Have you ever wondered what the signers of the Constitution might think of the assault on liberty in America today? I don’t think they’d be all that surprised. In fact, I think our Founding Fathers in their wisdom planned for such a day, which is why they included Article V in the Constitution — the part where we find the justification for a Convention of States.
The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787 and was formally ratified around 230 years ago in 1789. And while there are many aspects of American government and the U.S. citizenry that have changed, there is one constant: We still need something to protect ourselves and our private property from government, and that something has been the Constitution.
Many people today claim the Constitution is outdated; that it’s based on racist principles and flawed. But they offer no alternative to the fundamental reason we need the Constitution, which is to protect us from the corruption and abuse of power by those in government.
This is the reason the Founding Fathers gave us the Constitution: to guide, limit, and direct government behavior. It governs the government.
There’s some truth to the belief that America today isn’t the country it was in 1787. There have been many dramatic changes over the years — meaning the Constitution itself is needed to handle these changes while still doing its job of protecting us from government.
THE FOUNDERS EXPECTED THE CONSTITUTION TO CHANGE
The founders were under no illusion that the Constitution was perfect and flawless. Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, believed that as time progressed and the government’s engine revved up, that the flaws in the document would begin to manifest and would need to be addressed. There needed to be a method available to address these flaws to make sure that the Constitution was updated accordingly.
Take a look at this George Washington quote for better context:
“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. … If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”
ARTICLE V OF THE U.S. CONSTITUTION
The Founding Fathers realized they could not possibly foresee the future of the country or the flaws in the document, so they included Article V of the U.S. Constitution, which says:
“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”
Article V is a critical piece of our Constitutional puzzle and exemplifies the genius of the document’s writers. They were not fooled into believing that the document should be unchanging and infallible. No, they simply knew that it must be revered while still open to change.
Since the Constitution governs the federal government, the federal government alone cannot be allowed to change its own power. For government’s job description to change, the people — via their state governments — had to have a say in the matter. In fact, Article V explicitly says that if the states are so inclined, they have the power to propose an amendment with Congress’s initiation via a Convention of States.
This method has yet to be used, but it could be soon.
CHANGING THE CONSTITUTION IS A SOMBER DUTY
It’s no small matter, however, to change the standard by which our government operates. The Founding Fathers knew this, and this is why Article V established a rigorous, yet doable process, for such a change — a process that has been successfully undertaken 27 times.
Those who complain that the Constitution is flawed, outdated and the like, fail to realize that no one, not even it’s writers, would have argued otherwise. In fact, they would have agreed and pointed to Article V, saying that if someone believes it must be changed, then…take the necessary steps to change it.
The alternative is to throw out the standard altogether, which leaves us in a much more dire position. For those who want to change the Constitution, such a change is possible, but in order to maintain order and liberty, it should always be done within the confines of the protection the Constitution offers.
Why throw out the one thing protecting us from government in order to protect us from government?
There are people on both the left and right side of the political spectrum who are calling for a Constitutional Convention or an Article V Convention of States. But if we proceed with such actions, we must do so with the same humility of our Founding Fathers when they gave us our Constitution.
It’s also incumbent upon us to realize that whatever Constitutional amendments we come up with won’t be infallible; rather, they’re guaranteed to be fallible.
We can’t allow ourselves to fall into the trap that we can create something perfect and/or far superior to what we have now because we’re dooming ourselves and our futures if we do.
It’s a lie to believe that we can create something that can never and has never existed . . . a perfect political system.
This article is used by permission and has been edited for publication on this site.
Christin McMasters is a South Carolinian now residing in North Carolina and has a Ph.D. in political science. She is a budding blogger and political science instructor, and her passion is politics.
Using her keyboard as her weapon of choice, Christin imparts some of her excitement, passion and knowledge about American government on her website, TheLibertyBelleNC.com.