At the time of the Revolution, most Americans didn’t really want a central, or federal, government that had any power over them. Virginians were happy to govern themselves, and so was everyone else. They tried going without one for six years, but it just didn’t work. The states began fighting among themselves, and there was no real way for them to resolve their differences. New York, for instance, believed that the Green Mountain Boys of Vermont were squatting on its land. The title they received from New Hampshire was invalid, but Ethan Allen would go to war to keep it. Washington, especially, was very concerned. He knew what it was like to try to field an army, and fight a war, without a central government, and a reliable source of money. There was every reason to believe that the Revolutionary war would not be our last. If we were to become a continental nation, we might very well have to go to war again with the British, or the Spanish. How could we do that without a central government?
The Constitution was a collection of political compromises between the states, principally between big states and small. To protect their rights the small states got the Senate, and equal representation there, regardless of population. They also got Article V. The Constitution would not have been ratified by the small states without it. They were deeply mistrustful of a Congress where the House of Representatives, dominated by the populous states, would have so much power. If the Constitution needed to be changed, the small states wanted a method which empowered them. An Article V Convention would give them equal power with the large states, and assured them they could assert their rights on an equal footing.
So if an Article V Convention is called, 26 states, representing a minority of the population, can control it. This strikes some as unfair somehow. There has even been a suggestion that no amendment should be proposed that does not have a supermajority of states in the Convention supporting it. I think that’s a bad idea. It will make it harder to come to an agreement, and a good amendment might be watered down. And it’s entirely unnecessary. Nothing goes into the Constitution without the support of 38 states. Delegates, in drafting their proposal, will always bear that in mind.
The meeting in Seattle is to begin the organization of the Convention. We’ll need 26, and only 26. I believe we can get 26. When a legislative body organizes itself, creating a majority organization to control it, legislators don’t wait until they convene in the State Capitol. They formally organize right after the election. They informally organize even before the election, making certain assumptions about who will get elected. That’s what we’re trying to do in Seattle, except around an agenda, not leadership. Leadership can be decided down the road, once everyone has had a chance to get to know each other. It probably isn’t that important. It’s the agenda that counts.
Sports are meaningless, I know. But I like to watch the final round of the Master’s golf tournament, and today it was especially gratifying. Older people worry about the young, wonder if they’re going to be capable of keeping this country going. 21 year old Jordan Spieth won today, setting some records. He seems like one of the finest young men I’ve seen in a long, long time. A wonderful family, and loyal friends. He may be another Tiger woods.