At the end of World War II, our government acquired new and seemingly permanent powers in order to maintain a nuclear arsenal and defend against our new enemy — communism. The trouble is that a federal government with permanent powers works against government by the people; however, that was not immediately evident.
Dwight Eisenhower, from Abilene, Kansas, who led the Allied Forces in Europe during WWII and was then twice elected President, was perhaps more than any other President, the architect of these new permanent powers. Their destructive effect on our form of government became evident to him before leaving office. And so he warned us about the problem in his farewell speech, delivered on national TV and radio on January 17, 1961:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense. We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions…. We annually spend on military security alone more than the net income of all United States corporations.
Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every Statehouse, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources, and livelihood are all involved. So is the very structure of our society.
That this permanent federal government has intruded upon our God given, constitutionally assured rights is beyond question, but it requires reflection and awareness. Think about the control over our lives that the federal government has that is not included in the Constitution’s enumerated powers (Article I, Section 8): education; electricity; medicine; and transportation.
Each state, county, and city depends on this permanent government for funding and direction, instead of on its own self-governing citizens. Our bottom-up approach to governing has been subverted by a top-down power not subject to a normal, healthy cycle of elections.
Eisenhower, aware of what had happened and interested in a return of sovereignty to the people, went further than just warning us about the dangers. He advocated for the states and people to address this great threat.
Somehow, he knew it would take amending the Constitution and that the proper amendments would not come from the newly permanent federal Congress. Instead, the necessary changes would have to come from the people through an Article V convention of the states.
In but one such appeal, his remarks to the National Governors’ Conference on June 8, 1964, Eisenhower said this:
I remind this body that, collectively, the states possess a national power of monumental significance. I refer to the constitutional provision, till now unused, that amendments to our basic charter may be proposed by a convention that must be convened by Congress on application of two-thirds of the state legislatures. The resulting amendments, when ratified by state conventions or legislatures in three-fourths of the states, become an integral part of the Constitution of the United States.
The point I wish to highlight is this: contrary to the popular impression, the collective will of the people of this country can, in important areas, make itself effective through the states themselves, acting in concert. There is no need for endless waiting on Congressional action; there is no need for groveling before any part of the Federal Government.
What we at Convention of States are doing today — and must continue until we have succeeded — is that we are answering Eisenhower’s sixty-year-old warning about the dangers of a permanent government, created for our security but at the same time destructive of our sovereignty and our freedom.
To join the movement, sign the petition below!
Ben Terrill is the Legislative Liaison for Convention of States Kansas.