This letter was written in response to a letter titled “Congress Needs Term Limits” by Jerry Sieber, published in print and online Dec. 14, 2022.
To the Editor:
I teach courses in South Jersey on the U.S. Constitution for the Institute On The Constitution (IOTC). I am writing in opposition to the claims made in Mr. Sieber’s letter that an Article V Constitutional Convention (Con-Con) is needed to limit Congressional terms. This would be a tragic mistake.
We certainly do not need a Con-Con to limit Congressional terms. That mechanism is already in place. It’s called elections (every 2 years for the House and every 6 years for the Senate). If voters elect them again and again, that’s who they want. Right?
Mr. Sieber quotes Thomas Jefferson as saying that the “rotten mess” is meant to be rectified by a Con-Con. By “rotten mess” one can assume Mr. Sieber means that Congress routinely violates the U.S. Constitution.
The more appropriate quote of Thomas Jefferson: “[W]here powers are assumed which have not been delegated,” he contended, “a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy.” The Constitution is a contract between the states and the federal government. If that contract is violated the “rightful remedy” is for the state to declare such an act as null and void. Many states have learned to do just that.
Last, and most important, is the extreme danger of such misguided (although well-intentioned) efforts to pressure state legislators to call for an Article V Convention. There has only been one Constitutional Convention in America’s history. In 1787 the Articles of Confederation went into convention to be revised and amended. The delegates to the Convention when seated are vested with sovereignty and those delegates chose to ignore their state’s mandates, scrap the Articles of Confederation altogether, and drafted a new constitution from scratch. That is the only precedent.
Those men in 1787 had just fought off the British at the personal sacrifice of blood and treasure. They gave us the document upon which America was built to become the freest most prosperous nation in human history. But if that were to happen today it would be a special interest free-for-all.
James Madison (the Father of the Constitution), Abraham Lincoln, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Berger and others passionately warned of the grave danger of ever triggering a second Constitutional Convention. Their warnings are plentiful but ignored by those pushing to get the Constitution into a con-Con.
Peter F. Boyce write from Delmont; he teaches courses on the U.S. Constitution for the Institute On the Constitution
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