The 21st Amendment – and Ratifying Conventions
Only once in U.S. history has Congress used the state ratifying conventions mentioned in Article V to amend the U.S. Constitution. This occurred in 1933 for the 21st Amendment. What is a state ratifying convention?
The 21st Amendment proposed to repeal the 18th Amendment. The 18th Amendment known as prohibition, outlawed “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors”. Of the 48 states in 1933, the 21st Amendment was approved by 38 states, rejected by 1, and 9 states took no action.
Texas Ratifying Convention – 1933
This Texan wanted to understand the precedence set by the state of Texas’ ratifying convention used in 1933 for amending the U.S. Constitution. Her questions were:
1.) Did the People go to the ballot box, voting yea or nay to repeal alcohol prohibition?
Answer: NO. The People went to the ballot box to elect one delegate representative to vote up or down on whether to ratify the 21st Amendment.
2.) How were the delegates elected/appointed?
Answer: The people elected delegates to attend the state ratifying convention, limiting their candidates to residents within their geographical state senatorial district (31 districts).
3.) How many delegates were allowed at the Texas ratifying convention?
4.) How many attended?
5.) How did the ratifying convention operate, rules of procedure, etc.?
Answer: The 43rd Texas Legislature (1933) passed legislation prescribing the exact method of delegate elections and the rules of procedure for the subsequent ratifying convention held in November 1933. Two documents obtained from the Texas Legislative Reference library reveal…
1. “AN ACT PROVIDING FOR CONVENTIONS TO PASS ON AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION OF UNITED STATES”
2. and the official minutes of the Texas ratifying convention in the “JOURNAL OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE CONSTITUTIONAL CONVENTION held by THE SOVEREIGN STATE OF TEXAS in the CITY OF AUSTIN, TEXAS on the 24th DAY OF NOVEMBER, A.D., 1933 for the PURPOSE OF RATIFYING the TWENTY-FIRST ARTICLE of AMENDMENT to the CONSTITUTION of THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”.
See 2 scanned documents from the Texas Legislative Reference library:
In reading the 6 page “ACT PROVIDING FOR CONVENTIONS TO PASS ON AMENDMENTS TO THE CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES”, one notes the detail that the members of the 26th Texas Legislature outlined in the qualification and election of delegates, the calendar and locations of elections, procedures for reporting and recording elections, and the time and date set for the ratifying convention to convene in Austin; all of this itemized in 16 sections to the Act. Yet, note that the final section, Section 17, allows Congress to override any procedure and authority of the Texas Legislature. Yes, even in 1933 our sovereign state officials cowed to that federal beast! Section 17 says “If Congress should, at any time, either by Resolution or by Statute, prescribe the method and manner in which the Convention shall be constituted …the provisions of this Act shall be inoperative…”
Combine the cowardice of our 1933 state officials with the more recent reports from the Congressional Research Service on their advisement to
Congress that Congress can control all things at a constitutional convention, and a forward thinking American would doubt the sovereign application to a delegate from Texas, or any state for that matter, to a constitutional convention (con con).
Article V states: “Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments”
Interpreted – To “call” a legislative body means the authority to convene the body – and – set the agenda for the meeting. In Texas, it is the Governor who “calls” for special sessions of the Texas Legislature and it is the Governor who sets the agenda. No legislation may be considered if not included on the Governor’s “call”.
If the Congressional Research Service (think tank for Congress) has advised Congress that congressional powers over a con con could be extensive, and Article V states that Congress shall call a convention for proposing amendments, will Congress digress and acquiesce to the powers of the state delegates? …Does a sailor pass up a shore leave?