We the People - 1

Historical Perspective

From May to September of 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, produced the framework of a system of self-government we know as the United States of America.

The republic they established was based on a written Constitution. The framers of this Constitution clearly understood the need to modify what they had set in place as the governing tool for the nation. Their purpose was for the primary principles of federalism, limited government of enumerated powers, checks and balances, and separation of powers, all embedded in the Constitution, to endure the test of time.

However, future generations may need to make changes. In fact, to get the Constitution ratified by the required number of states, a compromise was reached to immediately add language that would give greater protection to individual rights.

The first attempt to amend the Constitution was in 1789 when Congress sent twelve (12) articles to the states for ratification. On December 15, 1791, nine of thirteen original states adopted articles three through twelve, making them the first ten amendments. Those amendments are known as the Bill of Rights.

In 1992, the second article, dormant for decades, was adopted by 38 states and became the 27th amendment.

Article V makes provision for changes to the Constitution, provided, ”that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

The language in Article V gives the U. S. Congress and the States equal standing to propose amendments.

Amendments may be proposed by: (1) an act of Congress or (2) by a convention called by two-thirds (34) of the states for the purpose of proposing an amendment.

Ratification is accomplished by:

(1) three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures passing the amendment or

(2) conventions called in three-fourths of the states for the purpose of passing the amendment.

The first 27 amendments were proposed by an act of Congress. Only the 21st Amendment was ratified by a convention called for that purpose. All others were ratified by action of state legislatures.