Suggestions that the United States call a new constitutional convention, as allowed in the Constitution's Article V, have popped up in some state legislatures and even on a page in The Wall Street Journal. No longer do these voices claim a convention can be limited to consideration of a single amendment (e.g., a balanced budget amendment) -- grandstanding politicians are proposing a wide assortment of many amendments to produce big changes.
Speaking to us from across the years, the father of the U.S. Constitution, James Madison, wrote this warning on Nov. 2, 1788, against calling another general constitutional convention.
"If a General Convention were to take place for the avowed and sole purpose of revising the Constitution, it would naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress appointed to administer and support as well as to amend the system; it would consequently give greater agitation to the public mind; an election into it would be courted by the most violent partisans on both sides; it would probably consist of the most heterogeneous characters; would be the very focus of that flame which has already too much heated men of all parties; would no doubt contain individuals of insidious views, who under the mask of seeking alterations popular in some parts but inadmissible in other parts of the Union might have a dangerous opportunity of sapping the very foundations of the fabric.
"Under all these circumstances it seems scarcely to be presumable that the deliberations of the body could be conducted in harmony, or terminate in the general good. Having witnessed the difficulties and dangers experienced by the first Convention which assembled under every propitious circumstance, I should tremble for the result of a Second, meeting in the present temper of America, and under all the disadvantages I have mentioned."
Madison's prophetic warnings against a general convention to amend our Constitution (now colloquially called a Con Con) are even more compelling today. Let's examine them.
1) A new convention would "naturally consider itself as having a greater latitude than the Congress" to amend the Constitution. Indeed, that's exactly what the Con Con advocates want: a convention to do what Congress won't do.
2) A Con Con would "give greater agitation to the public mind." Indeed, a Con Con would attract dozens of groups agitating for various changes, creating a bigger media event than even a presidential election and dominated by mainstream media and theatrical demonstrators.
Phyllis Schlafly is a national leader of the pro-family movement, a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Feminist Fantasies.
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