So explains my Independence Institute colleague Rob Natelson, on his Our American Constitution blog. Forty-eight of the 55 delegates had instructions which allowed them to go beyond amending the Articles of Confederation.
Rob’s research into early American history has found that constitutional conventions (for a new constitution, or to amending an existing document) had well-established procedures by the time of the Framing. Click here for post that will provide a summary, and to lead to Rob’s extensive analysis of original sources. As Rob explains, constitutional conventions for a balanced budget, or other salutary (in my view) purposes have been blocked in part by fears raised by the John Birch Society that a new convention would run away like the Philadelphia Convention did, or that the procedures of a new convention are completely unclear. To the contrary, the procedures are clear, and neither the Philadelphia Convention nor its early American analogues exceeded their mandate.