinated, increasingly government-dependent and ignorant populace — I don’t want to take the chance! — MAF

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