The John Birch Society vs. Article V

Near the core of John Birch Society opposition to an Article V Convention of the States is mistrust of the American people. Dig further and one cannot avoid the conclusion that JBS opposes the essence of republicanism, the right of all peoples to determine the structure and boundaries of their government. While JBS has no apparent problem with the exercise of the people’s electoral capacity at polling places every two years, they curiously stand athwart the exercise of the people’s sovereign capacity via their states to frame their government.

This isn’t to say JBS doesn’t support amending the Constitution – as long as congress proposes the amendments. Shall our nation actually believe congress will purposely divest itself of a corrupt racket in power and money that serves its members so well?

JBS opposition to republicanism extends all the way back to the events which led to the federal convention of 1787, as if the newly free independent republics did not have the right and duty to secure the blessings of liberty on their own, and needed permission from the Continental Congress. JBS might support amendments to our governing structure, as long as the people and states get permission from institutions that oppose reform. Another sinister conspiracy theory from JBS is that all thirteen state ratification convention “rules were rewritten in order to ensure passage.” Who knew the plot to deprive Americans of their liberty began in 1787?

Let’s look at the right to self-government a little more closely. The American Revolution was illegal and treasonous. Would the JBS have had the American colonists obtain King George III’s permission to revolt? JBS is apparently uncomfortable with the higher law cited by our Declaration, that of Natural Law. The right of the sovereign people to set their governing form is God-given and unalienable. While illegal and treasonous, the American Revolution was just, and perfectly consistent with Natural Law. Imagine the outcome if JBS had been around and had influence in 1775. Those crazy colonials can’t be trusted!

Through an erroneous and misleading comparison to the events of 1787, JBS would have America 2016 fear the bugaboo of a ‘runaway’ convention in which all rights will be excised from the Constitution. I will borrow here, James Madison’s appeal to reason at the Virginia Ratification Debates of 1788: any right, power or privilege might be abused. God gave us free will. If a power is necessary, such as an Article V state amendments convention, then possible abuse of it is insufficient reason to deny the power. From JBS logic, there shouldn’t be a 1St Amendment because of possible abuse of free speech through slander and libel. Likewise, the right to keep and bear arms can be turned from self-defence to self-murder. I examined the shared similarities of Anti-Federalists and Article V opponents in a blog post: Men of Little Faith.

I’ve also found that Article V opponents typically equate an Article V state amendments convention with congress, an institution in which freedoms and rights are easily traded away today for money, media support, and reelection tomorrow.

This is an erroneous comparison, for congress is popularly derived and thoroughly corrupted from its designed purposes. An Article V convention will be new, fresh, uncorrupted and federal, just like the only other remaining federal institution from 1787, the familiar Electoral College (EC).

Like an Article V amendments convention, the EC is extra-congressional and completely controlled by the states. Not only congress, but the executive and judiciary have no more authority to regulate or participate in the deliberations or parliamentary rules of an Article V Convention than they do to control the EC. Both of these federal institutions derive their independence from discrete sources in the Constitution itself. Like the EC, and unlike congress, an Article V convention is temporary, and neither can be made subservient to any branch of the government. This renders the Article V convention distinct from, and superior to, the three existing branches.

I ask JBS, if the states are so wild and politically insane such that everyone should fear the outcome of a convention, why haven’t we had a ‘runaway’ session of the EC? States do not have to cast their votes for the nominee of any political party. The EC confab is a one-day event outside the control of congress or scotus. Why hasn’t the EC proved to be dangerous?

No state delegation to the EC ‘ran away’ because the duties of presidential electors are defined by state statute. In identical fashion, the states will define the duties and limits of their delegates to an Article V convention. Here, for instance, is the Indiana statute that will govern the commissions of her delegates to an Article V convention. The JBS implication that state legislatures will send lunatic delegates with plenipotentiary authority to take away unalienable rights is just silly.

Furthermore, there will be an additional, yet immeasurable factor at work. Within the parameters of detailed state commissions, delegates will be entrusted to use their judgement. These men and women know that history will examine and critique their work. Will the states actually send rogues and miscreants? It is possible, yet what is far more likely is that the delegates entrusted with crafting amendments to save the republic will rise to the occasion. Fame will be their quest. Like the delegates to the federal convention of 1787, they will seek the gratitude of history.

As remnants of a more perfect union, the EC and Article V amendments convention echo the importance of liberty preserving federal institutions ahead of fuzzy populism and democracy. No people, no civil society ever met to frame their ruling institutions in order to sell themselves into slavery. While the American tradition and society are certainly under duress, resistance is in the air. It is time to take advantage of the building wave of opposition to centralized government.

The JBS stance is a curious mixture of respect and mistrust of the American people. We are trusted in the polling place every two years to elect people who are certain to operate outside the limits of our Constitution, yet we are to be denied the establishment of the only institution that may actually reverse the horrid corruption of our once free republic?

Here is another knee-slapper: “JBS asserts that if the Constitution were being followed as intended, there would be no need for such amendments as term limits, balanced budget, etc.” Well, duh. So, all we need to do is send the ‘right’ people to government and the Constitution will be obeyed? If that is so, the JBS assertion implies a nation of men and not laws, of governments which rely on the personal appeal of rulers. Just find the right people to run government. Gee, if the Russian people had merely found the right people to enforce their rights ensconced in the Soviet Constitution, they could have avoided gulags? No. The Soviet system lacked adequate institutions to secure rights. Reliance on the virtue of governors never worked anywhere not because the right people weren’t found; it never worked because the necessary all-wise, altruistic and noble rulers of socialist and JBS imaginations simply don’t exist. Dependence on the virtue of governors alone is an open invitation to despotic rule.

Look up James Madison from The Federalist #51, “If men were angels . . . “ Men are not and have never been angels. To secure free government, its powers must be adequately divided and spread across institutions with sufficiently different interests to deny the accumulation of all power in the hands of the one, the few or the many. To this end, the 17th Amendment must go. As long as the senate is popularly derived, as long as the all-important vertical division of power structure of our pre-1913 Constitution remains struck, we can forget any possibility of freedom’s restoration.

Voting every two years is not the ultimate expression of self-government, and has been shown to be inadequate to keep free government. In the very first Federalist, Alexander Hamilton asked if American “society can establish a good government by careful thought and choice, or whether people are forever destined to be governed by accident and force.”

Psst. JBS, which will it be?

The exercise of the people’s sovereign capacity through a state-sponsored Article V amendment convention is our only possible hope to re-establish good government and stop rule by accident and force.

But please, don’t simply accept what you read on the internet. If you haven’t, get off the internet now and then and read a book. I highly recommend anything written by historians Lance Banning, Forrest McDonald, Bernard Bailyn, and Gordon S. Wood. While you are at it, take the time to read James Madison’s Notes of Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, and The Federalist. To understand our fundamental societal right to live under a government of our design, Peter Laslett edited a fine text of John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government.

Reject the JBS misread of history and immerse yourself in the American tradition.

We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder of the American Republic. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.

26 thoughts on “The John Birch Society vs. Article V

  1. Gary Rosenbaum

    The interpretation of the Constitution according to the historical meaning of the text ought to be a hill that conservatives are willing to die on. And here’s why: if we aren’t really committed to conserving the meaning of constitutional language, then we have no greater basis for our position on constitutional interpretation than that we simply prefer it. Once unmoored from the historical fact of the Constitution’s meaning, we are left adrift in a sea of opinion about what it “should” mean, or, ultimately, what we would like for it to mean. And when that is all there is to constitutional interpretation, what we have is the rule of men (whoever is in power decides what the Constitution means according to his own predilections) rather than the rule of law (the Constitution has a definite meaning to be ascertained and obeyed).

    I can understand the reluctance of some to take a firm stand on whether the states should use their Article Five check on federal power, in light of the fact that some conservatives are afraid to truly take on the federal behemoth.
    Visit here to learn more, sign the petition, and volunteer: http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=1636326

    1. Carol Menges

      That’s the thing to remember: what are *we* willing to risk? How about *our* lives, *our* fortunes and *our* sacred honor? Thank you for the reminder because push has already come to shove and I don’t want my back against the wall.

  2. Bill McDowell

    Our federal government has overstepped its authority. The overreach by both the executive branch and the legislative branch had been supported by decisions made by the courts. Convention Of States has an article V application that will allow delegates to propose amendments to rein in all three branches of the federal government.
    To sign the petition, volunteer, or just to get more information visit http://www.conventionofstates.com

  3. Michael Millikan

    My favorite JBS argument against COS is: What ails America? If our Constitution is the problem and needs to be changed, why can’t that be done by the same method used for all of the existing 27 constitutional amendments? I always thought that the JBS was a serious organization. I am 66 years old and I just now find out that they are on par with Mad Magazine. What a hoot. Only Alfred E. Neuman could possibly come up with something so bizarrely ironic. Imagine a world where the United States Congress proposes amendments that restore state rights, personal liberties, and restricts federal authority to the original intent of the constitution. Now squint a little harder and you will see the pigs flying. IT IS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.

    Help Citizens for Self Governance and our Article V Convention of States Project save America. Volunteer, sign our online petition or simply learning more about us by visiting our website:

    http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=1501881

    1. Brandon Benson

      Good point Michael. They conveniently confuse and distort what we’re asking for with COS. None of us are saying the Constitution is broken. We’re saying GOVERNMENT is BROKEN. They would rather have us sit around and wish and hope and depend on elections, following others, instead of making the politicians get out of our way…letting US LEAD by addressing broken government with the Constitution itself.

  4. rick amundson

    Totally agree with Gary Rosenbaum. Would add that founders did not find it necessary to include minute detail regarding process of Article V convention of states as there was abundant precedent set in 30 plus previous colonial or state conventions-just as they did not feel it necessary to include minute detail in the 6th amendment for the same reason.

    1. Rodney Dodsworth Post author

      Yes, the Framers set up a system of law rather than a code of law.

  5. cliff wilkin

    Results of a calling for a convention of states = Bill of Rights (1789)
    Results of not calling for a convention of states = Civil War (1861) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_state_applications_for_an_Article_V_Convention The Founders unanimously provided Article V option for the states to balance the federal government’s overreach. More than 400 such state applications have been filed over the years including the first couple that led to the bill of rights. As with all amendments to the constitution 38 states (both houses) are required for ratification. This is an enormously protective requirement that has only been reached 27 or so times. The COS Project application has already been passed by 8 states and 20 or more state houses. This application is limited to 3 areas: (a) Impose fiscal restraints on the Federal Government. (b) Limit the power and jurisdiction of the Federal Government. (c) Limit the terms of office for federal officials and members of Congress. Please sign E-Petition. Takes less than 20 seconds. http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=1310229 This will encourage your local state rep to become more involved in States’ rights.

  6. Fredrick Yerrick

    We the People were given a Republic by our Founding Fathers. Article V is the tool they gave us to maintain our Republic. We the People are responsible for those who follow so it is time to Stand up, Show up, and Speak up for the Convention of States Project. Please join us at conventionofstates.com and cosaction.com. We thank you!

  7. Cindy for Liberty

    Excellent rebuke of the position of the CURRENT JBS leadership. Funny how they don’t mention the first 2 men who founded and ran JBS were in favor of using Article V if it became necessary. In fact they already were of the opinion it was needed way back then. If you haven’t seen or signed the petition here is a quick link directly to it. cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=246613

  8. Don Sutton

    It looks like the RNC and DNC are headed for contentious conventions. Remember the 1968 DNC convention? Why is this? The problems facing America have been allowed to fester by a subservient Republican Congress and a tyrannical Democrat President. The 20 trillion dollar debt must be dealt with as we sink deeper into bankruptcy. Will this reconciliation be painful? There is a peaceful way to work on America’s problems provided by the Founders in Article V of the U.S. Constitution. We are working to implement this solution at conventionofstates.com. Check us out.

    1968 DNC Convention:

    https://youtu.be/9aeNJljuZcI

    http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=246073

  9. Toni Rose

    Our ORIGINAL Constitution is not the problem, it is the 3000 page document it has morphed into, draining power meant for and originally designated to, the states. The drip, drip of erosion has created a learned acquiescence to the Federal Gov. that has finally reached the turning point as Executive order and SCOTUS rewrite our Constitution. The Founding Fathers foresaw this and protected us with Article V. The key is the will of the people, starting with 2/3 of the states and finally 3/4 of the States. If JBS is afraid of the people to appoint delegates to represent them at a CoS then they should be much more afraid of the career delegates they keep sending to represent them that have been in the same position for decades. Today’s JBS would never have the conviction and courage of our Continental Congress.

  10. Robyn Campbell

    If the JBS is so doggone interested in our country, then one would think they would hop on board the COS train. I hate to leave you JBS people in the dust but if I must, then I must. We will have a COS. And we will get rid of the corruption in Washington because they won’t OWN the power anymore. The Convention of States gives the power back to the people through their states. WHY wouldn’t anyone want that? It isn’t hard to understand all. Sign the petition at http://www.conventionofstates.com/ and sign up to volunteer at http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=898217

  11. Betty Bailey-Lucas

    Bravo! Excellent reasoned responses to the nay sayers like the JBS who oppose a Convention of States. If the status quo continues much longer we will be status quoted out of a country. All three branches of government have been corrupted and no longer function according to the Constitution. We, the People must do something different.

  12. David Hudspeth

    American citizens must evaluate the relative safety of two choices. We can allow Washington, D.C., to continue abusing the Constitution and the rights of the people with the vague hope that someday Washington will see the light and relinquish power. Or we call a convention of the states, trusting it will behave properly and one of the many lines of defense will stop any misuse of power.

    A convention of states is the safest means by which we can preserve our liberty!
    http://www.conventionofstates.com

  13. Brent Dunklau

    This article is so good, I bookmarked it. There’s stuff in here I’ll need to refer to later.

  14. Zack

    Everyone should learn that facts about an Article V Convention of States. For starters, this is not a Constitutional Convention, there are limits for what can be proposed for consideration, and any changes must still be ratified by 3/4 of the states. Learn more at http://www.convemtionofstates.com and call your legislators and demand a CoS resolution in your state.

  15. Rodney Dodsworth Post author

    Thanks. The JBS assertions just don’t stand up to reason or the lessons of history.

  16. Isaac

    Awesome article! The runaway convention argument is ridiculous – we let Congress propose amendments, and they are nothing but a runaway convention. Just look at the out of control monsters they have created – the Department of Education, the EPA… the list goes on. The only way to stop this madness is an Article V Convention! conventionofstates.com

  17. George Dawes

    Knowing where the counter-arguments to COS come from, and why, helps us to keep the nay-sayers in perspective and hopefully present our case respectfully.
    Mr Dodsworth, your approach is well reasoned. I heartily recommend your book ” Article V of The United States Constitution: Squibs on Free Government & A Call to Convention” wherein my favorite chapter: Toward an Annual Article V Convention. I think I have not seen this idea in the COS literature because it would scare the heck out of the establishment, and we don’t want to upset them too soon.
    A sentence in that chapter: [By never adjourning sine die, and always rescheduling, the states establish a de facto standing and regular amendments convention. ] conflicts with a sentence in this article: [Like the EC, and unlike congress, an Article V convention is temporary, and neither can be made subservient to any branch of the government. ] I prefer the former concept but is there a debate looming about the feasibility of an annual convention?

    1. Rodney Dodsworth Post author

      I appreciate the kind comments. You sent me back to my little book for a review.

      In retrospect, I wish I had blogged for a couple years before self-publishing, but I think my premise regarding an annual convention still holds. It holds because the usurpations of our Constitution are too numerous to be addressed in single subject Article V conventions. As the name/title of this blog implies, I am open to various ideas and approaches to keep free government. The Roman system worked for 450 years. England was a republic in all but name after the Glorious Revolution. Our various states, especially PA and GA, experimented in distinctive republican forms. With that in mind, while I still believe an annual convention will do good, I am open to Levin’s liberty amendments. When understood, they establish continual conventions of the states. While I’m not convinced that single topic applications are required by Article V, I wholeheartedly support COS.

      I’m not aware of pending debate regarding an annual convention. If only that was the case!

      I don’t think the two sentences you cite are in conflict. The difference between the two is merely their frequency; one year for an annual amendments convention, and four years for the EC. Both are temporary yet regular.

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