Today marks the 229th anniversary of the Constitution’s ratification, as New Hampshire became the ninth and last necessary state to agree to the new document on June 21, 1788.
Unfortunately, the dignity and honor of the Constitution’s framers have for many years been mired controversy as anti-constitutionalists have spread the “illegal adoption” myth.
According to the myth, Washington, Mason, Jefferson and the other framers were only authorized to amend the Article of Confederation. Instead, the myth-tellers say, they ignored their legitimate authority and wrote an entirely new Constitution instead.
This fabrication has been spread in public schools for years, but new research has since debunked it entirely. As Michael Farris explains in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, the vast majority of the framers followed exactly the instructions from their state legislatures.
Rita Dunaway explained it like this:
Based on the recommendation of a prior convention in Annapolis, six state legislatures initially agreed to participate in the Constitutional Convention. As we can read in black-and-white in Farris’ article, the states told their commissioners that the purpose of the convention was the one stated in the Annapolis Convention resolution: “to render the constitution of the Federal Government adequate for the exigencies of the Union.” As used at this time, “constitution” did not refer to the Articles of Confederation, but to the system of government more broadly. (Convention scholar Robert Natelson provides the proof of this in one of his many enlightening articles).
On Feb. 21, 1787, Congress passed a resolution to endorse this Constitutional Convention already set in motion by six states. Congress recommended that the Convention solely revise the Articles of Confederation – thus later giving rise to the claim that the Founding Fathers exceeded their authority. But the fact is, Congress was powerless to dictate the terms of the Convention to the states participating in it.
Indeed, James Madison explained this in Federalist 40: the states’ instructions – not those of Congress – defined the scope of the Constitutional Convention. They told their delegates to render the federal government adequate for the needs of the Union, and that is exactly what they did.
A Convention of States will likewise adhere to its instructions. If the states call and convene a Convention of States for proposing amendments that limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, only amendments that fall into that category will go to the states for ratification.
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