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Amending the Constitution by Convention: A Complete View of the Founders Plan

April 30, 2015


by Nick Dranias, the Goldwater Institute Clarence J. and Katherine P. Duncan chair for constitutional government and is the director of the Institute’s Dorothy D. and Joseph A. Moller Center for Constitutional Government.

Americans are increasingly questioning – and resisting – the endless growth of the federal government. Part of this resistance finds voice in efforts to enforce state sovereignty through litigation and legislation such as the Health Care Freedom Act and the Firearms Freedom Act. Measures such as these protect existing, fundamental rights from erosion at the federal level. But the growing discontent has also reignited interest in an even more direct route for the people and the states to regain control over the federal government – the Article V constitutional amendment process.

Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, the states have the power to apply to Congress to hold a convention for the purpose of proposing constitutional amendments. This power was meant to provide a fail-safe mechanism to control the federal government.

This report demonstrates that the historical record during the Founding era establishes a clear roadmap to guide the Article V amendment process. Among other seminal discoveries, this report reveals that the Framers rejected drafts of Article V that contemplated the very kind of wide-open convention that could “run away,” substituting instead a provision for a limited-scope convention, attended by state-chosen delegates, and addressed to specific subject matters.

Of course, abuses of the Article V constitutional amendment process are possible. But that possibility must be viewed against the clear and present danger to individual rights and freedom of doing nothing. This report recommends that states seriously consider initiating the Article V constitutional amendment process to restrain the federal government.

Read Amending the Constitution by Convention: A Complete View of the Founders’ Plan here


Read Part 2, Learning From Experience How the States Used Article V Applications in America’s First Century

Read Part 3, Amending the Constitution by Convention: Practical Guidance for Citizens and Policymakers



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