Convention of States Process

by Mike Kapic 

On Sept 15, 1787, two days before the Constitution’s signing, George Mason stood in what is now known as Independence Hall and announced that he feared Congress might someday become abusive and refuse to adopt necessary amendments or even curb its own power. The inspiration had come from Georgia’s constitution written in 1777. Thus, the second clause of Article V was inserted into the document.

But there’s nothing in Article V about how the convention should operate. Was that intentional? Yes, because conventions were a typical occurrence every few years during that era and why would anyone define something that was a common practice. The Constitution was written because of a universal fear of government and the second clause of Article V was a backup method for the states to use an established method for ending tyranny.

The convention process has a long and storied history as recorded by many scholars and historians. Here is a brief historical summary from Prof. Rob Natelson in his Florida Law Review Article of May, 2013:

Conventions Before the Constitution

The Founders understood a political “convention” to be an assembly, other than a legislature, designed to undertake prescribed governmental functions. The convention was a familiar and approved device: several generations of Englishmen and Americans had resorted to them. In 1660 a “convention Parliament” had recalled the Stuart line, in the person of Charles II, to the throne of England. A 1689 convention Parliament had adopted the English Bill of Rights, declared the throne vacant, and invited William and Mary to fill it. Also in 1689, Americans resorted to at least four conventions in three different colonies as mechanisms to replace unpopular colonial governments, and in 1719 they held yet another.

The convention process evolved over the years as citizens and governments learned to use them as a means of settling specific issues. Again from Natelson:

Conventions within individual colonies or states represented the people, towns, or counties. Another sort of “convention” was a gathering of three or more American governments under protocols modeled on international diplomatic practice. These multi-government conventions were comprised of delegations from each participating government, including, on some occasions, Indian tribes. Before Independence, such gatherings often were called “congresses,” because “congress” was an established term for a gathering of sovereignties. After Independence, they were more often called “conventions,” presumably to avoid confusion with the Continental and Confederation Congresses. But both before and after Independence the terms could be employed interchangeably. Multi-government congresses or conventions were particularly common in the Northeast, perhaps because governments in that region had a history of working together. In 1643 the four colonies of Massachusetts, Plymouth Colony, Connecticut, and New Haven formed the United Colonies of New England.

Natelson explains where the historical records of these meetings came from:

Each convention produced official records referred to as its journal, minutes, or proceedings. These records vary widely in length and completeness. For example, the journals of the First Continental Congress and of the Constitutional Convention consume hundreds of pages, but the proceedings of the 1781 Providence Convention cover less than a page and a half. Fortunately, a fair amount of other historical material supplements the journals. This material includes legislative records, other official documents, and personal correspondence. The journals and other sources tend to show consistency in convention protocol and procedures. The Albany Congress, the Stamp Act Congress, the First Continental Congress, and the Constitutional Convention have been subjects of detailed historical study. The other multi-state conventions have been largely neglected.

There have been some 40-50 conventions beginning in 1689 both in England and in the American colonies and running up to the last one in Santa Fe, New Mexico in 1921. Some were narrow in scope while a few were broad. Of the multi-colonial conventions, the Albany Congress, which met between June 19 and July 11, 1754, was the best documented. Scholars have documented many of the meetings including two popular books about the February 1861 Peace Convention in Washington DC. (For a summary of convention dates and locations,

The following briefly illustrates The Stamp Act convention of 1765 from Natelson’s Florida Law Review.

The Stamp Act convention was initiated by the lower house of Massachusetts and their subject was “to consult together on the present circumstances of the colonies and the difficulties to which they are and must be reduced by the operation of the late acts of Parliament,” particularly the Stamp Act. The convention was not sponsored by the Crown.

The ‘call’ for the meeting was October 1, 1765 and the place was New York. Nine of the 13 invited colonies sent committees ranging from two to five commissioners each. Some of the commissioners were experienced, having served in previous conventions. Each colony paid its own commissioners and issued credentials and instructions.

The convention adopted its own rules and chose its own president, secretary, (each by ballot), and committees. They affirmed the one colony, one vote procedure and kept a journal. The convention adjourned on October 25 after issuing four documents as a result of their proposals, debates, and votes on the subject.

Our Nation’s process of resolving issues in this manner was common and the administrative methodology evolved into tradition over the centuries. We’ve done this before and know how they work.

George Mason and the Framers inserted the second clause in Article V, giving us a way to resolve the tyrannical issues we’re currently experiencing. The Heritage Foundation is tracking the rising tide of red tape threatening to drown Americas consumers and businesses. Here’s just a sample from a report released in May 2016. There more than 2000 still in the pipe line, 41 of which have an impact of more than $100 million.

  • Last year Congressed passed 163 laws while the regulatory bureaucracy wrote, without Congressional permission, 2,353 new regulations costing $22 billion. (Heritage)
  • In the last 7 ½ years the alphabet agencies have written 20,642 regulations and rules (laws) exceeding $100 billion annually. (Heritage)
  • The TSA admits it has a 96% failure rate in stopping forbidden articles being carried onboard.
  • Americans have fewer choices and higher health care costs since the ACA began. (Heritage)
  • After the coal industry met the latest clean requirements, the EPA introduced a new “Clean Power Plan” projected to cost well over $7 billion. Taxpayers continue to pay past the clean threshold.
  • Reduced Internet investment and innovation under the network neutrality rules dictated by the Federal Communications Commission. (Heritage)
  • Restricted access to credit under the hundreds of rules unleashed by the Dodd–Frank financial regulation statute. (Heritage)
  • Regulatory agencies intentionally putting certain businesses out of business.
  • State Dept gave $500 million to the Green Climate Fund after Congress voted not to fund it.

Regulations are necessary to help control society, but rules for the sake of control and without representation removes our liberty and chokes America’s ability to pursue happiness. They also disproportionately hurt people of lower incomes. Tyranny is upon America. It’s time to call for a historical amending convention to save our nation for future generations. Reagan said freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We’re not there yet, but we’re approaching it.

Mike Kapic