Heartland Institute Policy Brief: States Have a Duty to Defend Against Federal Excess
The Framers of the U.S. Constitution included a failsafe to stop federal overreach that threatens the sovereignty of the states and the liberty of the people. That failsafe is contained in Article V: a convention of the states.
Advocates for limited government have proposed several constitutional amendments to be achieved through an Article V convention, but many fear that invoking Article V is fraught with danger. Heartland Institute Senior Fellow Robert G. Natelson rejects that notion in a newPolicy Brief titled The States’ Duty to Defend Against Federal Excess: James Madison and the Methods of “Interposition”.
During legislative sessions this year, 88 proposals related to invoking Article V to reform of the U.S. Constitution were introduced in 39 states, and eight states fully enacted constitutional reform legislation. To date, 32 states have enacted at least one form of constitutional reform legislation.
Natelson writes that those proactive state legislatures weren’t merely exercising a constitutional option, they were performing a solemn duty:
State officials take an oath to preserve the U.S. Constitution. [James] Madison and other Founders … emphasized state officials’ obligation to interpose in a constitutional manner when the people are threatened by federal overreaching. Such interposition is not a mere option. It is a solemn duty.
About the Author
Robert G. Natelson is senior fellow in constitutional jurisprudence at The Heartland Institute. He has the same title at the Montana Policy Institute in Bozeman, Montana and at the Independence Institute in Denver, Colorado, where he heads the Article V Information Center. He was a professor of law for 25 years, serving at three universities. He taught constitutional law, advanced constitutional law, First Amendment, and constitutional history, among other courses.
Natelson is well-known as a leading scholar of the American founding era. He is the author of The Original Constitution: What It Actually Said and Meant (3rd ed. Apis Books, 2014), co-author of The Origins of the Necessary and Proper Clause (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2010), and author of numerous scholarly and popular articles. His research is regularly cited in the U.S. Supreme Court, both by parties and by the justices.
Natelson also has experience in the business, broadcasting, and political world. In 2000 he was runner-up among five candidates in the open party primary for governor of Montana.
The Heartland Institute is a 32-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.