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October 2016 Policy Study, Number 16-3


How To Restore Federal Fiscal Sanity: The State Legislatures Hold The Key


Do We Honor Our Constitution By Using The Article V Convention Cal To Protect The People Against Runaway Debt?



Why did the Founders give the State Legislatures the right to call a constitutional convention?


The wise authors of our Constitution knew Congress might refuse to propose a Constitutional Amendment even if a great majority of the people and the State Legislatures wanted it.


That is why they included in Article V two equal ways to propose a Constitutional Amendment.  The Founders decided that an amendment could be proposed either by Congress or by a convention called at the request of two-thirds of the States, and any amendments proposed by either method must then be ratified by three-fourths of the States.


Consistent with their belief in checks and balances, the Founders gave Congress and the State Legislatures separate and equal authority to propose amendments.


The right of State Legislatures to initiate amendments is one of the most important safeguards in our Constitution.  As Thomas Jefferson pointed out, the right to call a constitutional convention is a crucial guarantee of freedom.


James Madison’s “Notes of Debate in the Federal Convention of 1787” make it clear that the purpose of the states’ convention option is to prevent abuse of power by Congress.  The Framers of our Constitution saw that a time might come when Congress would fail the people.  They saw it would be dangerous to give Congress a monopoly over the amending process because Congress could abuse its powers and would never reform its own abuses.


In George Mason’s words, “It would be improper to require the consent of the National Legislature (to amendments), because they may abuse their power, and refuse their consent on that very account” (June 11, 1787). 


That is why Mason and the other Founders added a second method of amendment – the states’ right to call a convention – that does not depend on congressional action.


The Founders thought the State Legislatures would be closer to the people and would be more likely to initiate an amendment to correct a congressional abuse of power.


Are we now in a situation for which Article V was designed?


Yes.  The Founders would be delighted to see the State Legislatures using the Article V convention call to stop power-abusing politicians from piling more debt on the people and on future generations.


Where its own interests are at stake, the federal government ignores the public and does what it pleases.


Our nation’s debt addiction is exactly the kind of situation the Founders had in mind when they gave the State Legislatures and people the right to call a convention to propose an amendment.


Then we shouldn’t be afraid to use our Constitution as it was intended to be used?


We honor our Constitution by using the states’ rights under Article V to stop a runaway federal government and to prevent a national debt disaster.  


Washington, Madison, and the other Founders would never have believed we might let scare tactics prevent use of the Article V safeguard which they so carefully gave us.


Our opponents claim they are “protecting” the Constitution, but they seek to destroy one of its important safeguards – Article V – by making the State Legislatures afraid to use it.




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