Did the Founding Fathers (or anyone participating in hammering out the Constitution of the United States) explicitly discuss the possible issue that, at some point, an Amendment can be passed that would destroy the Constitution?

E.g. (these are my random examples, please don't concentrate on the specific examples here): "This amendment hereby repels 100% of the wording of the Constitution, all prior Amendments, and institutes a new government as a monarchy with Kim Kardashian as Queen Kim the First"; or less drastically "This amendment changes the amendment process such that no further amendments are allowed".

If such a concern was discussed, what were the proposed arguments, proposed solutions, and was a consensus arrived at, eventually, on the topic?

  • 4
    Just as no one expected the Spanish Inquisition, nor did anyone expect the Kardashian Invasion.
    – user1530
    Feb 7, 2017 at 21:19

3 Answers 3



The Founding Fathers reached consensus that republicanism contains a provision to abolish and reform the government under new foundational laws, and is embodied in Article 4, section 4 of the Constitution. The means to do so exist through amendment, Convention or revolution, and the authority to do so resides in the people. For more on this topic I refer you to The Federalist Papers, No. 78

Here are the 7 small "r" republican principles that came out of the Constitution ratifying process, undefined but assumed in Article 4 of the Constitution:

  1. There is a strict separation of powers, horizontally and vertically.
  2. The government is run by officers governing for a term and only during good behavior.
  3. Offices are selected by our election, and not by the appointment of the government itself.
  4. The government recognizes that power resides originally in the People (immediately from God).

  5. There is a deliberativeness in action and that it is, by the checks and balances, not subject to the whimsical fancy of a few.

6. The government acknowledges the final right of the People to alter or abolish it whenever it usurps the rights for which it was instituted by the People to administer God’s Law.

  1. The government does not grant entitlements.

The mechanism for that could be amendment or Constitutional Convention or revolution, and is expressly mentioned in 39 of the states' constitutions.

[M]ost State Constitutions include articles in the Declaration of Rights which reserve to the people the right to establish a new government whenever the government oppresses the people. The Maryland Declaration of Rights in Article 6 states, “That all persons invested with the Legislative or Executive powers of Government are the Trustees of the Public, and, as such, accountable for their conduct: Wherefore, whenever the ends of Government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the People may, and of right ought, to reform the old, or establish a new Government; the doctrine of non-resistance against arbitrary power and oppression is absurd, slavish and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.”

The Unanimous Declaration Reads:

[W]henever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [to secure the inalienable rights to life, liberty and property], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 (still in effect) reads: [T]he people alone have an incontestible, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity and happiness require it. (Declaration of Rights, Art. VII)

The State of Maryland Constitution’s first Declaration of Right still reads: [The People] have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter, reform or abolish their Form of Government in such manner as they may deem expedient. (Declaration of Rights, Art. I.)

The State of New Hampshire ostensibly acknowledges in its Constitution: [W]henever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress and ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind. (Part First, Art. 10.)

That same phrase, “the doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind,” is found in both the Maryland and Tennessee Constitutions.

Constitutions of 15 States acknowledged the right of the People to alter or abolish the existing government when it becomes destructive to the ends for which it was instituted. See Pennsylvania Const. of 1873, Art. I, § 2; Maryland Const. of 1867, Dec. of Rights, Art. I; Virginia Const. of 1902, Art. I, § 3; Alabama Const. of 1865, Art. I, § 2; Arkansas Const. of 1874, Art. II, § 1; Idaho Const. of 1889, Art. I, § 2; Kansas Const. of 1858, Art. I, § 2; Kentucky Const. of 1890, Bill of Rights, § 4; Ohio Const. of 1851, Art. I, § 2; Oregon Const. of 1857, Art. I, § 1; Tennessee Const. of 1870, Art. I, § 1; Texas Const. of 1876, Art. I, § 2; Vermont Const. of 1793, c. 1, Art. 7; West Virginia Const. of 1872, Art. 3, § 3; Wyoming Const. of 1889, Art. I, § 1. Some 24 other States have, or have had, slightly varying forms of the same provision. See New Hampshire Const., Pt. I, Art. 10; Massachusetts Const., Part the First, Article VII; Connecticut Const., Article First, § 2; New Jersey Const., Art. I, 2; Delaware Const., Preamble; North Carolina Const., Art. I, § 3; South Carolina Const., Art. 1, § 1; Rhode Island Const., Art. I, § 1; California Const., Art. I, § 2; Colorado Const., Art. II, § 2; Florida Const., Dec. of Rights, § 2; Indiana Const., Art. I, § 1; Iowa Const., Art. I, § 2; Maine Const., Art. I, § 2; Michigan Const. of 1835, Art. I, § 2; Minnesota Const., Art. I, § 1; Mississippi Const., Art. 3, § 6; Missouri Const., Art. I, § 3; Montana Const., Art. III, § 2; Nevada Const., Art. I, § 2; North Dakota Const., Art. I, § 2; Oklahoma Const., Art. II, § 1; South Dakota Const., Art. VI, § 26; Utah Const., Art. I, § 2.12

Articles of Confederation

Note the history of how the Articles of Confederation were replaced through a motion and Convention, and serves as a historical precedent.

On January 21, 1786, the Virginia Legislature, following James Madison's recommendation, invited all the states to send delegates to Annapolis, Maryland to discuss ways to reduce interstate conflict. At what came to be known as the Annapolis Convention, the few state delegates in attendance endorsed a motion that called for all states to meet in Philadelphia in May 1787 to discuss ways to improve the Articles of Confederation in a "Grand Convention." Although the states' representatives to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia were only authorized to amend the Articles, the representatives held secret, closed-door sessions and wrote a new constitution.


Building on @K Dog's excellent answer:

The government acknowledges the final right of the People to alter or abolish it whenever it usurps the rights for which it was instituted by the People to administer God’s Law.

Herein lies the genius of the Founding Fathers--Identifying the ultimate Authority as God, delegating power to the governed by their consent, and granting them rights. The government is not the grantor of rights. Therefore, of necessity, the people must have the power to throw off that government when it does not suit their purposes. However, if our purposes run contrary to the will of God, then that contradicts and revokes the authority behind our own rights and actions, and we would be the destroyers of our own liberty, perhaps irretrievably. We have the ability to build a gallows with a hangman's noose for ourselves if we so choose. That is inherent in our liberty. We are at liberty to succeed, and we are at liberty to fail.

Notwithstanding we have the power to destroy ourselves, the Founding Fathers were brilliant because by planting this idea--sovereignty coming through the people, by delegation from their Creator, Who is superior to all earthly authority--any future civilization can plainly see the principles of initial equality before the law ("created equal"), separation of powers to mitigate human corruption, and consent of the governed as the most beneficial pillars of government ever to be advanced in all human history.


You cannot amend the constitution to destroy it.

The founders specifically designed Constitution so that it could be UPDATED in the future.

They recognized the fact that times change, things change, circumstances change, so the Constitution cannot be a static document.

And that was also why they made it so difficult to amend the Constitution.

They wanted it to be changeable, but just hard enough that it wouldn't be done on a whim.

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