Part 2, We Don’t Know How Conventions Work
Anti-convention groups claim that since Article V does not explain how conventions work, we therefore don’t know and shouldn’t do what we don’t know how to do.
Their false authority claims nobody knows how many delegates a state can send? Who chooses the delegates? Who gets to vote: delegates or states? Do the states have any recourse over a delegate abusing his commission? Who would decide the rules? Who would lead them?
by Mike Kapic March 11, 2019
- We have four centuries of records telling us how they work
- Historians point to many hundreds of conventions in towns, colonies, and states.
- Article V offers no details because most people knew generally how they worked.
- Of hundreds held, twenty notable conventions occurred prior to the Constitution in 1787
- Sixty-six conventions occurred post Constitution—including Article 7 & 21st Amendment
- Procedures followed common law and precedent.
- Early conventions originated 1 state, 1 vote; colonies determined & instructed delegates;
- Conventions were not legislative but rather solution oriented & did not reoccur.
- They chose a president and secretary
- The colony/state called the convention; they were limited or unlimited in subject scope.
- State legislatures decide how to discipline rogue commissioners.
- Earliest conventions: 1620 (MA, Mayflower), 1639 (CT, constitution), 1643 (CT, amendments).
- The latest convention: 2017—BBA Task Force Planning Committee (Phoenix AZ)
Scholars and historians have nearly four centuries of convention records and documents to tell us how they work. Much work is available in public libraries. There are volumes of records, accounts, researched by scholars and historians on conventions dating back many centuries.
The details of how a convention works is not written down in Article V because of their frequent calling, they knew how they operated. Writing it in the Constitution would have been redundant. Instructions for how to administer habeas corpus was not included in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 either.
Article V codified more than a century of precedent of established processes that proved to resolve a societal or government problem. They established an operational pattern that continues to this day.
The purpose of a convention was to bring people together from neighboring areas to solve a specific problem that couldn’t be solved locally. The operating traits evolved and the successful one’s continued to be used in future meetings over the coming centuries. Here’s are examples of commonly used convention operatives dating back to the early 17th century. These operatives have continued, through the colonies to states, to the last convention in Phoenix Arizona in 2017.
- They were held as local, regional or national meetings
- In the early years, conventions or councils or congress’ were gatherings called in small communities or towns that grew to include colonies and states.
- Subjects varied from safety and militia to funding the Revolutionary War to dealing with inflation and trade agreements. They dealt with differing currency’s, reforming America’s government, to writing the rules for a future convention. And everything in between.
- Each colony/state legislature decided on how to choose its commissioners.
- Each colony/state legislature elected their commissioners, deciding how many to send.
- Each colony/state commissioned or wrote the rules and instructions governing the commissioners or delegates to the convention.
- Each colony/state decided, or not, the penalties for delegates disobeying their commissions.
- Commissioners were sometimes paid.
- Most times a convention met, it wrote its own rules. (some commissioners had attended prior gatherings and understood the rules enough and didn’t always record them again but followed them.)
- Each colony/state reverted to the ‘one colony/state, one vote rule’ established early in the process.
- Each convention elected a president and, for the most part, a non-delegate secretary.
- Many conventions opened with a prayer.
- Each convention decided its committees.
- The records show conventions stayed close to the subject’s call. (If the subject was broadened it was done so before beginning the convention.)
- Conventions ended sine die or with the understanding that they were finished and would not reopen the proceedings.
- Commissioners would return to their colony/state with the results.
- The conventions kept records.
- Not all conventions accomplished the goal of the subject call. However, the most notable convention records do not indicate a failure of the administrative operation.
Our history is replete with scholarly evidence that American’s called and used a formal system of convention operation over a long period of time and with little exception in detail.