Publius Huldah. Upon declaring Independence in July of 1776, the states operated under the Articles of Confederation (AC). (Timeline: 22:00 – 24:00. View her speech.)
Delegates to the federal convention of 1787 disobeyed congress and their states when they went beyond their orders to draft revisions of the AC. Ms. Huldah cites Article XIII of the AC as governing authority. As demonstrated in Philadelphia, convention delegates then as now have inherent authority to do as they please. Therefore, it will be impossible to stop similar antics at a future convention of states.
Rodney Dodsworth Response. The myths spun by Ms. Huldah around the early years of our nation are popular among Article V opponents. I will put these myths to rest. I will show that Congress had no authority to command obedience of the states in convention, and that Article V serves to avoid the “con-con” or general convention unlimited by subject matter that Ms. Huldah fears.
I suspect Ms. Huldah knows very well the Confederation Congress approved the AC in November of 1777, and that the AC weren’t ratified by the last state, Maryland, until March 1st 1781, just a few months before victory at Yorktown. The first purpose of the AC was the common defense of its member republics. When the war ended, most states saw little need to continue the confederation, despite their common pledge in Article XIII to remain joined in perpetual union.
Every State shall abide by the determination of the united States in congress assembled, on all questions which by this confederation are submitted to them. And the Articles of this confederation shall be inviolably observed by every State, and the union shall be perpetual; nor shall any alteration at any time hereafter be made in any of them; unless such alteration be agreed to in a congress of the united States, and be afterwards confirmed by the legislatures of every State.
Where Ms.Huldah repeats every few minutes that all we must do is obey the Constitution as written, she doesn’t apply the same standard to the AC. Did the states not send good men to Congress? Would better men have made a difference? Why did the states often disobey congressional resolves consistent with powers enumerated in the AC? Because then, as today, both the AC and our beloved Constitution lack adequate institutions to enforce the supreme law of the land. While, as a legal matter, the states committed themselves to obedience, as a practical matter, these petty republics were perfectly free to ignore congressional resolutions. The AC lacked all measure of enforcement powers. It was a government on paper, but a league of sovereign states in structure and operation.
The Mount Vernon, Annapolis, and Philadelphia conventions were in response to two of the worst shortcomings of the AC. Congress lacked adequate tax revenue and authority over commerce. Enormous interest charges on Revolutionary War debt threatened every state and household. Several issuances of paper money had inflated into worthlessness. Recognizing the relationship between a stable currency, commerce, and liberty, congress asked the states in 1783 to amend the AC to provide for a small import duty of twenty-five years’ duration. Its purposes were to restore public credit and confidence through eventual discharge of principal and interest. Twelve states ratified the amendment; Rhode Island refused. Other attempts to amend the AC failed. America needed a real government.
“The crisis has arrived,” wrote a congressional committee in February 1786, “when the people of these United States, by whose will, and for whose benefit the federal government was instituted, must decide whether they will support their rank as a nation.” Despite the amending provision in Article XIII, the AC were not, for practical purposes, amendable. The Union was fast dissolving. What to do?
This was the background in which leading men sought to prod society to exercise its Natural Law duty to alter its government into a form that (Declaration of Independence) “shall seem most likely to affect their safety and happiness.” At the close of the Annapolis convention in September 1786, Alexander Hamilton drafted a report for the states and congress that called for the exercise “of the united virtue, and wisdom of all members of the confederacy.” It proposed a convention of delegates from all states to meet in Philadelphia on the second Monday in May 1787.
As opposed to Ms. Huldah’s revisionist history, the states were going to meet whether congress called for a convention or not. On November 23rd 1786, Virginia resolved to send delegates to Philadelphia. Their commissions prevented them from acceding to any resolution that gave up navigation rights to the Mississippi River. New Jersey elected delegates in November. Pennsylvania elected their delegates in December, and was followed by North Carolina and New Hampshire in January. Delaware and Georgia did likewise in early February 1787.
Congress, in the realization that the states were going to convene in May, and in an act not derived from an enumerated power in the AC, jumped aboard the moving convention train on February 21st 1787 when it called for a convention to revise the AC to “render the federal constitution adequate to the exigencies of the union.” Contrary to Ms. Huldah, no contrivance of any Article in the AC empowered congress to call a convention of the states.
As opposed to the AC, better provision is made in our Constitution to deal with exigencies well before they grow to explosive levels that require extra-legal, extra-constitutional, Natural Law solutions. The exercise of Article V means to restore the proper ends of government as described in the Preamble to our Constitution negates the resort to Natural Law that faced our Founders in 1776 and Framers in 1787.
Shays’ Rebellion over the winter of 1786-87 helped nudge the nation to action. The Massachusetts constitution of 1780, drafted by John Adams, was regarded as superior to all others. If Massachusetts was subject to a popular uprising, other states could expect the same under their less well-designed governments.
By early 1787, the great fear was a building wave of social disorders that could lead to civil war and ruin.
A general convention of the states was necessary because the AC, due to its purely federal structure, could not provide adequate means to correct defects. Being outside any provision in the AC, the Philadelphia convention of 1787 was extra-legal and extra-constitutional. However, due to the dire condition of the union, it was in perfect accordance with the Law of Nature, which supersedes man-made statutes and constitutions. The Federal Convention of 1787 met just in time. Without it, the eleven-year old United States would have been rendered nothing more than an odd footnote to history. European despotic powers could point to our experiment, laugh at our failure, tell their downtrodden masses that self-government is a Utopian dream, and that the best any nation could hope for was life under a benevolent monarch.
Whereas the sovereign people always have the God-given right to (as per the Declaration of Independence) “alter or abolish” their government when it becomes destructive of its ends, Article V provides two peaceful approaches to alter our governing form in an orderly, non-stressful atmosphere such that government once again serves its Constitutional ends.
Should congress not do its duty to call a convention when thirty-four states apply, THEN it is time to do as our Framers, and appeal to the Natural Law right and duty to secure the blessings of liberty through a general or constitutional convention. Article V, especially the state convention process, serves to avoid resort to a higher law above the Constitution.
As for America 2016, the election of Donald Trump may be a first step toward restoration of free government. Serving in their electoral capacity, the people turned back the open borders and unbalanced trade demands of uniparty elites. Instead, we opted for a good and decent nationalism that promotes America’s general welfare. However, unless our governing institutions are reformed such that power is once again shared with the member states of the republic, we can be sure that another Obama or Hillary stand waiting in the future to turn a helpless nation over to barbarian islamists and global elites, just as Ms. Huldah fears.
We are the many; our oppressors are the few. Be proactive. Be a Re-Founder. Join Convention of States. Sign our COS Petition.