The following excerpt was written by Convention of States Senior Advisor Prof. Rob Natelson and originally published at the Article V Information Center.
One mark of authors who oppose all efforts to use Article V’s application and convention process is their continued repetition of claims that are demonstrably false. Those statements—whether made by those on the Left or Right—are often remarkably similar, reflecting their common origin in a 1960s-70s propaganda campaign.
Before 2010, they might have had some excuse. (Although some of their claims were debunked as long ago as 1988 in Russell Caplan’s 1988 Oxford University Press book, Constitutional Brinksmanship.) But accurate information is now extensive and widely available—at this website and many other places. So there no longer is any excuse.
Consider first an example from the far Left. This one comes from a January 18, 2017 article by Michael Leachman and David Super, which (as of this writing, anyway) is posted on the website of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:
The only constitutional convention in U.S. history, in 1787, went far beyond its mandate. Charged with amending the Articles of Confederation to promote trade among the states, the convention instead wrote an entirely new governing document.
That short statement contains three clear historical errors. First, the 1787 convention did not go beyond its mandate. The belief that it did arises from presuming that a February 21, 1787 Confederation Congress resolution was the convention’s “call” (mandate). But the fact that it was not a call is apparent from the wording of the resolution. Actually, the convention was called on December 1, 1786 by Virginia, and its mandate was set (as Madison pointed out in Federalist No. 40) by the commissions issued by the participating states. Only two states limited their commissions to amending the Articles, and most commissioners from those states did not sign the Constitution.
Second, the 1787 convention was not called to “promote trade among the states.” The writers probably have the 1787 convention confused with the meeting the prior year in Annapolis, which was convened to propose amendments and measures pertaining to trade.
The third error is the claim that there has been only one constitutional convention in U.S. history. In fact, there have been three. The first was the Albany Congress of 1754, which proposed a plan for union among the colonies. The second was the 1787 conclave. The third was the 1861 convention in Montgomery, Alabama, which drafted a new constitution for the Confederate States of America. (The cause was a bad one, but the Montgomery gathering was clearly a constitutional convention.)
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