The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday comes from Article V, Section 1: “[If Congress fails to pass an amendment desired by the people] 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….” This provision in the Constitution gave the people an alternative route to amend the Constitution if Congress failed to act.
“This procedure was reserved for a situation in which Congress would not act on a matter which the people strongly desired to have approved. It simply required two-thirds of the states to petition Congress for a convention where they could independently review the matter and submit any proposed amendment to the state legislatures. If three-fourths of the state legislatures or state conventions ratified the amendment, it would become part of the Constitution without required approval of either the Congress or the President.
“The Congress has been anxious to prevent this second method from being used, so whenever nearly two-thirds of the states have petitioned for a convention, the Congress has capitulated and passed the amendment itself. This is what happened with the Seventeenth Amendment [changing the way Senators are elected].
“It was the intent of the Founders to provide this second method of amending the Constitution as a protection against a hierarchy of power that might take over Washington and become a self-perpetuating demagoguery which the people could not control. Such a situation arises when an oligarchy of wealth or a structured power bloc gains control of the following: 1) The leadership of both political parties; 2) The majority of the Supreme Court; 3) The majority of the Congress; 4) The White House; 5) The media; and 6) the major centers of education and intellectual opinion making.
“This much control over a nation completely debilitates the normal operation of constitutional procedures. The Founders therefore provided this special safety net in Article V to allow the people to regain control of their affairs without even going through Washington.” (See W. Cleon Skousen in The Making of America – The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution, pp. 647-648.)
As I read the six conditions listed above, I realized that our nation now meets every condition to one degree or another. If the state legislatures have not been compromised, we may be hearing a cry for a constitutional convention soon.
Trent England and Matthew Spalding of The Heritage Foundation gave additional information about this clause. “The advantage of the Amendments Clause was immediately apparent. The lack of a bill of rights … became a rallying cry during the ratification debate. Partly to head off an attempt to call for another general convention, but mostly to legitimize the Constitution among patriots who were Anti-Federalists, the advocates of the Constitution (led by Madison) agreed to add amendments in the first session of Congress. North Carolina and Rhode Island acceded to the Constitution, and further disagreements were cabined within the constitutional structure…..
“Since 1789, over 5,000 bills proposing to amend the Constitution have been introduced in Congress; thirty-three amendments have been sent to the states for ratification [with twenty-seven ratified]. No attempt by the states to call a convention has ever succeeded, though some have come within one or two states of the requisite two-thirds. The movement favoring direct election of Senators was just one state away from an amending convention when Congress proposed the Seventeenth Amendment….
“In the end, the Framers believed that the amendment process would protect the Constitution from undue change at the same time that it would strengthen the authority of the Constitution with the people….” (See Heritage Guide to the Constitution, pp. 285-286.)