The Constitution for Dummies: Article 5

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The Constitution of the United States was made not merely for the generation that then existed, but for posterity- unlimited, undefined, endless, perpetual posterity. – Henry Clay

The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787 and formally ratified in 1789. That’s around 230 years ago. The world and this country have changed dramatically since then. While there are many aspects to the American government and the U.S. citizenry that have changed, there is one constant:

We still need something to protect us and our private property from government.

For 231 years, that something has been the Constitution.

Many people today claim the Constitution is outdated, based on racist principles, flawed and the like but they offer no alternative to the fundamental reason for a Constitution, which is the corruption and abuse of power by those in government.

As I’ve emphasized over and over, the Constitution exists to guide, to limit and to direct government behavior. It governs government.

That being said. There is truth to the fact that America is not the country today that is was in 1787. There have been some major and dramatic changes over the years—meaning the Constitution itself needs to be capable of handling all of these changes and still doing its job, protecting us from government.

The Founders Expected for the Constitution to Change

The founders were under no illusion that the Constitution was perfect and flawless. Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, believed that as time progressed and the government’s engine revved up, that the flaws in the document would begin to manifest and would need to be addressed. Therefore, there needed to be a method available to address these flaws make sure that the Constitution was updated accordingly.

Take a look at this Washington quote for better context:

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“The basis of our political systems is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government. But the Constitution, which at any time exists, ‘till changed by an explicit and authentic act of the whole people, is sacredly obligatory upon all. … If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.”

The founders realized that they could not possibly foresee the future of the country, or the flaws in the document, so they included Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution, which says:

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.”

Article 5 of the U.S. Constitution

Article 5 is a critical piece of our Constitutional puzzle and exemplifies the genius of the document’s writers. They were not fooled into believing that the document should be unchanging and infallible. No, they simply knew that it must be revered while still open to change.

Since the Constitution acts as the federal government’s government, the federal government alone cannot be allowed to change its own power. No, for government’s job description to change, the people—via their state governments—had to have a say in the matter. In fact, Article 5 explicitly says that if the states are so inclined, they have the power to propose an amendment with Congress’s initiation. This method has yet to be used.

Changing the Constitution Is a Somber Duty

statue of liberty

It’s no small matter, however, to change the standard by which our government operates. The founders knew this and this is why Article 5 established a rigorous, yet doable process, for such a change—a process that has been successfully undertaken 27 times.

Those who complain that the Constitution is flawed, outdated and the like, neglect to realize that no one, not even it’s writers, would have argued otherwise. In fact, they would have agreed and pointed to Article 5, saying that if someone believes it must be changed, then…take the necessary steps to change it.

The alternative is to throw out the standard altogether, which leaves us in a much more dire position. For those who want to change the Constitution, such a change is possible but in order to maintain order and liberty, such a change should always be done within the confines of the protection the Constitution offers.

Why throw out the one thing protecting us from government in order to protect us from government?


I’ll end with this simple thought. I know that there are people both on the left and right side of the political spectrum who are calling for a Constitutional Convention or a Constitutional overhaul. My caution would be this.

Should we proceed with such actions, we must do so with the same humility with which our founders established our Constitution.

It’s incumbent upon us to realize that whatever Constitutional amendment or “New Constitution” we come up with is not guaranteed to be infallible; rather, it’s guaranteed to be fallible. If we fall for the trap that we can create something perfect and far superior than what we have now, we are dooming ourselves and our futures. We’re lying to ourselves that we can create something that can never and has never existed.

A perfect political system.

The Liberty Belle

3 thoughts on “The Constitution for Dummies: Article 5”

  1. Once again I thoroughly enjoyed reading your current piece but then again I’m seldom disappointed.

    As you pointed out the Constitution conveys recognized timeless, immutable truths in ordered liberty that our current crop of elected idiots fail to grasp. Ideas have consequences and when you attempt to write laws on whims of the season and undigested ideas you will find they quickly fade and aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Well done.

  2. We desperately need to follow the proper process. Changing the Constitution via the Court using flexible document arguments is an abomination.

  3. Pingback: Article 5 – The Liberty Belle –

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