From the 1776 Maryland Declaration of Rights and the 1783 New Hampshire Bill of Rights we are reminded of the proper American attitude toward a government hostile to freedom:
The doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
In a recent post to her Eagle Forum website the highly respected and admired Phyllis Schlafly unfortunately resorted to a lot of snark and little reason in her decades’ old opposition to an Article V convention of the states to reclaim free government.
Beginning with her title, “Failed Republicans Want to Rewrite the Constitution,” Mrs. Schlafly goes on to imply that since the former candidates Huckabee, Rubio, Jindal failed in their bids for the GOP presidential nomination, whatever they support must be a losing proposition too. Not only are they losers, but since they support what Schlafly derides as “something called the Convention of States,” they are con-artists as well. According to her, these three men and the snake-oil salesmen and volunteers at the Convention of States (COS) project intend to deceive the American people. Schlafly writes, “Theirs is the same old con, or con con.” No, Mrs. Schlafly, yours is a sleazy alliteration far beneath your intellect and standing. Your comment attacks the character of patriotic men and women determined to turn back the progressive tide overwhelming our nation.
Mrs. Schlafly eventually gets into a bit of substance when she explains that she opposes the COS recommended application, to “limit the authority and jurisdiction of the federal government,” on the grounds that our Constitution is “wonderful,” and how can new language improve a government designed by the “most brilliant political thinkers in American history?” Well, Mrs. Schlafly, it doesn’t take a reincarnated visiting French nobleman by the name of de Tocqueville to see that which is obvious: after almost 230 years, the Framers’ Constitution has been horribly corrupted. Instead of serving its stated purposes as per its Preamble ( . . . secure the Blessings of Liberty . . . ), various laws, executive precedents and many scotus decisions have transformed a once wonderful governing form into an instrument of usurpation that tramples our God-given unalienable rights on a daily basis.
The most brilliant thinkers in political history were not so conceited as to believe their design was perfection on earth. The existence of Article V is self-evident proof of their humility.
Next, Mrs. Schlafly displays a common misunderstanding of the hierarchy of law. The state convention process draws its independence from two sources: Natural Law and from Article V itself. A convention to recommend amendments to the supreme law of the land is simply above the government. It represents the natural law right of all societies to frame their compact of union. Government, as the servant, cannot supersede the master. Furthermore, the Framers created a stand-alone Article in recognition of the sovereign superiority of the amendment process, rather than detail an amending procedure in Article I and subject it to congressional control.
Alexander Hamilton, a man not known for his states-rights approach to republicanism, wrote in The Federalist #85 that once two-thirds of the states apply, nothing is left to the discretion of congress. Mrs. Schlafly believes congress has discretion to determine if, at all, it will call a convention.
From the simple custodial duty of congress to call a convention, Mrs. Schlafly reads further powers into Article V that just aren’t there. Contrary to the opinion of Mrs. Schlafly, should congress or scotus attempt to control state delegate selection, their voting power, number of delegates, rules of the convention and so forth, the states must let facts be submitted to a candid world that a state convention to propose amendments is the expression of the sovereign capacity of the people and is thus beyond the grasp of congress or scotus. The role of congress is limited by Article V to the duty of calling a convention and specifying the mode of ratification. To assert additional powers of government beyond those enumerated is the habit of Leftists, not conservatives.
Notice also in her column, Mrs. Schlafly deftly changed the word, ‘application’ in Article V to ‘petition.’ Our Framers were careful wordsmiths. The word petition is associated with underlings, with peasants who humbly ask their lord for relief. On the other hand, to apply is to put the recipient on notice. In the context of Article V, the component members of the American republic inform congress of their intent to consider amending the Constitution.
Let’s resort to first principles. Unalienable rights are just that. Neither congress, nor the president, nor the scotus can take away the Natural Rights of individuals or society. For instance, as individuals, we have the natural and God-given right to defend ourselves. The Second Amendment grants nothing. The 2A merely acknowledges a preexisting right. If Article V was absent from the Constitution, would we, the sovereign people, not have the right to amend our form of government? Of course we do! The Constitution is our creation. It belongs to us, and no institution has the authority to deny society of the right to set the limits of their government.
Next, Mrs. Schlafly equates the excruciatingly detailed calls of the democratic and republican party leaderships to their national conventions with what she believes congress may insist in its call to a state amendments convention! Need I explain the total absence of substantive equivalence between the two?
Perhaps as the ultimate, uncalled for and undignified slam at the persons of Huckabee, Rubio and Jindal, Mrs. Schlafly attributes their support for an Article V “circus” as somehow promoting their political future.
Mrs. Schlafly apparently equates an Article V convention with an actual and dangerous circus, the congress of the United States. While I debunked that equivalence in an earlier blog post directed at The John Birch Society, suffice to say here that states will send delegates with detailed commissions that provide for punishment should a delegate wander outside his authorized power. In other words, the states will not send schlubs off the streets and arm them with plenary power.
Considering the precarious condition of the remains of the American republic, why does Mrs. Schlafly assume the states will recommend amendments that will ensure its destruction?
I ask Mrs. Schlafly, what is her solution to the accelerating tyranny that is America 2016? I say that to recommend doing nothing beyond voting every two years is to condone Obamunism. Maryland and New Hampshire got it right: The doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is indeed absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind. What say you, Mrs. Schlafly?
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.