Polemics & Exchanges

A Second Look

In his review of Mark R. Levin’s The Liberty Amendments (“Impractical Solutions, February), William J. Quirk emphasizes the novelty of an Article V convention, calling it “a constitutional-amendment process that has never been used before” and criticizing Mr. Levin for proposing that, “for the first time,” we use an Article V convention to amend the constitution.  Although there has never been an Article V convention, it is not for lack of trying.  Hundreds of applications for such a convention have been filed over the course of our country’s history.  That the threat of an Article V convention pushed Congress to adopt the 17th Amendment (before the states could do so without Congress) suggests Professor Quirk’s fears about progressive influence on such a convention are justified.

Nevertheless, the original intent of an Article V convention was to enable the states to bypass the powerful federal Congress.  Alexander Hamilton’s first draft of a proposed constitution did not include an option for states to amend the document; when a more state-friendly clause was added, Madison, then a nationalist, struck it, much to the protest of others at the Philadelphia Convention.  George Mason, for instance, complained that the “plan of amending the Constitution” was “exceptional...

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