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


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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