The following letter written to Dame of Malta Phyllis Schlafly, from Chief Justice Warren Burger, should not be construed by the reader to mean that Schlafly came willingly into the battle against the on-going action for a Constitutional Convention application by state legislators. The effort to seduce state legislators into passing resolutions began in the mid 1970’s after a general convention call by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller failed.
By 1983, thirty-two of the required thirty-four states had made the call (Missouri being the last), having been falsely assured by ALEC-financed lawyer / lobbyist, John Armor, that the “null and void clause” in the resolution would protect against a run-away convention. Doug Kelly, master strategist, entered the battle in ‘83.
Doug informed us that he could not convince Schlafly to rally her troops (Eagle Forum members) into defense of the Constitution, so he sent an “open letter” to many of Schlafly’s state leaders. In other words, it appears as though Schlafly had no choice if she wanted to maintain integrity with E.F. members.
Although we don’t have the letter he wrote, nor were we actively involved at that time, we worked closely with Doug Kelly from February ‘93 until late ‘95 and have no reason to believe he made up a story. Given the Constitution was hanging by a swinging-door chad in 1983, if Eagle Forum in fact had not been involved in such a critical action until 1983, that alone would give credence to Doug’s assertion.
In his letter, Justice Burger mentions that he is “glad to see states rescinding their previous resolutions…”. Doug Kelley stated that Phyllis Schlafly refused to appear at hearings in support of rescisions. An effort was made by a group in ’94 to rescind Arizona’s resolution. In my ignorance, I suggested they call on Phyllis to testify before the Hearing Committee on the rescission. They did. She refused. The effort to rescind failed in Arizona. Doug was furious with me; his concern was that the proponents for a Con-Con may have been warned so they could call out their dogs in Arizona. We’ll probably never know on that one.
As further evidence… in 1995 the Conference of States hit hard and fast. The COS was another, different attempt at a general convention via state action. During the heat of the battle I received a call from Janine, the Nevada state leader for Eagle Forum, requesting all the information we could provide. Doug urged me to return her call immediately, explaining that she was very upset that Schlafly — again — was not rallying the EF members to defend the Constitution. Janine did involve many Eagle Forum members and there is no doubt their involvement — along with thousands of others — helped to defeat the COS.
By April ‘95, after the COS attempt had been brought to a screeching halt, Schlafly did write an excellent opposition piece in the EF newsletter. . . a day late and a dime short as often times seems to be the case. However, it probably served once again to maintain credibility with the vast membership of Eagle Forum.
The following letter, from Chief Justice Burger, was supplied to us by Doug Kelly.
Supreme Court of the United States
Washington, D.C. 20543
June 22, 1983
Chief Justice Burger
I am glad to respond to your inquiry about a proposed Article V Constitutional Convention. I have been asked questions about this topic many times during my news conferences and at college meetings since I became chairman of the Commission on the Bicentennial of the U.S. Constitution, and I have repeatedly replied that such a convention would be a grand waste of time.
I have also repeatedly given my opinion that there is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. The convention could make its own rules and set its own agenda. Congress might try to limit the convention to one amendment or to one issue, but there is no way to assure that the convention would obey. After a convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the convention if we don’t like its agenda. The meeting in 1787 ignored the limit placed by the confederation Congress “for the sole and express purpose.”
With George Washington as chairman, they were able to deliberate in total secrecy, with no press coverage and no leaks. A constitutional Convention today would be a free-for-all for special interest groups, television coverage, and press speculation.
Our 1787 Constitution was referred to by several of its authors as a “miracle.” Whatever gain might be hoped for from a new Constitutional Convention could not be worth the risks involved. A new convention could plunge our Nation into constitutional confusion and confrontation at every turn, with no assurance that focus would be on the subjects needing attention. I have discouraged the idea of a Constitutional Convention, and I am glad to see states rescinding their previous resolutions requesting a convention. In these bicentennial years, we should be celebrating its long life, not challenging its very existence. Whatever may need repair on our Constitution can be dealt with by specific amendments.
Mrs. Phyllis Schlafly
Alton, IL 62002