The topic of discussion on this Constitution Monday comes from Article V, Section 1: “The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution .... 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 ….” This provision means that the Framers of the Constitution understood that changes might need to be made to their document in future years.
“James Madison stated that the Founders hoped their successors would `improve and perpetuate’ the Constitution.
“Madison knew the Founders had accomplished a tremendous task but that their polished formula for a divided, balanced, limited government could be mutilated by careless, amateur meddling. In praise of the Founders he said: `They accomplished a revolution which has no parallel in the annals of human society. They reared the fabrics of government which have no model on the face of the globe. They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate.’” (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 644-645.)
Trent England and Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation wrote, “The process of amendment developed with the emergence of written constitutions that established popular government. The charters granted by William Penn in 1682 and 1683 provided for amending, as did eight of the state constitutions in effect in 1787. Three state constitutions provided for amendment through the legislature, and the other five gave the power to specially elected conventions.
“The Articles of Confederation provided for amendments to be proposed by Congress and ratified by the unanimous vote of all thirteen state legislatures. This proved to be a major flaw in the Articles, as it created an insuperable obstacle to constitutional reform. The amendment process in the Constitution, as James Madison explained in The Federalist No. 43 was meant to establish a balance between the excesses of constant change and inflexibility: `It guards equally against that extreme facility which would render the Constitution too mutable; and that extreme difficulty which might perpetuate its discovered faults.’
“The Virginia Plan at the start of the Constitutional Convention called for amendment `whensoever it shall seem necessary.’ The Committee of Detail proposed a process whereby Congress would call for a constitutional convention on the request of two-thirds of the state legislatures. After further debate, the delegates passed language proposed by Madison (and seconded by Alexander Hamilton) that the national legislature shall propose amendments when two-thirds of each House deems it necessary, or on the application of two-thirds of the state legislatures, to be ratified by three-fourths of the states in their legislatures or by state conventions. (See The Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 284-285.)