U.S. Constitutional Amendments (2016 June 2)
Articles Blog

U.S. Constitutional Amendments (2016 June 2)

September 14, 2019


yeah thank you for turning off your cell
phones ok we’ve now begin our program welcome
welcome to the National Archives know your records program today we are doing
a presentation on u.s. constitutional amendment we are broadcasting live from the
National Archives Building in Washington DC we have a audience here with us on
sight in the McGowan theater and many of you are also joining us online via
youtube before we begin I have a few tips to
share with you on how to participate in today’s program for those of you who
have joined us on sight we will take your questions but we ask
that you hold on to the very end and when you have your question you can make your way to these
microphones in the aisles so that our online audience can also
hear you for those of you who are watching online
you can also ask questions you’ll do that by first logging in to youtube and
using the chat feature type your questions in and i will ask the
presenter your questions for you again at the end of the program you’ll also find two hyperlinks on
this web page. One will take you to the presentation slides the other will take you to live
captioning. So for today’s program Christine
Blackerby will discuss the records used in our new exhibit Amending America
celebrating the 225th anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Ms. Blackerby is an education and public outreach specialist at the Center for
Legislative Archives and National Archives and Records Administration in Washington D.C. She does public and educational outreach programs
to highlight the history of Congress Ms. Blackerby received her BA in history
and political science from the University of Illinois at
urbana-champaign and her MA in education at the University of
Kentucky. And now for our presentation “U.S. Constitutional Amendment,” ladies and
gentlemen please join me in welcoming our presenter Christine BlackerbyGood
afternoon What if we elected the President of the
United States by lot by pulling a ball a constitutional amendment introduced in
congress in 1846 proposed precisely that in 1838 one member of Congress shot and
killed another prompting the introduction of an amendment to the
Constitution to deny public office to duelers. A citizen wrote to congress in
1963 to advocate for a constitutional amendment to require that Americans tell
the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth anyone who failed in that duty would be
sentenced to 20 years of hard labor these are just a few of the more than
11,000 constitutional amendments that have been introduced in congress since
the Constitution was written. Some of them were proposed to call attention to
an issue some as satire some to allow a member of Congress take a political
stand and some were very serious appeals to resolve pressing issues what most of these proposed amendments
have in common though is that they failed to be enacted. Only 27 of the more
than 11,000 proposed amendments have been ratified to become part of the
Constitution it’s difficult but not impossible to
turn an idea into an amendment the reason so few amendments have been
successful is that our Constitution in article 5 sets a very high bar to pass
amendments each of the 27 ratified amendments have gone through a two-part
process they passed both houses of Congress by a two-thirds vote and then
they were ratified by three-quarters of the states so what kinds of proposals have achieved
enough support to become ratified amendments and what failed? These questions are explored in Amending
America a new National Archives exhibit. Amending America features
National Archives documents that highlight the successes and failures of
Americans attempt to change our nation’s fundamental governing charter. Today I
have taken a selection of the documents and stories from this exhibit to share
with you but before going into the exhibit stories i’d like to take a
minute to give you a little bit of background 2016 is the 225th anniversary
of the ratification of the Bill of Rights and years ago when the idea for
this exhibit was still percolating this anniversary struck co-curator Jennifer
Johnson and I as an excellent opportunity to highlight one of the
founding documents in the National Archives but we also wanted to look at
all 27 of the ratified amendment as well as some as some of those that filled the
records at the National Archives tell the stories of the amendments through
those amendment proposals in Congress and through film photos and other
documents because I work in the Center for Legislative Archives here and then national archives I knew that
congressional records contain a wealth of material on this topic those 11,000 amendments were introduced
in Congress and most left some paper trail which I was thrilled to be able to
investigate so many of the documents you see here
today and in the O’Brien gallery here in the National Archives building if you’re
able to visit come from historical records of the US Senate and the US
House of Representatives. We started this project by researching those 11,000
amendment proposals that in Congress and as we sifted through those opposed
proposed amendments we notice that they tended to fall into three broad
categories those that relate to individual rights, the powers of government and to the
structure of government there are some outliers of course like
this one that would have changed the name of our country to the United States
of the World but those three broad categories that i just described form
three of the major themes that organized the exhibit and the fourth theme is
called how we amend and that part discusses how an idea actually becomes
an amendment. Today I’m going to start with some of the stories about documents
that are in the theme called Our Rights 17 of the 27 ratified amendments secure
or expand individual rights which means that much of the history of
constitutional amendments is the history of expanding rights and expanding
democracy the amendments in this category include of course Bill of
Rights voting rights and those that relate to equality and as part of the
celebration of the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights we looked at why we even have one in the
first place. The omission of a bill of rights from
the Constitution was a deliberate decision not an oversight but that
decision proved to be a mistake so large that it was almost fatal to the
Constitution Near the end of the constitutional
convention delegate George Mason of Virginia suggested that a bill of rights
be included but it wasn’t a very popular idea at the convention some delegates
thought that a bill of rights was on at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous James Madison thought that no list of
Rights could be could ever be complete and that listing that meant that any
right left off could be seen as having been given up it was best therefore to make no list at
all many delegates also believe that they had created a government of limited
powers that would not have the ability to interfere with individual rights and
so the state delegations at the convention voted on whether or not to
include a bill of rights and as you can see here they voted it down 0 to 10 then
the Constitution was sent to the states to be ratified and the first five state
ratifications happen fairly quickly but anti-federalists who opposed to the
Constitution and wanted to defeat it focused on the lack of a bill of rights Massachusetts was the first state where
it looked like the Constitution could possibly be defeated partly due to a lack of a bill of rights
faced with the prospect of a conditional ratification or worse a second
constitutional convention the Federalist had an idea to prevent that from
happening the Massachusetts convention was
encouraged to ratify the constitution unconditionally but to recommend
amendments under Article five of the Constitution that could be made by their
representatives to the first Congress this was agreed to and Massachusetts
ratified the Constitution six of the seven remaining states followed this
pattern. Unconditional ratification with recommended amendments to the
Constitution would likely never have gone into effect if these states had not
been willing to accept the Constitution as is with the promise of a bill of
rights in the future here you can see New York’s recommended amendments New York’s ratification of the
Constitution covers six large sheets of parchment it contains the full text of the
Constitution and then three pages of recommended
amendments they listed amendments related to rights first which is what
you see on these pages here then several which would have altered the structure
of the powers of the federal government especially the taxing powers. Those later
suggestions were wholly ignored by the first Congress. These recommended
amendments did ultimately have an impact here you can see similar language very
similar to what ended up in the final ratified version of the bill of rights this line from New York’s ratification
is about prohibiting search and seizure which ended up in the fourth amendment
in the Bill of Rights and this line here is about the Free Press which in which
was included in the First Amendment but when James Madison drafted the bill of
rights in the 1st Congress he made an important change from the suggestions
made by the state ratifying conventions like New York’s in the state’s Bills of
Rights that served as a model that change would become significant in the
first half of the nineteenth hundreds most of those earlier models had used
language that suggested that the rights were guidelines they use words like
should or ought but when Madison wrote the amendments that became the Bill of
Rights he used different language he used shall
and will and as such he turned a set of beliefs into legally enforceable
limitations of power and this became incredibly important in the 20th century
as violations of Rights increasingly ended up in the Supreme Court this document is one of my favorites in
the exhibit it’s a draft version of the bill of
rights we usually refer to this one as the Senate mark up the printed text
contains the amendments as they were passed by the House of Representatives
and then the handwritten notation were made during that debate this is one of the most
interesting documents to see up close which you can in the O’Brien gallery
here at the National Archives building because you can actually see the
creation of the bill of rights in progress the Senate took the 17 amendments that
hadn’t been passed by the house and edited and condensed them down to 12
amendments and after a conference committee those twelve amendments were sent to the
states for ratification. The Bill of Rights officially became the first ten
amendments to the Constitution when Virginia ratified them in December
15, 1791. One of the 14 states then in the Union, Virginia was
the 11th to ratify those providing the constitutionally required bar of three
quarters of the states needed for ratification. Since 1941,
December 15 has been celebrated as Bill of Rights Day well at least it’s celebrated by history
nerds like myself. Not really sure about anyone else though after the bill of rights was ratified it
was mostly forgotten until the 20th century it served mostly as a statement of
principles a set of beliefs agreed to by most Americans it didn’t really have
much of a direct impact on most people as originally written by Congress the
Bill of Rights constrained only the federal government. State governments
could still encroach on these fundamental rights such as free speech
for the press. Ratified in 1868, the Fourteenth Amendment changed
that. Eventually. It was not until the 20th century though, that the Supreme
Court began to interpret the Due Process Clause of the 14th amendment to require
that states also protect individual rights not just the
federal government. In case by case over decades the supreme court ruled that
most of the Bill of Rights applied to the state’s a process referred to as
incorporation this incorporation of the Bill of Rights considerably expanded its
reach and more and more Americans began to fight for the rights that had
previously been unacknowledged there are many documents in
the amending America exhibit of course that our proposed amendments but most of
them are draft versions the only amendment that is displayed in the
gallery in its final enrolled form is the 14th which you see here. The
footprint that this amendment has left on the role of rights in our nation has
been quite impressive so after illustrating the story of how
we came to have a bill of rights Amending America goes on to tell some
really cool stories about those first ten amendments. The First Amendment is
probably the most well known. It protects the freedom of religion, speech, and press
and the right to assemble and petition and the National Archives holds many
documents that portray those rights in action like this one for example in the
early nineteen sixties the Supreme Court invalidated the common practice of
teacher-led prayer in public schools as a violation of the First Amendment
establishment clause. In response members of Congress introduced literally
hundreds of constitutional amendments both to protect school prayer and also
to confirm that school prayer could not be required others urged Congress not to change the
first amendment at all. This letter from a Baptist Church stated that these
proposed amendments addressed a problem that did not exist God in the Bible never left schools the
letter writer pointed out students could still pray the court had only stated
that compulsory prayer was unconstitutional the letter ended with a
plea, “Leave the First Amendment as it is it gives me the freedom to worship as I
desire and the freedom to petition the government for redress of grievances
this I am doing.” one of the most fun parts of curating
this exhibit was finding documents held by the National Archives that most
people would not expect to find in the records of the federal government like for example comic books this comic book was one of over 600
collected by the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on juvenile delinquency
during in 1954 investigation to determine if such comics contributed to
youth crime but the investigation expose an important question does the First
Amendment’s protection of the Free Press include crime and horror comic books
aimed at children although the Senate did consider censoring this kind of
publication ultimately it proposed no corresponding
bill the Fifth Amendment plays an important role in the history of
Hollywood and the motion picture industry. the Fifth Amendment has many
protections for people who are accused of crimes including the right to not
incriminate oneself. in the 1950s that right became the backbone
of the defense for many Hollywood actors writers and directors who were accused
of being communists or communist sympathizers by the house committee on
un-american activities also known as HUAC. in this committees attempt to
stop the influence of communism on American culture they subpoenaed many in
the motion picture industry to testify about their political thoughts and
beliefs many of those who were called to testify
like playwright Lillian Hellman, who wrote this letter, refused to answer
questions about their beliefs or about the beliefs of people they knew. this was
the right they had under the Fifth Amendment and it exercising that right
they “pled the fifth.” the HUAC records are filled with examples of people who chose
to do so like Hellman here. five of our 27 ratified amendments expand voting rights. because the
Constitution gives each state the right or the power to determine voter qualifications a constitutional amendment is required to
guarantee any particular group of Americans the right to vote some states have historically
excluded groups groups from voting such as african-americans, women,
illiterate persons, felons or young people the first amendment to address Voting
Rights was the 15th amendment ratified in 1870, five years after the
end of the Civil War. it forbid any state from denying the vote to anyone on
account of race color or previous condition of servitude however violence still prevented many
african-americans from voting 95 years after the 15th amendment was ratified
the Congress of racial equality known as CORE submitted this photograph to
Congress during consideration of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 CORE used this
photo to illustrate the need for federal legislation to protect voting rights the caption on the photograph noted that
this voting education site for african-americans burned to the ground
because the fire department never came the voting rights act after it was
passed did vastly increase the number of minority voters some amendments that were introduced in
Congress attempted but failed to solve a problem that was successfully addressed
by a later amendment. before the 19th amendment granted women suffered in
1920, an 1888 resolution proposed voting rights only for widows
and spinsters suggesting that married women were represented by their husbands
part serious and part mocking Elizabeth Cady Stanton testified to Congress and
support of this proposal stating they are industrious common sense women who
love their country, having no husbands to love, better than themselves. this proposal failed but 32 years later all women got the right to vote with the
19th amendment the second theme in the Amending America exhibit is called
refining powers and the amendments feature here ask the question what do we
want our government to do for us the Constitution authorizes many powers
for the federal government but Americans have continued to tinker with this list many men amendment proposals would have
created new powers like a 1911 proposal to give Congress the power to protect
migratory birds but some amendments proposed would have take take powers
away from Congress the decision to declare war is a critical power given to
Congress an article 1 section 8 of the Constitution but after world war one and
during the Great Depression some war-weary petitioners sought an
amendment that would take that power away from Congress instead it would give it give the people
the opportunity to vote on whether or not we are to be plunged into another
foreign war. this fierce sentiment kept America out of World War I – escuse me, World War II – until 1941 but it wasn’t strong enough to actually
get into the Constitution attempts to codify proper behavior
through amendments have been unsuccessful but that hasn’t stopped
anyone from trying the establishment of prohibition in 1919 with the
ratification of the 18th amendment was the capstone of decades of efforts by
those who supported moral living by refusing to drink alcohol in the
eighteenth Amendment prohibited the manufacture and sale of alcoholic
beverages in the united states and was generally referred to as prohibition but
prohibition failed after 14 years and in 1933 the twenty-first amendment repealed
the 18th amendment and that is the only instance of that ever happening however five years after the end of
prohibition some people could still not let this
idea go but instead of prohibiting alcohol sales an amendment proposed in
1938 would have regulated personal behavior by prohibiting drunkenness given the difficulty of enforcing prohibition was one of the chief reasons
why that failed the absurdity of enforcing this ban was chiefly pointed
out in the handwritten note at the bottom of this amendment which said “why
not add section 3 that period of time commonly known as saturday night is
hereby stricken from the calendar the United States and abolished and also
section 4 congress in the several states shall have concurrent power to
change human nature from time to time in its or their discretion” we don’t know who added that handwritten
note to the bottom of this amendment what it could have been another member
of Congress or it could have been a clerk but i don’t think we’ll ever be
able to find out child labor was a topic that sparked
emotional reactions. this letter from a woman named Suzanne Heber conveys
-oops sorry went tor far- conveys her horror at seeing the lives ground out of
mere babies by hard labor the cruelty she witnessed spurred her to
support child labor regulation after the Supreme Court invalidated several child
labor laws Congress proposed the child labor amendment in 1924 but it was never
ratified by three-quarters of the states subsequent legislation was upheld and
the proposed amendment became moot but the handwritten note below the signature
adds an interesting dimension to the letter the progressive era of the early 20th
century spawned many major societal changes and reforms and some of them
impacted each other this note added by Heber at the end of
her letter ties together two of the great amendment campaigns of the
Progressive Era child labor regulation and women’s suffrage under her signature
it says one woman who wants the ballot for the purpose of helping these
helpless little ones go back to the one skit sorry about that in nineteen to me in
1838 representative William graves of Kentucky shot and killed representative
Jonathan silly of maine in a duel at the bladensburg dueling grounds in maryland
which is just a few miles away from where we are now although duels have been seen as
demonstrations of bravery and honor they eventually became an unacceptable
way to resolve disputes members of Congress introduce two amendments to
forbid duelists from holding public office but eventually neither one of
them succeeded and dueling itself ended up pretty much fading away the third section of the amending
America exhibit is called the shape of our government the founders who wrote our Constitution
were constructing something totally new and they didn’t know for sure if or how
it would work it would not have surprised them then
that time would reveal some flaws or in efficiencies and many proposed
amendments would alter how the federal government is structured who is allowed
to participate in it and how the candidates are elected some of these
ideas fix difficult problems but others are head scratchers I’m not sure exactly what problem would
be addressed fine 1875 amendment to establish a 16 year term of office for
the president after which the president would serve as a senator for life the sounds less like a term of office to
me and more like a sentence of punishment one of the structures of the government
that this amendment proposed to change was apportionment in other words how how many members of
how many citizens would be represented by their member of the House of
Representatives the founders had agreed to several compromises in order to
create the new constitution one of the most controversial compromises was over
slavery including the infamous three-fifths clause these petitioners
from Ohio ironically highlighted the hypocrisy behind the three-fifths clause
in the Constitution that slave states claims that slaves were property on the
one hand but also counted them as three-fifths of a person for
representation in the House of Representatives these petitioners ask
that the Constitution be amended to completely eliminate the three-fifths
clause but then they added but if that was Impractical that the animal property
of the free states be represented as well as the slave property of the slave
states not surprisingly this engendered a
strong negative response from the slave states and the proposal died citing extensive moonlighting jumping
and political campaigning senator margaret chase smith proposed an
amendment in 1971 to punish absenteeism in Congress her amendment would have
expelled any member of Congress who missed more than forty percent of the
roll call votes this is another one of the 11,000 failed
amendments partly because the language in the member was so inflexible that it
didn’t exempt members of Congress for being absent due to illness and then
opposition also came from other members of Congress who felt that voting was
only one way that members served their constituents at home this does seem to be one of the more
popular proposals though that some people would like to see reintroduced in
Congress in the progressive era of the early 20th century the Senate was
alleged to be corrupt unresponsive to citizens and filled with millionaires
who spent too much on their campaigns this letter is indicative of the typical
thoughts about the Senate amongst many people the state grange of Illinois who sent in
this letter that’s an agricultural organization they
wrote to congress in 1898 to advocate for a constitutional amendment for
direct election of senators they were short and to the point whereas the Senate is largely composed
of millionaires who frequently owe their election to lavish expenditures of money resolved in order to make them more
directly accountable to the people they should be elected by popular vote and
this cartoon by clifford berryman from the Senate collection points out another
problem with the Senate during this time period which was election deadlocks the
Senate was initially understood to represent the states in our system and
as such the Constitution directed that state legislators would she would elect
the Senators but when both houses of the state legislature didn’t agree on a
candidate the election deadlocked and the Senate seat remained empty this
cartoon Illustrated how common such deadlocks have become one congress
finally address the problem by proposing what became the Seventeenth Amendment
which was ratified in 1913 and it provided for direct election of senators
by the people the twelfth amendment to the Constitution did such a great job at
solving its targeted problem that most people don’t even know why we have it or
what it does the twelfth amendment was a direct
response to a flaw in the electoral college system that was devised by our
founders as originally written by our founders each elector in the electoral
college cast two votes each whichever candidate
received the most votes would become the president and the person in second place
would become the vice president but the 1800 presidential election was different
from those that came before it this was the first election where the
candidates ran as a ticket for a political party is a team with a
presidential and vice-presidential candidate so when the electors cast their votes
for their party they cast one vote for each of their
parties candidates the result was not surprisingly a 73 273
tie between the two candidates of the Democratic Republican Party Thomas Jefferson and
aaron burr the election was resolved in the House of Representatives after 36
ballots only when when Alexander Hamilton
encouraged the house to elect his adversary Thomas Jefferson over his
future mortal enemy Aaron Burr it was clear then then that
such time votes would continue to occur unless the electoral college was changed
in 1804 just in time for the next presidential
election the twelfth amendment directed that the Elector specify which of their
two votes was for president in which was for vice president and that successfully
ensured that a tie vote would not occur again many documents in the National
Archives indicate that Americans are clearly not enamored of that unique
design in the Constitution the electoral college although the twelfth amendment modified
it the electoral college has been the target of hundreds more proposed
amendments one of many ideas suggested in Congress for a place in the electoral
college system was to elect the President of the United States by lot House Joint Resolution eight in 1846
proposed that a ball would be picked from an urn and then a candidate from
the state marked on the ball would become the president a second ball would
be selected to choose the vice president at a time when there was a fierce
competition between the slave states and the free states to elect a president
from their own respective regions the randomness of this method may have been
a purposeful attempt to sidestep growing sectional rivalries in a time in a time
period prior to the civil war in this way neither side could claim to be winning
and we could all stay friends for a little bit longer to us however it seems
just a little bit absurd and importantly it suggests that many of those 11,000
failed amendments might not be a bad thing the final section of the amending
America exhibit is called how we amend it attempts to explain the amending
process and some of the issues surrounding it the process can be complicated so one
thing that we did differently was to work with the history channel to make an
animated video of the process it does a fabulous job of illustrating the steps
of the process and a really easy to fall away and this video is available on
YouTube on the National Archives channel I just included a still from it here so
you can get a look at it the National Archives also has a role in
the mending process the archivist of the United States the head of the National
Archives is responsible for certifying that constitutional amendments have been
properly ratified the National Archives also holds other federal records
relating to the creation and the application of the amendments this document is the certification of
the 27th amendment the last one that was added to the constitution in 1992 and it
was signed by the president excuse me by the archivist of the United States Don
Wilson and there’s a few more items related to this exhibit that I wanted to
share with you I’ve already mentioned that that to make
it make this exhibit we sifted through the list of 11,000 introduce amendments
that list is actually a series of amendments series of list published by
congress at various points in time somewhat randomly but as part of the
project we took that paper list and we entered it into a spreadsheet to make it
searchable and sortable for the first time so we’ve made that list that spreadsheet
available for free downloading at data.gov and I’m really excited to see
how some interrupted political scientist in the future can take this information and find out even more about
constitutional amendments then we were able to do for this exhibit
the other thing we wanted to do was invite our visitors to participate in
the exhibit so this this screenshot is from a poll
that is live in the amending America gallery right now after seeing all the
stories of the successes and failures of amending we are asking our visitors to
share their thoughts on what the next amendment to the Constitution should be
about visitors can text their answer to the question how would you amend the
Constitution next and before answer choices that you see
here come from amendments that have been introduced in the current Congress and
therefore our live issues our founders knew that they had made an
imperfect document they left it to us their successors to address problems and
they gave us the means to do it through article 5 of our Constitution the
founders also made the bar for introducing constitutional amendments
pretty low but the bar for ratifying them very high did the founders strike the right
balance that question has been debated for over
two centuries and continues to be a question today so why do we amend the Constitution we
amend when Americans share an understanding of an essential concern
that affects us all we amend so that we the people can
create a more perfect union and when we add new ideas to our
fundamental governing charter our Constitution we are amending America thank you very much and i am open to
answering any questions either from here in the theater or from online thank you thank you very much Christine that was fantastic I personally do not
have any questions because it was a such a well done program looks like we have
some folks who are interested in asking you questions that are on site so sorry
i’ll hand it over to you all right actually have two questions I
think it’s correct at the time the first congress approved the first proposed
originally twelve amendments they didn’t call it the bill of rights
in fact the first two had nothing to do with rights so my question there is when did it
become the home is the Bill of Rights and how did that happen and my second
question is how many amendments have been submitted to the state’s
essentially approved by Congress but not ratified let me answer your second question first there have been 33 amendments that were
proposed by Congress and set to the States but they failed to be ratified
one of those amendments is speaks to what you were just saying about that
Congress Congress past twelve amendments actually when they wrote the what became
known as the Bill of Rights and so that was one of those that didn’t that didn’t
make it and you are correct of that it didn’t become known as the bill of
rights when it was introduced people spoke of bills of rights and of course
the English Bill of Rights existed already at that point in time but it was
definitely a 20th century phenomenon that that led to people referring to it
as the bill of rights and that has something to do with what i mentioned in
the presentation about the Fourteenth Amendment and the incorporation of the
bill of rights to the States it was it was when that started
happening which the first instance of incorporation was nineteen twenties and
the most recent one was in in 2008 but when when the Supreme Court
started applying the Bill of Rights states – that’s when most Americans
actually started to be directly affected by it in a more concrete way than they
ever had before so that was one reason another thing is when we started to move
towards the mid-twentieth century there was events happening worldwide that
cause people to focus more attention on the bill of rights including importantly
world war two and in fact what happened was in 1941 President Roosevelt was already planning
on celebrating what would then have been a hundred and fiftieth anniversary of
the Bill of Rights similarly to how we are not celebrating the 225th but then
Roosevelt was planning on noting that event which was december 15 1941 and
then of course pearl heart Pearl Harbor happened on december seven
one week before and that put that put this celebration of the bill of rights
in stark relief and President Roosevelt gave a speech which you can hear if you
go into the gallery in which he defines why we were fighting in world war two as
a defense of the rights listed in the Bill of Rights thank you yes rules under the Articles
of Confederation for supplanting the Articles of Confederation with the
Constitution and where they followed that’s an excellent question – and that
speaks directly to how we got article 5 of the Constitution which provided the
rules for how we amend and the Articles of Confederation had required unanimous
consent of all states for any amendment to the articles so it was when problems
appeared with how the articles are working that was when the idea for having a
constitutional convention was called of course they didn’t call it a
constitutional convention then they call the convention for proposing amendments
to the Articles of Confederation but after they arrived and since Rhode
Island didn’t bother to participate they knew that there was no way that they
were ever going to get unanimous consent to any proposed changes the articles so
they pretty much just threw it out the window and started new which actually went against the
instructions from their own States but i guess they decided to do it now and ask
for forgiveness later and seemed to work out i’ll ask another after this one ok sure huh well I have a a preface to
say have you changed the exhibit since it opened at all not yet but the exhibit will be open for
a year and a half and because the National Archives is in the forever
business and we need to make sure that the documents that we have on display
here are kept forever for not just us but for future generations we do change the documents periodically
for conservation reasons so if you were to come visit the exhibit
again in six months or so you will see some different number of different
documents of my question was in view of the importance of some of the ones that
you mentioned on the screen about the ones that are possible I didn’t think they were notated as
being currently so it seemed to me that that they were kind of all together in
no semblance of importance and I just wondered if you could kind if there
would be a way of noted I don’t know whether I can separate my profound
desire to see the equal rights amendment passed but i just thought nothing was
you know added which I said it’s just thought it should be for how long it had been in the works
since suffrage and how many attempts there had been made as opposed to you
know less important attempts thanks right so as i have mentioned in the
presentation the exhibit has been organized by those three broad themes
that that we saw when we looked at the list of 11,000 amendment so those that relate to writes
those related powers and those that relate to the structure of government we
did not make any attempt to say what is more important than another and we do
invite our audience to make those decisions for themselves that said in particular relation to the
Equal Rights Amendment which you did mention one of the one of the things
that we discovered when we were looking at that list of 11,000 proposed
amendments is that of that 11,000 the Equal Rights Amendment has been
introduced more than 11 hundred times so that’s about ten percent and I don’t
believe there’s any other one that that even comes close to that number so
clearly there has been a lot of support for that across time and I do know that
last time I looked which has been a few months ago now but last time i looked at
the the amendments that have been introduced in the current Congress 114th
Congress the ra had been introduced at least four times so even just this year four times four
times in this current Congress so again it’s it is something that is
still seen as as an important issue for the initial ratification of the
Constitution how many states needed to ratify three
quarters against 09 out of the then 13 is when it would go into effect and you
identified six or seven which were unconditional in there ratification that
had recommendations for Bill of Rights how did the other two or three required
ratifying States become ratifying states they just said yes and nothing else they said yes we be better without
conditions that thank you can you go to the microphone so you’re looking at some documents
which may be a hundred and fifty two hundred years old people spoke
differently then they wrote differently then what are your thoughts on that well
i have worked here at the archives for over a dozen years and so I’m actually
quite used to reading documents that are 200 years old and the way that people
wrote then and the different styles of handwriting and and that kind of thing
so it’s it’s I think it’s absolutely fascinating I think it’s definitely a
way that you can look into the differences in how people thought at the
time and just the tone that people used in the language choices that they made
were were really quite a quite indicative of the way that they thought
about things and I showed I showed an amendment the one that was about abolishing the
three-fifths clause if you had the chance to actually read the text of it
well as on the screen you’ll see that the the language used was incredibly
differential towards Congress and they’ll say things like we humbly pray
that you will you make this change that were requesting of you and things like
that so it’s really interesting to read old documents like that and see how they
phrased it you know how many amendments have been
introduced in the current Congress and its really were where there is broken down by category
like company in this area how many in that area I again last time i looked at the the
current Congress I think there was somewhere more than 30
constitutional amendments that had been introduced but again I haven’t looked in
several months so I I don’t know if anybody would like to look can I can go
to Congress . gov and just look for do a search for constitutional amendments but you narrow
down to that the current Congress on 14 usually for do with the RA and you have
any idea what others are kind of repetitive so to speak well as i as i said in that as i showed
in this slide in here these were the top four introduce
amendments in terms of the frequency of being introduced so all of these or
listed here have been introduced more than one hole in the current Congress so
that’s the Equal Rights Amendment as I’ve already mentioned the balanced
budget amendment which I think was the most popular of these four but I again I
I don’t offhand I don’t remember how many times on campaign finance reform although those kind of lump those
together there were several this the specific details of each of those was a
little bit different and then of course congressional term
limits so I thought and I don’t remember what some of the odds and ends ones were hi another question so as I know you
know in addition to the congress
second
amendments to the States there’s a the Constitution says
the state’s can have conventions and the three quarters of them i think proposed
amendments they get submitted back to the states for ratification and now
there’s a current move underway particular around the balanced budget
amendment have state legislatures call for such a convention as I know none has
ever happened but is there ever really been a big move in the past to do that
or what’s your sense about why that’s never happened before yes so just to clarify for those who
aren’t familiar with it when you read article 5 of the Constitution and that’s
the section that describes how you make an amendment it actually provides two paths for
proposing amendments all 27 of our ratified amendments have have happened
to the same way which is that Congress by a two-thirds vote of both houses has
proposed it to the States for ratification but as as you said article 5 of the
Constitution does offer another way to go about doing that and what it says is
that when two-thirds of the states apply to congress congress shall call a
constitutional convention at which the states can send delegates and they will
actually write amendments there and once that convention proposes those
amendments then they still have to go through part 2 of the process which is
that than three-quarters of the states have to ratify the amendment but as you mentioned that convention
method as it’s usually called has never been used and the as far as i know the
closest that we have ever come to actually having that constitutional
convention was in the early 20th century when there was the movement for the
direct election of senators which I i mentioned in the presentation which
became the 17th amendment ratified in 1913 and that was a rather interesting
in that it was the state legislators themselves that had the power to elect
senators and yet the state legislators were then
applying to Congress are they they wanted a constitutional amendment
to actually give up their own power to choose their Senators because it was
causing so many problems for them and because of the popular Democratic move
to expand to give that right to select senators to to the people so i know that
it in in my research I came across many many
of those state applications for a constitutional convention for the
purpose of amending the Constitution for direct election of senators and one of
those applications is on display in the gallery so you can see that so I think that’s the closest we’ve ever
come and I think they came maybe two states short of that before the Senate
decided to get ahead of that game and actually proposed the amendment
themselves which they did in 1911 thank you thank you thank you Christina looks
like we have one more question okay you just talk about the election of
senators in your presentation you talked about the election of President you
talked about it in terms of picking lots to talk about Jefferson her election in your research are there any other way we can pick the
united states president well I will say that anecdotally
speaking since i haven’t done account i would guess that behind the Equal Rights
Amendment the second most popular topic for
mending is how we choose the President of the United States so if you took all the different propose
ideas like direct election of the President or selecting the president by
a lot if you kind of put those into one topic together it’s probably the second most common one now I hope that somebody will take
that that spreadsheet that I was just talking about that’s available on
data.gov and I hope somebody will actually do that official count because
the the the ways in which people have proposed to that have been so various
that it wasn’t easy to do account like it was to just look at equal rights for
men and women equal rights for men and women i was really easy to pick out of
of that list of 11,000 again i’m guessing here since i haven’t done
account but somebody else can use that list to do it i think the third most
common topic would be actually school prayer and perhaps the reason why that
rose up is because there were so many oh gosh offhand I can’t remember any of the
details but i know that there was there was lots of options most of them are for
direct election for abolishing the electoral college all together yes and thank christine
this is andrea i’m going to close the program up today thank you everyone for
attending and also would like to take this opportunity to thank our captioner
can reply / and our audio-visual staff Thank You Christine blackerby and thank
you everyone for attending today’s presentation please know that the
presentation video recording and the slides will remain available on this
YouTube web page and on behalf of the National Archives and our presenter thank you for joining us thank you

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *