Ancestor Worship Will Not Solve Our Problems
by Vickie Deppie
During a recent hearing for an Article V measure under consideration by the New Hampshire House, an opponent testified, “Are we of the same character as the people in the late 1700s who fought a revolution against the British? I don’t think we are…We should be thanking our lucky stars that we have [a Constitution] that’s as good as it is, and we should not try to change it at all.”
Are we really so morally inferior to our forebears that we can’t be trusted to amend our Constitution? This position has, as its cornerstone, the assertion that the delegates to the Constitutional Convention disobeyed their instructions to simply amend the Articles of Confederation and instead wrote an entirely new Constitution; and since that’s what they did (supposedly), we should expect delegates to a convention for proposing amendments to run amok, too. This is demonstrably false, but let’s imagine for a moment that these naysayers are correct…that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 really did “run away.” Wouldn’t that make the delegates scoundrels and traitors instead of moral paragons?
Recall, too, that several of the delegates to the Constitutional Convention (Daniel Carroll, John Dickinson, Elbridge Gerry, Gouverneur Morris, Robert Morris, and Roger Sherman) were also involved in the creation of the Articles of Confederation. If the personal morality of the authors is a basis for evaluating the finished product, how is it that these god-like individuals came up with a Constitution that should be regarded as sacrosanct when their work product from just a decade earlier had been rendered completely inadequate?
How could morally superior beings like John Adams and Thomas Jefferson allow the blatantly unconstitutional Alien and Sedition Acts (which made it a federal crime for newspapers to criticize the government) to become law? How is it that Alexander Hamilton was driven from public life by information about a sex scandal wielded by Jefferson, then shot to death in a duel with political rival Aaron Burr? Historian Joanne Freeman, who documented the pervasive verbal abuse and physical violence that characterized the politics of the early United States, notes: “The antebellum Congress had its admirable moments, but it wasn’t an assembly of demigods. It was a human institution with very human failings.”
When the whole story is told, it is difficult to make the case that the founding generation was morally superior to our own. And they didn’t think of themselves in such terms, either. In Federalist 51, James Madison wrote one of the Federalist Papers’ most oft-quoted passages: “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” This is precisely why our checks-and-balances system harnesses self-interest in service of the common good. If the founding generation were the angels among us that these naysayers claim, it never would have occurred to them to construct our government as they did.
The idea that we should not use the constitutional tools the Framers gave us stands in direct conflict with what they themselves thought and did. They not only anticipated that the Constitution would need amending and provided for it: they began amending it immediately. The ink was barely dry on the Constitution itself when the first ten amendments were ratified. Two more were proposed and ratified within fifteen years, the latter putting the Vice President with the President on a single ticket instead of making the runner-up the VP. Can you imagine a President Biden paired with a Vice President Trump breaking ties in the Senate? No, because that generation recognized that what looked good on paper turned out to be problematic in real life, and they immediately got to work to fix it.
We all know Washington is broken. We do not honor our founding generation with a perverse, paralyzing exercise in ancestor worship. We honor our heritage and our neighbors by coming together and using the tools the Framers created for us to solve problems that only time would reveal.
Article V News
Balanced Budget Amendment/Fiscal Restraints
In Florida, HCR 703 passed the House on a party-line vote and has been referred to the Senate Rules Committee. SCR 324 passed in Judiciary and Rules. In South Carolina, H 3676 has been introduced and referred to Judiciary.
Convention of States Project
In Kentucky, HJR 40 has been referred to the Committee on Committees and SJR 84 has been referred to State & Local Government and the Committee on Committees. In Massachusetts, H 3541 has been filed and referred to the Joint Veterans Affairs Committee. In Nebraska, LR 31, omitting the sunset clause of a prior rendition, has been carried over. In New Jersey, ACR 31 and SCR 15 have been carried over and await hearing in their respective committees. In New York, B 1715 awaits a hearing in the Finance Committee. In Rhode Island, H 7182 is pending in the State Government & Elections Committee. In South Dakota, SJR 503 has been withdrawn by the sponsor. In Washington, HJM 4002 and SJM 8004 were reintroduced and referred to committee.
Free and Fair Elections (Wolf-PAC)
In Massachusetts, H 3502 and S 2319 are pending in the Joint Veterans and Federal Affairs Committee. In Minnesota, SF 384 and HF 1064 are pending in their respective committees. In New Hampshire, HCR 8 had a hearing in the House State-Federal Relations & Veterans Affairs Committee. In Washington, SJM 8000 was reintroduced and awaits a hearing in the Senate State Government & Elections Committee.
In Indiana, HJR 3 was introduced with bipartisan support and is pending in Judiciary. In Florida, HCR 693 passed in the House and awaits a hearing in the Senate Rules Committee. S 326 has passed in both Judiciary and Rules. In Nebraska, LR 282 awaits a hearing in the Government, Military, and Veterans Affairs Committee. In South Carolina, H 3895 has been referred to the Committee on Judiciary. In the Tennessee Senate, action has been deferred on HJR 5. In Utah, HJR 6 is pending in the House Rules Committee.
Delegate Selection and Oversight
In Iowa, HF 2116 and HF 336 are pending in the State Government Committee. In Kansas, SB 385 has been introduced and referred to the Committee on Federal and State Affairs. In Missouri, HB1442 and SB 1310 await committee assignment. In Nebraska, LB 195 has been carried over. In South Carolina, HJR 4626 is pending in the Judiciary Committee. In Virginia, SB 527 failed in committee and SB 528 is pending in the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
In Maine, SP 705, a single piece of legislation creating separate applications for a convention to propose a term limits amendment and one for proposing an election integrity amendment has been carried over.
In New Jersey, SCR 35 applying for a convention to propose balanced budget, term limits, and electoral vote apportionment amendments has been introduced and referred to committee.
In Utah, HJR 16, an attempt to ratify the now-expired Equal Rights Amendment has been filed in the House.
ALEC CEO Lisa Nelson pushes back against the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board’s characterization of Article V legislative advocates as “radical and sinister” in “The Constitution is not a con job.”
Jeff Clark, Minnesota Co-Chair of Move to Amend, advocates that Congress clarify that the free speech rights protected by the First Amendment pertain to natural persons only and not artificial entities in MinnPost.
Nick Tomboulides, Executive Director of US Term Limits, advocates for efforts in the Florida legislature in the Orlando Sentinel.
After securing a majority—but not the required supermajority—to pass an Article V application, Kansas Senator Mike Thompson and Representative Michael Murphy are suing to have the supermajority threshold declared unconstitutional. Read more in USA Today.
Former Comptroller General David Walker sets forth both a rationale and plan to bring fiscal sanity to Washington in The Post and Courier.
Constitution Boot Camp
Join your colleagues working through the Constitution! This month’s lesson is Article I, Section 4: Elections, beginning on page 9.
Who Said It?
Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged men who kept on working.Oscar Wilde