Electoral vs. Sovereign Capacity: Where the Sovereign?

In the introduction, I sketched out the distinctions between the electoral and sovereign capacities of the people. Many states inappropriately burden their citizens with a duty for which they are unfit: in no government beyond the size of small towns should direct democracy be utilized to enact statutes or ratify state constitutional amendments.

This problem, the conflation of the electoral and sovereign capacities of the people isn’t new; it goes back to the mid-17th century English Revolution and was only sorted out in the minds of some men just as the 1787 federal convention was under way. While our Framers and conservatives of today accept and glory in the supremacy of a written Constitution, the question of who or what institution exercised sovereign power in the English monarchy and our post-1776 state constitutions wasn’t clear in the hundred plus years leading to our Federal Constitution.

By sovereign is meant all earthly lawmaking power within the civil society. In the 17th century, England was consumed in war, revolution, and religious turmoil as a consequence of answering a simple question, “where the sovereign?” To England’s Stuart Kings, sovereignty resided within them by Divine Right. As such, the monarch was the sole lawgiver.

Others disagreed.

After the defeat of royalist forces by those of the parliament in 1649, Oliver Cromwell and parliament devised the first written English constitution, The Instrument of Government. Monarchy and the House of Lords were replaced with a commonwealth in which the House of Commons served as electoral representatives and sovereign delegates of the people. Instead of sovereign authority in a king, sovereignty was expressed through a popularly derived institution. This well-intended but ill-designed form of popular government was certain to collapse no matter where it was instituted, and the English people were, in their hearts, still of the monarchal bent.

In 1660 parliament met in convention to deal with the anarchy raging between various religious sects, republicans, and royalists. Yes, members of the legislative power, parliament, met in a body, a convention, outside of their authority. As opposed to today, in which the term, “convention” is associated with authority above government and answerable only to God, the 17th century connotation of convention was that of an inferior parliament, because only the king could legitimately call on parliament to meet. This low status of conventions as inferior to both parliament AND the later colonial governments chartered by the king carried on into the 1780s.

However, the common thread to discern among conventions from 1660 all the way to a future Article V convention is this: English speaking peoples held conventions to deal with either inadequate or oppressive governments. Until the 1787 federal convention, subsequent ratification conventions, and Article V of the US Constitution, these meetings were extra-governmental and regarded as less than legitimate. But the fact remains that conventions of the sovereign people are well established in our history and should be resorted to when circumstances, such as now, compel us.

Monarchy was restored in 1660 upon the coronation of Charles II. Although he was the son of Charles I, he owed his throne to the invitation of the convention parliament. Did divine right to rule actually exist if the crown upon the king’s head was a gift from a convention? Sovereignty had slid a notch toward the people. Charles II died in 1685. His successor and brother, James II sought to reestablish royal powers and would suffer only those parliaments that did his bidding.

By 1688, more religious and political turmoil so reduced the practical authority of James II that the nation invited William of Orange, grandson of Charles I, to replace James II. On January 28th 1689 another convention parliament resolved that King James II had abdicated the government and his throne. This Glorious Revolution was followed by the celebrated English Bill of Rights in 1689 which established the principles of a limited monarchy.

Once again, an unauthorized convention demanded by society was held to reestablish that which all people desirous to be free must have: government. While England still had kings, sovereignty had moved toward the people’s representatives AND delegates in parliament and would never again be threatened by the discredited concept of the divine right of kings.

Next: Electoral vs. Sovereign Capacity: American Conventions.

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Coward, Barry. The Stuart Age: England 1603-1714. Essex England: Pearson Education Limited, 2003.

10 thoughts on “Electoral vs. Sovereign Capacity: Where the Sovereign?

  1. rick amundson

    Washington politicians will certainly not take any action to rein in their unconstitutionally gained authority. It must be done in spite of them. The constitution gives us a way to do this through an Article V convention of states. For a solution as big as the problem go to http://www.conventionofstates.com and get informed and involved in this rapidly growing nationwide grassroots movement to take back our constitutional republic

  2. Carol Menges

    Check out the website, sign the online petition that goes to your state legislators, and volunteer to help patriots throughout the nation. There are many legislative districts that still need District Captains within states. Take that on whether you live in a particular district or not. There are wonderful Tuesday evening online training calls (9:00 PM Eastern Time; they’re also recorded for watching at your convenience) that have been enormously helpful to me. They’re informative and inspirational. You’re needed on deck! http://www.conventionofstates.com

  3. Gary Rosenbaum

    Nice Job Rodney, and thanks for all you do!! One by one our rights are being taken away by executive order, administrative acts & judicial overreach. The States created the Federal government and its now time to take the power back. Its time for an Article V Convention… it may be a long shot, but it also is our only shot to peaceably & constitutionally restore our Constitution. Visit here to learn more, sign the petition, and sign up to volunteer: http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=1636326

    1. Rodney Dodsworth Post author

      Thank you Gary. A similar movement is brewing in the United Kingdom, which I hope to blog about soon.

  4. Don Sutton

    Thanks for all your excellent articles Rodney!

    “What was to be a relatively innocuous federal government, operating from a defined enumeration of specific grants of power, has become an ever-present and unaccountable force. It is the nation’s largest creditor, debtor, lender, employer, consumer, contractor, grantor, property owner, tenant, insurer, health-care provider, and pension guarantor. Moreover, with aggrandized police powers, what it does not control directly it bans or mandates by regulation.”
    ― Mark R. Levin, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic

    Why a conventionofstates.com ?

    “…small government gives you big freedoms–and Big Government leaves you with very little freedom. The opposite of Big Government is not small government, but Big Liberty. The bailout and the stimulus and the budget and the trillion-dollar deficits are not merely massive transfers from the most dynamic and productive sector to the least dynamic and productive. When governments annex a huge chunk of the economy, they also annex a huge chunk of individual liberty. You fundamentally change the relationship between the citizen and the state into something closer to that of junkie and pusher–and you make it very difficult ever to change back.”
    ― Mark Steyn, After America: Get Ready for Armageddon

    Why not work with the Government to change direction?

    “It is folly to believe that Congress and the president, on their own, will make the necessary and difficult decisions to address the impending financial debacle. After all, they and their predecessors engineered the approaching tsunami. As the situation becomes direr, the federal government’s actions will grow more oppressive.”
    ― Mark R. Levin, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic

    Why NOW ?

    “President Ronald Reagan cautioned that Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.
    ― Mark R. Levin, Ameritopia: The Unmaking of America

    “To sit back hoping that someday, someway, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last – but eat you he will”

    Ronald Reagan

    Wait for the Tyrannical Federal Government to devour the Civil Society or join us.


  5. Monica

    I enthusiastically support the Convention of States Project which is the only solution big enough for the problems in our country. We must use Article V of the US Constitution to bring the power back to the people through the states. I encourage everyone to take a moment to sign the petition to make this happen: http://www.cosaction.com/?recruiter_id=1113502

  6. George Rombach

    Our national government will not take any action to rein in their unconstitutionally gained authority. The only constitutional authority they have is what the States gave then. today is the day to Stand up, Show up, and Speak up for America, our Constitution, and our Freedoms. The Constitution is the Solution!

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