Insurrection by Convention

The rural revolt led by Daniel Shays in western Massachusetts had been suppressed by February, 1787. Nonetheless, the notoriety of the event served as a catalyst for the constitutional convention which assembled later that year in Philadelphia.

Shays’ Rebellion was but a stick of dynamite compared to the nuclear devastation, as it were, that afflicts the polity, economy and culture of the USA today. I refer to the postmodernist revolution, the steady transmutation of America since approximately the assassination of JFK. How, pray tell, can citizens suppose that a constitutional convention would now be medicine too strong, or somehow disproportionate to the disaster we face as a result of the ongoing postmodernist revolution?

For a country and a culture as far off track as ours, only radical measures will suffice to address our radical problems. No such proposals will ever emerge from Congress, or f rom any branch of the Federal Government. It would be yet another exercise in futility to pin hopes for a “Radical Turnabout ” on politics as usual — i.e. on a dysfunctional political system, working under the plutocratic sway of Wall Street, the WTO, et al.

Thus, the great advantage of the Article V Convention is that it would circumvent the established power structure. At the Federal level, it is the closest thing that we the people have to a referendum, or to the initiative process. In lieu of insurrection by the sword, the convention is the one legal avenue still available with the potential to arm populist reformers for a successful insurgency of suede

Five Safeguards

What can we rely on in terms of safety? Certainly we cannot rely on decrees issuing from the existing de facto constitutional convention (the activist federal judiciary). Instead the temporary, unicameral assembly elected under Article V of the Constitution would be governed by at least five safeguards. These checks reduce the risk factor far below the imminent peril posed by runaway legislation from the bench.

First and foremost in terms of safety is what the Declaration of Independence calls “a firm reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence.” Insofar as our prototype amendment – or convention agenda – seeks to honor God, then we can petition the Almighty to bless our enterprise. The principle comes into play as articulated by one of the Declaration’s signers, the Rev. John Witherspoon : “if your cause is just, you may look with confidence to the Lord, and entreat Him to plead it as his own.”

Second, we will have to build a campaign to promote calling the Federal convention; and the infrastructure of that national campaign could mobilize, whenever necessary, against diversion of the convention to an opportunistic agenda.

Third, we can expect the American voters to cast their own check in advance against a maverick or runaway convention. After securing the necessary 34 state applications — two-thirds of the states as required by Article V — our campaign can work assiduously to put prudent convention delegates in the majority.

A fourth check to a runaway convention is the explicit constitutional requirement that three-fourths (75%) of the states must ratify what the convention proposes before it becomes law. A runaway convention would be a nullity without ratification of its proposals by 38 of the 50 states. Here again let our populist campaign stand ready, either to assist or to resist the proposal(s) that emerge from the convention.

A fifth check to a runaway convention involves the issue of bloodshed, i.e. an awareness that political obstinacy or trickery would betray a movement strong enough to call the first convention in more than two centuries. It would be a grave provocation on the government’s part to leave such a force with no legal alternatives but acquiescence or violence.

In other words, the Article V convention is the last resort available to the people, short of recourse to the sword ­– the ultimate right of the people as enshrined in the Federalist Papers , and implied in the Ninth Amendment . It will be an open invitation for serious trouble (to put it mildly) if the establishment subverts the authority of the electorate as set forth in Article V.

A little saber rattling of that sort can be a decisive check in itself. But the postmodernist regime may prove too obtuse or hubristic to bow to the people. Unsheathing the sword in the manner of our Forefathers might turn out to be the sole way to restore our nation to a condition that is neither odious politically nor loathsome culturally. In such an eventuality, we should not expect providential assistance unless (like the continental congress in 1774-1775) we pursue peaceful channels to their conclusion.

When he baptized Christ, St. John the Baptist thought the roles should be reversed. But Jesus told him, “…let it be so now, for so it becomes us to fulfill all justice.” (Matthew 3:14-15) Any successful insurrection that resorts to force must do so as a last resort, having fulfilled justice by first exhausting the peaceful means. (On preconditions that must be in place before a Christian may support armed resistance to oppression by political authorities, see The Catechism of the Catholic Church, sect. 2243 ; also the fifth chapter of my Treatise on Twelve Lights).

We have not yet reached the point where armed insurrection would be justifiable. We are, however, at the stage where populist intervention is the patriot’s only real hope, and the Christian’s best civic option. And so, mindful of the array of constitutional safeguards built into the fifth article of the Constitution, let us plan a peaceful campaign for an Article V convention.

The objective? To restore America the Beautiful under God and the written Constitution. The means? One arch-amendment that presides over political, economic and cultural revival.

Drawn in part from chapters one and four of the author’s, Treatise on Twelve Lights: To Restore America the
Beautiful Under God and the Written Constitution
.

By

writer, retired history teacher, practicing cradle Catholic, lecturer for Knights of Columbus, council 1379. Knight of the Month, October 2008, February 2009.

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  • Cooky642

    Dear Mr. Struble: you wrote “Third, we can expect the American voters to cast their own check in advance against a maverick or runaway convention.” After what the American voters did last November, are you so sure we are capable of such prudence? I’m not.

    In your 12th paragraph,you mentioned “saber rattling”. I presume you were speaking euphamistically, as “swords” surely won’t be much help against automatic gunfire, RPGs, and all the other modern weaponry the other side would put to use. However, I have 2 questions, here. 1) Are you so sure that peaceful oratory would produce any result against a Totalitarian regime? And, 2) Wouldn’t such peaceful oratory provoke such a Totalitarian regime to declare martial law and preclude any further “discussion” of any kind? We are, after all, speaking of 2009-2010, not 1774-1775.

  • joanspage

    Nonviolent means for social and political change have proven highly effective.
    The last century saw this life-affirming and God-trusting techniqwue developed asnd used successfully in:
    1. India
    2.U.S. (Civil Rights)
    3.Poland
    4.The Phillipines

    So, we can, if neceded, not resort to the sword but resort to this prayerful and graceful technique.

    A war, particularly a civil war, leaves deep, deep scars. Let’s not even think abouut one now.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    To blame the people is to blame the victim. The first response refers disparagingly to the 2008 election result, and “what the American voters did.” I think the better view of the electoral process in times like ours is this: It is not the voters’ fault that, again and again, a corrupted system gives us choices between the lesser of two evils, or between the leaders of two oligarchic and plutocratic political machines.

    I don’t blame the American people for electing President Obama over Yosemite Sam. In the last several presidential elections, neither candidate offered us any real hope of reform in the way election of delegates to an Article V convention would.

    Please note that “saber rattling” is a stock phrase for putting one’s opponent on notice about potential consequences. If the postmodern regime declares martial law in response to peaceful attempts at reform, then how can it be our fault for trying to save our country? Maybe you would prefer that we kiss our chains for the sake of peace; meanwhile letting the culture of death continue its inexorable advance.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    Joanspage is optimistic about the prospects for non-violent means. Ok, so lets get going with a constitutional convention to overturn Roe v. Wade. As per the second chapter of Treatise on Twelve Lights, the right political coalition would have a real chance of changing things.

    More than a generation has passed since 1973, and what do we have to show for all the pro-life efforts working within a dysfunctional system? The holocaust continues to click along about the rate of a million or more deaths annually. Isn’t it time for a change in strategy?

  • martel732

    On the positive side of this issue, I’d like to hear ideas from some readers on what could actually be achieved through a constitutional convention.

    Struble mentions “political, economic and cultural revival” presided over by one arch-amendment to the Constitution. If you were to be a delegate to this convention, what components of such an Amendment would you advocate or oppose? Are there any particulars in the “12 lights” about which you would rise to address the assembled delegates?

    Perhaps the more pertinent question is this: what sort of candidate for the convention would get your vote?

  • mclemen

    I presume that the call for dramatic political change follows the title – insurrection by convention – not by the sword. It is true – There is a wide feeling that dramatic political change is necessary – that the current two-party paradigm has failed, that fundamental change – even for those who have voted in this most recent administration – remains elusive. In spite of Richard Reeve’s own nationally carried column of a few days ago (“America, Get Used to It”) I don’t think that America is going to just agree to it and “Get Used to It”.

    The question then isn’t “What happens if things don’t change soon”, but rather, how shall change already be formulated when it begins? Change will come – and it will be based on a foundation that the Founding Fathers of this country would recognize: It will have Christian roots, it will include a social and legal agenda that this country’s Founding Fathers would recognize and approve… and it will draw much of its support and its drive from Catholics.

    The question isn’t “What happens if things don’t change soon”, but rather will we be ready? The last administration’s planners seemed to be caught somewhat off-guard when they took the White House. Exactly what the broader vision was didn’t seem to be entirely worked out. This administration has a definite agenda, but as Richard Reeves notes – it is fundamentally different from what America has ever had before. For those who aren’t ready to “Get Over It”, then what will the consensus for a new agenda be when the time for fundamental change comes?

    Waiting for a larger Article V convention to be formed is already too late. Yes – political action is necessary now. Smaller “conventions” should begin to build this new concensus, and to write this new agenda now, for that next generation.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    It’s “already too late” for an Article V convention, according to mclemen. Well, sir, since 1963 when they began the postmodernist revolution by taking religion out of the public schools, we’ve been trying without result to restore the old concept of “one nation, under God,” but without much success. In reality, we’ve continued to lose ground.

    Madelyn Murray O’Hair won her woeful victory not quite half a century ago. And it’s been 36 years — over a third of a century — since Roe v. Wade. So if it takes a decade, or even two decades, to convene a constitutional convention and submit an arch-amendment to the States, might not the expenditure of additional time be worthwhile in order to redeem, as it were, those years of defeat and setback?

    I’m not sure what you mean by “smaller conventions” to build a new consensus. Maybe you could elaborate in another posting. The erudition of your comment makes me optimistic that you’re not proposing more of the same, i.e. squandering our energies by working within the corrupt, dysfunctional system that operates inside the D.C. beltway.

  • levi78

    Thank you for emailing me about this Bob!

    I agree that using the current system that resides within the DC Beltway to bring about change is foolish and fruitless, that’s why we’re seeking reform. As a matter of who to trust, well, that could be very hard. Look how the Obama supporters got swindled…yet most of them are too prideful to admit it. So charming and full of “hope” on the campaign trail, yet so full of deceit, treachery and lies once in the Oval Office.

    I also agree that it MUST be peaceful and Christ-like in every manner! To do so other wise would have us walking in stride with Satan.

    First and foremost, if we are to have a Congress again, there needs to be age and a limit on how many terms one can serve. There needs to be fresh turnover in the law making body in order to remove any roots for corruption to start. If there just happens to be such a motivating public servant that people are sad to see “retire” (after serving the max amount of terms), if that servant was worth their salt, the same ideals that so moved the people CAN endure: through the right and just Christian morals. There need not be a reason for a lifetime spent in Congress. If anyone other than Christ, holds a seat of power for too long, there becomes a chance for corruption, and more than likely, it will take hold.

    2nd: no more lobbyists. Corporations shall not be represented as individual entities. They have no interests except to make money. It OUGHT to be common knowledge that WE wield the power by how and where we spend our money. Companies want their agenda to succeed, market it to the people. We’ll decide if we will buy into it.

    3rd: everyone has freedom, and for that, EVERYONE CONTRIBUTES! Just as in Acts of the Apostles, the community that was run by Peter and the Apostles was a commune in a very Christian sense. Those who had, shared with those who were without. Everyone “paid into the system” in order for all to benefit. Where I’m leading to is immigration and illegal aliens. You want in? You contribute. You don’t contribute fairly, there will be consequences. Granted, we don’t have the power of the Holy Spirit to take one’s life in a justified manner as Peter did, there can be expulsion.

    4th: there will be rules. But the rules will be full of honor, integrity and wisdom; nothing self-serving. Freedom comes from obedience and responsibility. As Catholic Christians, by following the 10 Commandments, we are free ourselves from the chains of sin. By living in the Spirit, we are freed by the Spirit.

    We have all the guidance and tools at our disposal: Christ and the Bible. Who to trust? Given enough exposure, one’s credentials shall be revealed in every aspect of their lives. Are they faithful to Christ, faithful to their spouse, humble, genuine, hypocritical, do they insist on the lavish life, are they motivated by wealth, etc, etc?

    Our founding fathers thought Christianity a wise enough rule to when setting forth the papers that shaped this nation’s birth, it certainly NEEDS to be at the forefront of any reform. The greatness of this nation has been slipping away for decades due to a departure from God and trusting His Divine Providence as a Nation.

    God bless, and thank you Bob for your passion in this!

    levi78

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    This discussion has migrated to the comments section after Brian Besong’s article “What Catholics Should Think About Revolution,” CE August 29. It contains many fine and insightful postings relevant to my own article.

    There, Mr. Besong states that, “Mr. Struble’s articles advocating violence against authority are one of the principle reasons I decided to write an article like this.” Please reread my article above if you have any doubts that its subject matter is what the title indicates, “Insurrection by Convention.” I repeat, dear reader, CONVENTION.

  • bobm

    What were the goals and aspirations of the American people for the 1787 Convention?

    Although the Convention was purportedly intended only to revise the Articles of Confederation, the intention of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, was from the outset to create a new government rather than fix the existing one” ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_Convention).

    What would be the goals and aspirations of the American people today? Do enough people share common goals and aspirations? There is a saying, “If we don’ know where we are going, we might end up where we don’t want to be.”

    The current political system is so entrenched it can’t seem to pull itself out of the deepening quagmire it creates. It will take either the most dynamic leader the country has ever seen, or something like a constitutional convention to save us from the quagmire.

    One question is whether we have enough people who can unify under common goals and aspirations in a Constitutional Convention to bring the United States back to one nation under God?

    Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a disaster to bring about unity of purpose. Are Obama, Congress, and the Judiciary leading us toward that disaster?

  • plowshare

    I think Struble is naive about the five checks on a convention having the opposite effect from what we want. God’s timetable is very different from ours: since He let Islam and Protestantism go from triumph to triumph century after century, why wouldn’t he also allow a convention to go badly awry and its baleful effects felt for centuries?

    Checks 2 and 3 don’t jibe with what I see on the internet. In forum after forum, I see the truth of William Butler Yeats’s verse that ends in
    “The best lack all conviction; and the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    Even if I am wrong about this, a look at the number of “blue” states convinces me that Check 4 will operate to prevent any of our cherished goals from being enshrined in the new Constitution, including the demise of Roe v. Wade and the restriction of marriage to man-woman couples.

    As for Check 5, I don’t even want to go there. I long ago shed my romantic ideas of what our Civil War was like, and another one would be even more catastrophic.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    bobm: What were the goals and aspirations of the American people for the 1787 Convention?

    RS: The American people were polarized in 1787, as evidenced by the divisions in the ratifying conventions of 1787-88. The anti-federalists came close to rendering the Constitution stillborn. It is regarded as likely that the influence of the Federalist Papers tipped the scales.

    bobm: Although the Convention was purportedly intended only to revise the Articles of Confederation, the intention of many of its proponents, chief among them James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, was from the outset to create a new government rather than fix the existing one.
    bobm: What would be the goals and aspirations of the American people today? Do enough people share common goals and aspirations? There is a saying, “If we don’ know where we are going, we might end up where we don’t want to be.”

    RS: The campaign for a convention will be a very considerable undertaking. It will stand little chance without a clearly defined idea of where we are going, i.e. a prototype for the convention agenda, somewhat like the Virginia Plan which preceded the Convention of 1787. For a history teacher’s view of what that precursor should be, see the outline and prototype text of the arch-amendment in chapter twelve of my book, Treatise on Twelve Lights:
    http://www.tell-usa.org/totl/

    bobm: The current political system is so entrenched it can’t seem to pull itself out of the deepening quagmire it creates. It will take either the most dynamic leader the country has ever seen, or something like a constitutional convention to save us from the quagmire.

    RS: Both simultaneously would be nice. Alas, a leader such as you describe cannot be conjured up. A convention can, however, be applied for in the state legislatures, and after 34 applications, convened.

    bobm: One question is whether we have enough people who can unify under common goals and aspirations in a Constitutional Convention to bring the United States back to one nation under God?

    RS: Christians ready to fight politically to restore the reality of “one nation under God?” My view is that our numbers are insufficient to do it alone. But backers of our Judeo-Christian heritage leading a secular/sacred, left-center-right coalition? Yes, definitely, if we can put such a coalition together. See my second chapter:
    http://www.tell-usa.org/totl/

    bobm: Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a disaster to bring about unity of purpose. Are Obama, Congress, and the Judiciary leading us toward that disaster?

    RS: Especially the Judiciary, with its usurpation of power. Usurpation is mentioned three times in the Declaration of Independence as justification for the American Revolution. The potential for judicial tyranny, as warned about by Thomas Jefferson and Abe Lincoln, has been realized in our own time.

    Also the string of Presidential wars since the last declaration of war by Congress (December 1941) has a flagrancy that is alerting more and more citizens today. The written document can be trampled underfoot for only so long before [1] our shackles get fastened permanently; or [2] “we the people” rise up and restore the scepter to our lex rex – the U.S. Constitution.

    Not the so called “living, breathing constitution,” enthroned by Earl Warren, et. al. Rather, the Constitution as composed by the Framers and since amended in the manner which the Constitution provides.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    In a posting above, Plowshare finds my five points unconvincing on why the Article V convention would be a safe procedure to pursue.

    Plowshare: God’s timetable is very different from ours: since He let Islam and Protestantism go from triumph to triumph century after century, why wouldn’t he also allow a convention to go badly awry and its baleful effects felt for centuries?

    RS: God knew what he was doing then; likewise in America during the 21st century. If “annuit coeptis” still applies, then he will favor our cause once again; provided we solicit his Providence earnestly, sincerely and prayerfully. If our national sins are so great, however, that he ordains a new order, Advorsatur Coeptis (He opposes our cause), then we are ruined no matter what. “Dominion is the Lord’s and he rules the nations.” (Psalm 22:28)

    Plowshare: Checks 2 and 3 don’t jibe with what I see on the internet. In forum after forum, I see the truth of William Butler Yeats’s verse that ends in
    “The best lack all conviction; and the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.”

    RS: If your pessimistic view of the people is as bad as you seem to feel, then democracy has no chance. If democracy is hopeless, then so is the Republic. If the Republic is doomed, then we are lost anyway, and we might as well go down with a roar rather than a whimper.

    But if the American people have some redeeming qualities, and if a remnant of citizens are ready to fight the good fight, then as Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower put it, “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

    Plowshare: Even if I am wrong about this, a look at the number of “blue” states convinces me that Check 4 will operate to prevent any of our cherished goals from being enshrined in the new Constitution, including the demise of Roe v. Wade and the restriction of marriage to man-woman couples.

    RS: Who said anything about a “new constitution?” One arch-amendment to the Constitution would be like dry-dock repair, which is a far cry from building a new ship of state.

    If it proves politically impossible to restore America via the amending process, then we can fall back on Plan B. And if both plans A and B fail, at least we will not have forsaken our duty and our honor. We can then pray that the rigor of captivity will last no longer than the 75 years of Soviet rule in Russia. Or like the triumphant Irish revolutionaries of 1919-1921 who looked to earlier, unsuccessful risings for inspiration, our grandchildren can look to our exertions as precedent; also for hope that may foreshadow their own more successful efforts.

    Plowshare: As for Check 5, I don’t even want to go there. I long ago shed my romantic ideas of what our Civil War was like, and another one would be even more catastrophic.

    RS: Could death and destruction on the order of the Civil War (or worse) be any more dreadful than letting the American dream become a nightmare for our children and grandchildren; than the ruination of the principles represented in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution; or than the eradication of Judeo-Christian civilization?

    And regarding the great “disaster,” as you put it, of 1861-1865: My great-granduncle, (later Congressman) Isaac Struble of Iowa, fought in the Civil War because he thought it worthwhile to rid the world of slavery. His great-grandnephew happens to believe that the risk was justifiable, and that as a result of the U.S. Civil War, this country and not a few other nations were the better for it. In my estimation, few of the emancipated slaves would have disagreed, nor the great majority of their descendants.

  • http://www.tell-usa.org Robert Struble, Jr.

    The first article in this series is my, “Radical Turnabout,” at
    http://catholicexchange.com/2009/07/27/120223/

    The third article in the series is by Brian Besong, “What Should Catholics Think About Revolution?” at
    http://catholicexchange.com/2009/08/29/121409/
    Please note the extensive commentaries.

    The fourth article in the series, my “On Insurrection: A Roman Catholic View,” is at
    http://catholicexchange.com/2009/09/07/121516/

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