Convention of the States: Wrong on History, Nullification

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Convention of the States: Wrong on History, Nullification

In its literature, the Convention of the States organization misstates historical facts and misunderstands the law of agency.

Sometimes it seems that many of the “scholars” tying their names and reputations to the Convention of the States (COS) movement seem to make misstatements that call into question their credibility.

For example, the following bit of “history” is recounted on the COS FAQ page:

This claim that Congress gets to choose the delegates also goes against common sense. Just because one party "calls" a convention, doesn't it mean it gets to choose the delegates for the other parties. Think about it. Virginia called the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. Did it get to choose the delegates for Massachusetts? Of course not. Massachusetts did. Each state chooses its own delegates; it doesn't matter who calls the convention. This is Agency law 101 and basic common sense.  

Let’s look closely at the details of this paragraph.

First, who called the Philadelphia Convention of 1787? Virginia, as the COS claims? No! The Constitutional Convention of 1787 was called by the Continental Congress on February 21, 1787.

Not only did Virginia not call the Philadelphia Convention, but the report from the Continental Congress calling for states to send delegates to it highlights the role played by New York, not the Old Dominion.

So, on their website, rather than ignore a bit of history that doesn’t fit their purposes, the COS misrepresents the historical record, perhaps hoping people would not take the time to research the subject for themselves.

Such a revision may seem minor, but if an Article V convention was such a good idea, one as safe and supported by history as the COS scholars say, why would they need to fiddle with the historical record at all?

Furthermore, does it seem wise or safe to trust the care of something as potentially powerful as a constitutional convention to a group whose leadership can’t get right such basic facts of American history, particularly the history of the Constitution Convention itself?

Next, despite its citation of principles of “Agency law 101,” the COS movement’s attitude toward nullification ignores basic tenets of the law of agency that would have been taught in that fictional class.

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