Article V opponents often echo, from The John Birch Society and Eagle Forum talking points, an admonition to “Just enforce the Constitution we have.” On the other hand, our Framers, 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.
In previous posts I cited the republican lessons that Niccolo’ Machiavelli, Charles De Montesquieu, Algernon Sidney and Cato’s Letters drew from history that pointed toward the necessity of eternal vigilance, of using experience to inform our actions toward keeping free government.
The men of our Framing generation were well aware of these writings, and referred to them from time to time in personal letters, newspapers, and pamphlets, as well as at the Federal Convention and subsequent Federalist Papers.
By 1787, America had her own rich history in representative government and of taking defensive measures short of violence to defend free government long before the shot heard around the world in 1775. Our disputes with England over self-government began with the establishment of The Lords of Trade and Plantations in 1696, whose purpose was general oversight of American affairs, and of recommending measures relative to the colonies. These contests sharpened the colonists’ legislative wits, such that by the mid-18th century, American governing institutions were quite mature and respectable.
While the lessons of the ancients and the enlightenment were given their due, American governing forms would ultimately be derived from the American experience.
For instance, in a heated exchange at the Federal Convention over the origination of money bills, John Dickenson exclaimed that “experience must be our only guide!” He referenced the fact that money bills in eight states had to originate in their Assemblies. When the new plan of government went forth for ratification, it was certain to be attacked by populist leaders, so a similar provision to the Constitution would assist in its approval.
More appeals to the American experience appeared in The Federalist.
Madison wrote in #14, “ Is it not the glory of the people of America, that, whilst they have paid a decent regard to the opinions of former times and other nations, they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons of their own experience? To this manly spirit, posterity will be indebted for the possession, and the world for the example, of the numerous innovations displayed on the American theatre, in favor of private rights and public happiness. . . . They formed the design of a great Confederacy, which it is incumbent on their successors to improve and perpetuate.”
Madison and Hamilton from #20: “ Experience is the oracle of truth; and where its responses are unequivocal, they ought to be conclusive and sacred.”
Hamilton from Federalist #72: “That experience is the parent of wisdom, is an adage the truth of which is recognized by the wisest as well as the simplest of mankind. What more desirable or more essential than this quality in the governors of nations?”
Patrick Henry at the Second Virginia Convention of March 1775: “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. And judging by the past, I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years, to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves, and the House?”
Where Patrick Henry questioned how anyone could realistically hope for change in British conduct toward her colonies, America 2016 should question the common assumption that elections alone can possibly restore free government.
Our modern, national experience screams that an emasculated congress is incapable of standing athwart a scotus and administrative state bent on continual social justice transformation of our society and Constitution. These rogue institutions will continue to amend the Constitution and stomp on our God-given rights until society, through the Article V state process, stops them.
Experience demands that we stand up to those intent on our enslavement.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States.