Recently, LibertyUnderFire.com published: "No need for Article V Convention, just honor your oath." We argued that the Convention of States was a distortion of Article V's constitutional authority and was itself unconstitutional. The expectation that those who now violate the existing Constitution would suddenly be faithful to a newer or different language is unrealistic -- even naive. The Founders already built into the Constitution instructions on how to ensure it remains the Supreme Law of the Land. This was Article VI, the Supremacy Act, not Article V.
The Constitution has the people, through their elected representatives, make all the laws. "All legislative Powers herein granted shall be vested in a Congress of the United States, which shall consist of a Senate and House of Representatives" (Article I, Section 1). Neither the president nor the courts make law or issue mandates! The president administers the law made by Congress, and the courts adjudicate contested law made by the same.
But Congress could not make any law it wished, as it now does. Article VI reads, "This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land." Like it or not, Congress is handcuffed to the Constitution and should be able to produce the precise and specific sentence in Article I, Section 8, Clauses 1-18, or elsewhere in the Constitution, itself, that authorizes a proposed law. If Congress can't, the proposal should not be made law. There is no authority to stray from or distort original intent. So Congress is bound. No laws not clearly and specifically in harmony with the Constitution can be made.
Nor can states that make up the United States, or judges therein, neglect the Constitution. "And the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding."
This document, inclusive of the Bill of Rights, is, in fact, the Supreme Law of the Land. Amendment 10 of the Bill of Rights handcuffs all three federal branches of government, especially Congress, one step further. "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
This ties directly back to the enumerated powers listed in Article I, Section 8, Clauses 1-18, that bestow on Congress ONLY FOUR POWERS: to tax, to pay the debts, to provide for the common defense, and to provide for the general welfare. The last two of these are each further restricted by eight additional clauses, all housed in one long sentence with 18 paragraphs, this absolutely critical to its interpretation. Congress is required to stay within these boundaries and it hasn't.
Thomas Jefferson wrote in 1798, "In questions of power ... let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution." That is precisely what the Founding Fathers did in Article VI, Clause 3: "The Senators and Representatives before mention, and the Members of the
several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution."
Every single government official in the United States of America, plus all the military, swear, by oath, allegiance to the Constitution and thus are bound "down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution."
If we can not constitutionally use a Convention of States to get elected officials to be bound down by the chains of the Constitution, which is the case, how can this happen? Article VI binds all to the Constitution. If oath breakers write, pass or decree things out of harmony with the Constitution, these are null and void on submission and should be declared so by all oath keepers in states, counties and cities. Nullification of such is constitutional and works immediately.
Founding Fathers James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton each were especially vocal with respect to states having the authority to "Just Say No!" to federal law not enumerated. This was the original view of the Constitution. Such was used in 1798 in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolves, in 1832 in the Nullification Crisis in South Carolina, and more successfully with the northern states, especially Wisconsin, in 1854 over the highly unconstitutional Fugitive Slave Act.
James Madison, the Father of the Constitution, wrote in The Federalist Papers #46, "Should an unwarrantable measure of the federal government be unpopular in particular States ... the means of opposition to it are powerful and at hand. The disquietude of the people; their repugnance and, perhaps refusal to cooperate with officers of the Union, the frowns of the executive magistracy of the State;" would provide "very serious impediments;" more so if states stood together. This "would present obstructions which the federal government would hardly be willing to encounter."
Thomas Jefferson wrote regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts, "Where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy" and "that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them." And, Alexander Hamilton said, "...the State governments will, in all possible contingencies, afford complete security against invasions of the public liberty by the national authority" (Federalist Papers #28).
Article Vl enforces obedience to the Constitution without risking damages to it or the loss of the entire Constitution, as does an Article V Convention of States. Its use is long overdue but critical to saving the Constitution.
Harold W. Pease, Ph.D., is an expert on the United States Consitution and a syndicated columnist. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for more than 30 years. To read more of his weekly articles, visit www.LibertyUnderFire.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.