In drafting Article V, as with all of the Constitution, the Framers were succinct. Their plain words were clearly understood at the time. But the practice of politics and government has so devolved, or degenerated, that what was plain as day in 1787 seems incomplete. How would an Article V Amendment Convention actually work? Opponents of a BBA pretend it’s unknowable in advance. This is hogwash.
The Legislature of Tennessee intends to prove that proposition this summer, at an Article V BBA Planning Convention on 7-11-17 in Nashville. This planning convention is a Convention of States, at one time a commonplace in this country. If you want to see what an actual Amendment Convention, called by Congress, would look like, go to Nashville.
The first of a series of such Conventions of States began at Albany in 1754. Benjamin Franklin put forward a plan for uniting the colonies, but it was premature, and rejected by the Crown. The next Convention was in Philadelphia in 1774, and called itself the First Continental Congress. Before it could conduct its business, one procedural conflict had to be resolved. How would the voting be conducted, by State, or by population, or some combination of the two? The small states insisted on one state, one vote, and their view prevailed when Samuel Adams of Massachusetts, a large State, took their side. Every Continental Congress, every meeting of the Congress of the Articles of Confederation, and every Convention of States has followed this rule. If this rule had not been adopted at the First Continental Congress, the small States would have walked out. At any future Convention of States, the small states would do exactly as they did in 1774 — if it’s not one state, one vote, we’re leaving. There are more small States than large, so it always works.
And yet the opponents of a BBA say no one knows how voting would be conducted at an Amendment Convention. That’s false. The men and women who will attend these Conventions will abide by their oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and they will be guided by the prudent precedents set by our forebears.
BBA opponents say that the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 was a runaway Convention. False. Before the Convention submitted the Constitution for ratification by the States, it requested and obtained the consent of the Congress of the Articles of Confederation. If it was a runaway Convention, why did Congress agree to submit it to the States for ratification? It hadn’t runaway. It had done exactly what most people knew it was going to do — make a proposal to start over..
We have two types of opponents. Common Cause doesn’t care about Article V. They just don’t want a BBA. And the Birchers don’t care about a BBA. They just don’t want Article V. It’s paranoia, pure and simple. There are evil people plotting everywhere. It’s difficult to reason with these people. Our best hope is Nashville. Because the people at Nashville will be the same people who will be at the subsequent, Amendment Convention, everyone will be able to see with their own eyes who, exactly, are these people? Can they be trusted?
Those are some of the questions that will be answered in Nashville.