Perfecting the Constitution

The Case for the Article V Amendment Process

By (author) Darren Patrick Guerra

Publication date:

10 June 2013

Length of book:

254 pages


Lexington Books

ISBN-13: 9780739168387

He who can change the Constitution controls the Constitution. So who does control the Constitution? The answer has always been: “the people.” The people control the Constitution via the Article V amending process outlined in the Constitution itself. Changes can only be made through Article V and its formal procedures. Article V has always provided a means of perfecting the Constitution in an explicit, democratically authentic, prudent, and deliberative manner. In addition to changing the Constitution Article V also allowed the people to perfect and preserve their Constitution at the same time.

In recent years Article V has come under attack by influential legal scholars who criticize it for being too difficult, undemocratic, and too formal. Such scholars advocate for ignoring Article V in favor of elite adaptation of the Constitution or popular amendment through national referendums. In making their case, critics also assume that Article V is an unimportant and expendable part of the Constitutional structure. One notable scholar called the Constitution “imbecilic” because of Article V.

This book shows that, to the contrary, Article V is a unique and powerful extension of the American tradition of written constitutionalism. It was a logical extension of American constitutional development and it was a powerful tool used by the Federalists to argue for ratification of the new Constitution. Since then it has served as a means of “perfecting” the US Constitution for over 200 years via a wide range of amendments. Contrary to contemporary critics, the historical evidence shows Article V to be a vital element in the Constitutional architecture, not an expendable or ancillary piece. This book defends Article V against critics by showing that it is neither too difficult, undemocratic, nor too formal. Furthermore, a positive case is made that Article V remains the most clear and powerful way to register the sovereign desires of the American public with regard to alterations of their fundamental law. In the end, Article V is an essential bulwark to maintaining a written Constitution that secures the rights of the people against both elites and themselves.

Guerra (Biola Univ.) posits that the Article V provisions for formally amending the US Constitution are under attack from scholars, judges, and politicians. He argues that many of these individuals seek to amend the Constitution through permissive 'interpretation' rather than formal amendment. However, the author writes that Article V is not only a form of amendment but the exclusive form of amendment to the Constitution. Other forms, he suggests, do not comport with history or logic. Part 1 of this work examines the history and context of Article V, while part 2 defends Article V from its critics. Whether readers agree or disagree with Guerra's premise, this work makes for interesting reading and is recommended for those who study constitutional law. Summing Up: Recommended. General readers, undergraduate students, graduate students, and research faculty.