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Article V Convention: A Uniquely American Solution to Tyranny

By       Message John De Herrera       (Page 1 of 1 pages)     Permalink

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Conventions, as a means of amending written constitutions, are a distinctly American institution. In fact, written constitutions originated in this country. The word constitution is used on both sides of the Atlantic to signify something superior to legislative acts: a single text of fundamental principles of government beyond the control of a legislature.


A constitution is a social agreement--a compact, a covenant, a contract--by which the whole society agrees with each citizen, and each citizen with their society; that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good; that government is based upon a contract between a people and a state--as opposed to a contract between a people and a god.

The American colonies were bound not only by the terms of the unwritten British constitution, but more directly by charters (think corporation). These charters, of course, became suspended the moment the colonies declared independence. The colonists then organized to create new social contracts. Each colony made its contract embody fundamental principles. In fact several of the colonies re-adopted their British charters to serve as constitutions.

The political experience and theories of the colonists thus supplied four principles:

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1) The employment of definite written instruments, prescribing the nature and form of government. 2) The idea of a constitution superior to ordinary legislation. 3) The conception of certain natural rights asserted by such a constitution. 4) The theory of the social contract--the written constitution, born in America--was the embodiment of these four principles.

As you may or may not know, our Constitution has written into it a convention clause. Over the years this clause has been erroneously referred to as a “constitutional convention.” But because the U.S. Constitution is unique in all political history, its convention clause is too, and is properly referred to as the Article V Convention.

This convention specific to our Constitution has very clearly defined powers, as the framers did not leave such affairs to chance. The Article V Convention can only propose ideas, it cannot ratify them. If America were to one day find a tipping-point majority of citizens fed up enough with the officials who currently people its government, and the call for a national convention were coerced out of the legislature, the inevitable would follow: the states would hold special elections for their delegates; those delegates would convene in the capitol on a date; once assembled, those delegates would then propose ideas for a 28th Amendment to our Constitution; once all amendment proposals were on the table, the convention would adjourn, and the ratification process would begin; once any of the proposed amendments garnered the approval of 38 states, it would become part of our constitution.

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Because the bar for ratification is set at an approval rating of 75%, it means whatever the idea for the amendment is, whether a conservative idea or liberal, it must get all of one side signed on, plus at least half of the other. In other words, ratification sanctifies the popular will. In the past there have been arguments against the Article V Convention based on the notion that simply discussing an idea in public might somehow accidentally turn into a new law.

Such fears should more properly be applied to the runaway government (corporate charters) currently operating in our capitol.

We are taught that the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are our premier founding documents, but we are not taught that the former was written into the latter: the Article V Convention.


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Writer/artist/activist from California, with a degree in Creative Studies from the University of California at Santa Barbara. Advocating for the convention clause of Article V since 2001.

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