Liberty Defense League Timothy Baldwin Romans 13

 
You Are Here: Articles Thursday, April 16, 2015

by Tim Baldwin

After my open letter to the John Birch Society (JBS) was released, Robert Brown (employee of JBS who is stationed in Montana) responded to my letter through his Facebook page. He stated,

"Tim Baldwin has been attacking the JBS lately for not supporting HIS view of an Article V convention. What is his goal?"

Robert's response is nonsense and ignores the State Rights quandary JBS faces by its opposition to Article V.

In case Robert may still be confused, I’ll try to explain my point better, which is this: JBS' opposition to Article V internally contradicts its position on State Rights’ principles regarding secession and declaring independence. I will explain further below.

1. Interpreting Article V: JBS Advances that the Founders Intended Article V to be a “Runaway” Convention

Again, there are only two possible true-meaning interpretations of Article V:

1) either the founders INTENDED Article V to permit a "runaway,” or

2) the Founders INTENDED that Article V be limited.

JBS teaches that the Founders INTENDED Article V to permit the States to "runaway.” Put differently, JBS believes that the Founders intended Article V to be a plenipotentiary convention where all power is placed in the convention delegates to propose a new constitution for the States to consider ratifying. In other words, the Founders made it a constitutional right of the States to be able to create a new constitution/union through Article V and to allow the States to secede from the union using Article V. This right of secession through Article V is what JBS opposes, which contradicts all of their State Rights teachings in every other context.

2. JBS Supports Unilateral Secession

As I showed in my open letter, JBS openly supports unilateral secession (“unilateral secession” means the act of secession taken by an individual State independent of the secession of any other State in the union). This is why JBS openly supports the southern States unilateral secession acts of the 1860s even though their secession led to a constitutional convention in 1861 and the creation of a new constitution (that protected enslaving black people). On this State Rights ground, JBS has stated that Lincoln should have let the southern States secede and create a new constitution and union. JBS believes in the States right to unilaterally secede so absolutely that it claims our union has been held together by force since the Civil War. To be clear, JBS believes in the States’ right of unilateral secession so firmly that it supports their creating a new constitution even when their new constitution institutionalizes slavery against black people.

3. JBS Opposes the Right of the States to Secede through Article V

Understand this clearly: if the delegates to an Article V convention proposed a new constitution to the States and that proposed constitution would become effective when, for example, 26 States (a simple majority) ratified it; and say 26 States ratified the new constitution, those 26 States would have seceded from the current union upon their ratification of the proposed constitution. This scenario is what JBS calls a “runaway” Article V convention and is what JBS vehemently opposes. In other words, JBS opposes the States’ right of secession when it comes by virtue of a convention, as opposed to a unilateral secession when States do so individually.

Therefore, in blatant contradiction to its supposed support for unilateral secession, JBS opposes convention secession. Yet, convention secession is based on the same State Rights principles as unilateral secession; and much more, convention secession is a constitutional remedy expressly provided for in Article V, assuming JBS’ interpretation of Article V is correct. Notably, JBS supports unilateral secession even though that right is not clearly contained in the Constitution; yet JBS opposes convention secession even when that right is clearly contained in Article V (again, assuming JBS’ interpretation of Article V is correct). JBS’ internal contradiction of State Rights principles is bizarre indeed, but it gets worse for JBS.

4. A Further Look Into the Consequences of Unilateral Secession and the Inevitable Constitutional Convention

Since JBS openly supports unilateral secession (which JBS asserts is a tool of liberty for the States) and opposes convention secession (the Article V/“runaway” convention), this begs the question: what does JBS figure would happen if two or more States seceded unilaterally? What then?

There are only two possibilities if two or more States seceded unilaterally. One possibility leads to a constitutional convention where the “runaway” possibility appears yet again. The other possibility does not. The two possibilities are:

  1. the seceding States remain isolated as independent nations and never enter into a new union with other States. Here, since the States do not convene to form a new constitution, no “runaway” convention is possible; or
  2. the seceding States meet in a constitutional convention with other States to create a new constitution and form a new union. Here, the “runaway” convention possibility exists.

Experience and human nature demonstrate plainly that were States to unilaterally secede, they would, out of necessity and convenience, meet in a constitutional convention with other States to create a new constitution and union. Of course, before the States could do that, they would have to authorize delegates to carry out the State’s charge in the constitutional convention; and the States could do so only by charging the delegates with the duty to do or don’t do this or that. Under JBS’ theory, when delegates are sent to a convention, anything could happen, which includes the delegates would or could contradict the responsibilities of their charge and create whatever constitution they darn well pleased. Put differently, a “runaway” convention could happen. To JBS, this must be avoided at all costs.

5. JBS Must Oppose All “Runaway” Conventions—No Matter What!

According to JBS’ fear theories, the States delegates would or could “runaway” at the constitutional convention, exceed their expressed authority from the respective States, and create a constitution contrary to their expressed authority. We know JBS opposes any potential for a “runaway” convention given their absolutist approach to Article V, so what would JBS do to stop a constitutional convention if States unilaterally seceded, as JBS supports?

Obviously, there is only one response that is logical to JBS to stop the potential “runaway” convention: all of the seceding States must remain as separate nations forever and NEVER meet in a convention for any reason or circumstance. Forget necessity; forget political science; forget experience; forget political philosophy: according to JBS, all we need to know is, “is there a potential for a ‘runaway’? If so, OPPOSE IT!”

Of course, that mindless opposition would leave the seceding States on the path of ruin. Seeing how JBS treats Article V now, under that scenario, JBS would be willing that the seceding States choose the “lesser evil” of isolation rather than choose the “greater evil” (in JBS’ mind) of the States meeting in convention where, according to JBS, the devil resides and is just waiting to cast all liberty into the pits of hell.

6. Article V Convention Is Less Likely To Result in “Runaway” Than a Convention Resulting From Unilateral Secession

What I have shown above plainly demonstrates that if the States exercised the political remedy of unilateral secession—a remedy JBS supports—this will lead to the States calling a constitutional convention, which holds the possibility of the JBS-feared “runaway”. This begs the question: if JBS opposes and will always oppose an Article V convention for fear of a “runway” convention, how can JBS support unilateral secession when that would demand a constitutional convention where a “runaway” could result in a dreaded constitution? This makes no sense and denies what political science is all about.

In truth, an Article V convention would be much more limited than a constitutional convention resulting when States unilaterally secede. The reason should be plain: States that have applied for an Article V convention for specific and limited purposes are much more likely to follow their own applications in an existing union (that is being forced together, according to JBS) than delegates who are sent to a convention to form a new union after they have seceded. So, why does JBS support a course of action (i.e. unilateral secession) that would lead to an actual plenipotentiary convention where “anything goes” but oppose a course of action that would truly be a limited convention, which is plain given the limited scope and subject of the States’ applications?

 Conclusion

JBS’ position on Article V opposes the principles it claims to hold regarding State Rights. JBS needs to be honest about and think through the principles it claims to promote and the future actions that certainly would take place if the States seceded unilaterally—an action JBS supports and claims is the right of the States.

In truth, an Article V convention today is the safest and most predictable method by which States can fundamentally correct federal problems without having to assume the risks and liabilities of seceding unilaterally and create a new constitution and union, assuming other States seceded too.

Still, assuming some States “ran away” in an Article V convention and States seceded from the union by ratifying a proposed constitution from the delegates, JBS, to be true to the principles it claims to hold, must support those States’ right to secede from the union through convention. That JBS opposes Article V, knowing that a “runaway” convention is secession, demonstrates that either JBS does not fully believe in States Rights or alternatively is more concerned about spreading its propaganda than teaching the truth about our Constitution and political rights of the States.

 

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