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Premier Article V scholar uncovers new Founding-Era evidence for convention

Published in Blog on June 11, 2024 by Jakob Fay

Renowned constitutional scholar and author of “The Law of Article V,” Professor Robert G. Natelson recently uncovered Founding-Era documentation proving that the Article V convention stands as a distinct entity separate from the historical Constitutional Convention.

Opponents of the Convention of States movement frequently mislabel the amendments convention outlined in Article V of the U.S. Constitution as a “constitutional convention,” erroneously suggesting that it would wield the unbridled authority to craft an entirely new constitution. While scholars have repeatedly debunked this claim, organizations like the John Birch Society persist in employing the misleading term “constitutional convention.”

“Opponents do not engage with this evidence; they simply ignore it, as if they were reading from a script,” Natelson notes. “But the evidence continues to pile up.”

Previously, the professor has compiled 'numerous instances in which an amendments convention was called a “convention of the states' or a 'convention of states.' Most of these came from the [Founding Era]; others were later. Some were from official sources, such as legislatures and conventions, others from non-official sources. One was a U.S. Supreme Court opinion. Another was an opinion of the Supreme Court of Tennessee.”

In his latest article for the Article V Information Center, Natelson expands the scholarly foundation by introducing several previously undiscovered pre-1800 sources. Found within the official 1788-89 North Carolina state records, these sources shed new light on the discourse of the time, revealing that contemporaries did not classify the Article V amendment process as a constitutional convention.

“Inclosed,” wrote North Carolina Governor Samuel Johnston in 1788, “you will receive a Resolve of the Convention of this State offering Amendments to the Constitution proposed for the Government of the United States, by which you will perceive that they did not think it expedient to adopt it before the proposed Amendments were considered by a Convention of the States, and such of them as were approved of ingrafted into the Constitution.” That same year, a North Carolina state senator urged his fellow lawmakers to prepare for a possible amendments convention by “appointing five persons by ballot to represent this State in a Convention of the States, should one be called . . .” The North Carolina Senate Journal agreed that amendments to the Constitution could be enacted “by a Convention of the States.”

While we today prefer the term “Article V convention,” the historical record is overwhelming: the Article V process is not synonymous with a constitutional convention. Natelson’s research is particularly relevant, as the North Carolina legislature currently considers the Convention of States resolution. Residents need to understand that claims of the convention intending to rewrite the Constitution are unfounded. This idea is a recent fabrication and goes against historical evidence.

To join us in pushing for North Carolina to pass the resolution, sign the Convention of States petition below. Read the rest of Prof. Robert Natelson’s article here.

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Almost everyone knows that our federal government is on a dangerous course. The unsustainable debt combined with crushing regulations on states and businesses is a recipe for disaster.

What is less known is that the Founders gave state legislatures the power to act as a final check on abuses of power by Washington, DC. Article V of the U.S. Constitution authorizes the state legislatures to call a convention to proposing needed amendments to the Constitution. This process does not require the consent of the federal government in Washington DC.

I support Convention of States; a national movement to call a convention under Article V of the United States Constitution, restricted to proposing amendments that will impose fiscal restraints on the federal government, limit its power and jurisdiction, and impose term limits on its officials and members of Congress.

I want our state to be one of the necessary 34 states to pass a resolution calling for this kind of an Article V convention. You can find a copy of the model resolution and the Article V Pocket Guide (which explains the process and answers many questions) here:

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