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New History of Founding Era Conventions

RGNStPaulsVery few people know that the Constitutional Convention of 1787 only the last of nearly 20 other conventions in which American colonies, and later states, met to deliberate on specified problems.

In these gatherings, states met as semi-sovereigns; these were essentially diplomatic meetings. The rule for decision was “one state, one vote.”

Those conventions were the model for the “convention for proposing amendments” in Article V of the Constitution.

I have just finished a paper that appears to be the first historical account of the entire series of inter-colonial and interstate conventions. It is called Founding-Era Conventions and the Meaning of the Constitution’s “Convention for Proposing Amendments.” I have posted it on the website of the Social Science Research Network where you can read and download it if you are so inclined.

This paper—

*    Lists all the conventions;

*    Summarizes the history of the 13 for which we have the best records;

*    Describes the procedures used at these gatherings;

*    Shows how we know they were the model for the Article V amendments convention; and

*    Shows how they impact the rules and procedures for an amendments convention.

At the end of the article are two appendices. The first lists in alphabetical order all the delegates at the 13 conventions summarized. The second contains the same information as the first, but in order by state. You might want to check the summary and see how many names you recognize.

The article is still in draft form, so I have not yet sought a publisher.

Rob Natelson