Supporting the Defenders of the Second Amendment
"In opposition to the probability of subsequent amendments, it has been urged that the persons delegated to the administration of the national government will always be disinclined to yield up any portion of the authority of which they were once possessed. For my own part I acknowledge a thorough conviction that any amendments which may, upon mature consideration, be thought useful, will be applicable to the organization of the government, not to the mass of its powers; and on this account alone, I think there is no weight in the observation just stated. I also think there is little weight in it on another account. The intrinsic difficulty of governing THIRTEEN STATES at any rate, independent of calculations upon an ordinary degree of public spirit and integrity, will, in my opinion constantly impose on the national rulers the necessity of a spirit of accommodation to the reasonable expectations of their constituents. But there is yet a further consideration, which proves beyond the possibility of a doubt, that the observation is futile. It is this that the national rulers, whenever nine States concur, will have no option upon the subject. By the fifth article of the plan, the Congress will be obliged "on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the States [which at present amount to nine], to call a convention for proposing amendments, which shall be valid, to all intents and purposes, as part of the Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the States, or by conventions in three fourths thereof." The words of this article are peremptory. The Congress "shall call a convention." Nothing in this particular is left to the discretion of that body. And of consequence, all the declamation about the disinclination to a change vanishes in air. Nor however difficult it may be supposed to unite two thirds or three fourths of the State legislatures, in amendments which may affect local interests, can there be any room to apprehend any such difficulty in a union on points which are merely relative to the general liberty or security of the people. We may safely rely on the disposition of the State legislatures to erect barriers against the encroachments of the national authority.
If the foregoing argument is a fallacy, certain it is that I am myself deceived by it, for it is, in my conception, one of those rare instances in which a political truth can be brought to the test of a mathematical demonstration. Those who see the matter in the same light with me, however zealous they may be for amendments, must agree in the propriety of a previous adoption, as the most direct road to their own object."
Despite the fact that 49 of all 50 state legislatures have submitted 400 (or more) applications
(far in excess of the two-thirds requirement) requesting a convention call, Congress has ignored its constitutionally mandated duty. Some Americans fear a convention. This fear, based upon half-truths, myths and outright false hoods, helps to justify the congressional veto of direct constitutional text and denies the people their right to amend the Constitution without government interference or oversight. They say that such a gathering could become a "runaway" convention -- re-writing or over-turning parts or all of the Constitution. They ignore the fact that the Framers also provided a safety mechanism to prevent such a fiasco: all amendments proposed by the convention must be ratified by three-quarters of the states before they become effective. There is nodanger that radicals on either side of the political spectrum could bring about such an outcome.
Article V of the U.S. Constitution States: The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
The Supreme Court has already (many times) dealt with cases in interpreting the Constitution (including Article V) and its provisions:
|#01||Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803): “It cannot be presumed that any clause in the constitution is intended to be without effect.”|
|#02||Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. 304 (1816): “Words of [the] Constitution are to be taken in natural and obvious sense, and not in sense unreasonably restricted or enlarged.”|
|#03||Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. 304 (1816): “Where the text of the constitution is "clear and distinct", no restriction on its plain and obvious import should be admitted unless the inference is irresistible.”|
|#04||Martin v. Hunter’s Lessee, 14 U.S. 304 (1816): “The government of the United States can claim no powers which are not granted to it by the Constitution.”|
|#05||Ogden v. Saunders, 25 U.S. 213 (1827): “Where provision in United States Constitution is unambiguous and its meaning is entirely free from doubt, the intention of the framers of the constitution cannot be inquired into, and the supreme court is bound to give the provision full operation, whatever might be the views entertained of its expediency.”|
|#06||Prigg v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, 41 U.S. 539 (1842): “[The] Court may not construe Constitution so as to defeat its obvious ends when another construction, equally accordant with the words and sense thereof, will enforce and protect them.”|
|#07||Dodge v. Woolsey, 59 U.S. 331 (1855): “The departments of the government are legislative, executive and judicial. They are coordinate in degree to the extent of the powers delegated to each of them. Each, in the exercise of its powers, is independent of the other, but all, right-fully done by either, is binding upon the others. The constitution is supreme over all of them, because the people who ratified it have made it so; consequently, any thing which may be done unauthorized by it is unlawful. … It is supreme over the people of the United States, aggregately and in their separate sovereignties, because they have excluded themselves from any direct or immediate agency in making amendments to it, and have directed that amendments should be made representatively for them, by the congress of the United States, when two thirds of both houses shall propose them; or where the legislatures of two thirds of the several States shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, be-come valid, to all intents and purposes, as a part of the constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by conventions in three fourths of them, as one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by congress.”|
|#08||Jarrolt v. Moberly, 103 U.S. 580 (1880): “A constitutional provision should not be construed so as to defeat its evident purpose, but rather so as to give it effective operation and suppress the mischief at which it was aimed.”|
|#09||Hawke v. Smith, 253 U.S. 221 (1920): “The framers of the Constitution realized that it might in the progress of time and the development of new conditions require changes, and they intended to provide an orderly manner in which these could be accomplished; to that end they adopted the fifth article. This article makes provision for the proposal of amendments either by two-thirds of both houses of Congress or on application of the Legislatures of two-thirds of the states; thus securing deliberation and consideration before any change can be proposed. … The fifth article is a grant of authority by the people to Congress. The determination of the method of ratification is the exercise of a national power specifically granted by the Constitution; that power is conferred upon Congress, and is limited to two methods, by the action of the Legislatures of three-fourths of the states, or conventions in a like number of states. The framers of the Constitution might have adopted a different method. Ratification might have been left to a vote of the people, or to some authority of government other than that selected. The language of the article is plain, and admits no doubt in its interpretation. It is not the function of courts or legislative bodies, national or state, to alter the method which the Constitution has fixed.”|
|#10||Dillon v. Gloss 256 U.S. 368 (1921), the Court reaffirmed its previous interpretations of Article V saying: “An examination of article 5 discloses that it is intended to invest Congress with a wide range of power in proposing amendments. Passing a provision long since it expired subjects this power to only two restrictions: one that the proposal shall have the approval of two-thirds of both houses, and the other excluding any amendment which will deprive any state, without its consent, of its equal suffrage in the senate. A further mode of proposal—as yet never invoked—is provided, which is, that on the application of two thirds of the states Congress shall call a convention for the purpose.”|
|#11||United States v. Sprague, 282 U.S. 716 (1931), the Supreme Court stated: “The United States asserts that article 5 is clear in statement and in meaning, contains no ambiguity and calls for no resort to rules of construction. A mere reading demonstrates that this is true. It provides two methods for proposing amendments. Congress may propose them by a vote of two-thirds of both houses, or, on the application of the legislatures of two-thirds of the States, must call a convention to propose them.”|
|#12||U.S. v Sprague, 282 U.S. 716 (1931): “Where intention of words and phrases used in Constitution is clear, there is no room for construction [i.e. re-interpretation] and no excuse for interpolation or addition.”|
|#13||Wright v. U.S., 302 U.S. 583 (1938): “In expounding the Constitution, every word must have its due force and appropriate meaning.”|
|#14||U.S. v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299 (1941): “Where there are several possible meanings of the words of the constitution, that meaning which will defeat rather than effectuate the constitutional purpose cannot rightly be preferred.”|
|#15||Ullmann v. U.S., 350 U.S. 422 (1956): “Nothing new can be put into the constitution except through the amendatory process, and nothing old can be taken out without the same process”.|
|#16||Ullmann v. U.S., 350 U.S. 422 (1956): “As no constitutional guarantee enjoys preference, so none should suffer subordination or deletion.”|