ON CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTIONS (PART II)
The Antifederalists strongly urged a second constitutional convention, one which would weigh the objections raised against the proposed Constitution. After all, they reasoned: (1) the Constitution was conceived extra-legally, and contained revolutionary implications, (2) the country was in no danger from foreign or domestic foes, and thus there was no reason for a precipitate decision, particularly an acceptance which might result in despotism, (3) a striking similarity of objections to the Constitution, from all classes and all sections, enjoined the holding of another convention. In short, Federalists' haste, and their decision to require an unqualified acceptance or rejection of the Constitution, served to confirm and enlarge Antifederalist fears of the dubious motives of the founding fathers. (See Edward Smith, "The Movement Towards a Second Constitutional Convention in 1788," in J. Franklin Jameson , ed., Essays on the Constitutional History of the United States, Boston, 1889).
The following essay is by "AN OLD WHIG," from The Freeman's Journal; Or, The North-American Intelligencer, November 28, 1787.
It is true that the Continental Convention have directed their proposed constitution to be laid before a Convention of Delegates to be chosen in each state "for their assent and ratification," which seems to preclude the idea of any power in the several Conventions of proposing any alterations; or, indeed, even of rejecting the plan proposed if they should disapprove of it. Still, however, the question recurs, what authority the late Convention had to bind the people of the United States to any particular form of government, or to forbid them to adopt such form of government, as they should think fit. I know it is a language frequent in the mouths of some heaven-born Phaetons among us--who, like the son of Apollo, think themselves entitled to guide the chariot of the sun--that common people have no right to judge of the affairs of government; that they are not fit for it; that they should leave these matters to their superiors. This, however, is not the language of men of real understanding, even among the advocates for the proposed Constitution; but these still recognize the authority of the people, and will admit, at least in words, that the people have a right to be consulted. Then I ask, if the people in the different states have a right to be consulted in the new form of continental government, what authority could the late Convention have to preclude them from proposing amendments to the plan they should offer? Had the Convention any right to bind the people to the form of government they should propose? Let us consider this matter.
The late Convention were chosen by the General Assembly of each state. They had the sanction of Congress. For what? To consider what alterations were necessary to be made in the articles of Confederation. What have they done? They have made a new Constitution for the United States. I will not say that in doing so they have exceeded their authority; but, on the other