Comments on my “Bill of Rights 2” and constitutional amending process

    By the way, I was looking over your "Bill of Rights 2" piece.  Actually, the resistence was not to the Bill of Rights but to the Constitution itself, because it did not contain the rights that appear in the BOR.
    Our first constitution was ratified in 1777 - the Articles of Confederation.  This created a Swiss-style confederacy, though a bit looser than the Swiss federal model.  The states were free to coin their own money, have their own armies, etc.
    When the second constitution (Americans don't like to admit failure, so we don't like to call the A of C a constitution - thus, we call the second constitution "Constitution," and try to ignore the first one because it didn't work) was written, people like Patrick Henry were greatly alarmed.  Throughout the 13 states and in the Republic of Vermont (seceded from New York in 1777), there was great concern that the new federal government would start doing all the things HM Government in London had done to annoy them - but whereas the latter were 3,000 miles away in London, *this* overlord would be right here and, thus, harder to get rid of.
    Concerned that some states were refusing to ratify the new constitution (Rhode Island actually waited until it was in effect and George Washington had begun his first term before she ratified), the delegates quickly assembled twelve amendments and sent them round to the states for ratification.
    The second ten were ratified immediately.  (The First Amendment was supposed to be the Third Amendment.)  The original second amendment was ratified in 1992 - it provides that Congress cannot raise the salaries of elected officials without the intervention of an election (i.e., they can raise their salaries only once between elections).
    Also, there are four ways to ratify the constitution - you've combined them into two:

1.  Congress proposes an amendment by a 2/3 majority; 3/4 of the states ratify by simple majority votes in their state legislatures.  This is the method most commonly used.

2.  Congress proposes an amendment by a 2/3 majority; 3/4 of the states ratify by state constitutional conventions.  This method was used to pass the prohibition amendment.

3.  An amendment is proposed by a federal constitutional convention and ratified by 3/4 of the legislatures of the several states.  This method was used for the Constitution itself.

4.  An amendment is proposed by a federal constitutional convention and ratified by 3/4 of the states through state constitutional conventions. This method has never been used.

Michael T. McLoughlin, University of Michigan

ÓCopyright 2002 by Michae, T. McLoughlin, reprinted with permission