Delegates from around the country, almost all of whom were state officials, arrived in a steamy legislative chamber 237 years ago. They were sent by their respective states to Philadelphia with the charge to “render the federal constitution adequate for the exigencies of the Union.”

Fresh from their revolutionary and victorious fight for freedom from tyranny, it was clear then that the Articles of Confederation were insufficient to hold the union together, and attempts, like the failed Annapolis Convention called the year before, were too limited in scope to address the “exigencies of the Union.” It was also clear that, while a stronger federal government was needed in some areas, these state officials were intent on assigning this new government a limited role in domestic affairs, reserving such power to the states and the people.

From the initial draft to every proposed change, the convention was so divisive and contentious that it nearly failed on more than one occasion. Compromise after compromise was brokered until the product we now know emerged on Sept. 17, 1887.

Just two days before, Virginia’s Colonel George Mason pointed out that, in the draft document, only Congress had the power to propose amendments. He asked what would happen if Congress overstepped its bounds and then answered his own question with another. Are we so naïve to believe that Congress would restrain itself from such tyranny?

We know from experience the answer to that question today, but the founders had studied republics of history and knew today would come. The Constitution was formed on the principle of checks and balances. Even though the Constitution gave control of the US Senate to the state legislatures, a consensus immediately arose to give the state legislature, the place where most of these delegates served, another tool to check the abuses of power of the federal government — the power to propose amendments with a convention of states. Unlike almost any other amendment, it was unanimously approved by the convention.

“The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States.”

An Article V Convention of States has never been called. Why now?

To start with, up until the Great Depression, federal power, spending, and debt were very limited. By 1930, there were few federal programs, so the total national debt, even after WWI, was only $16 billion, or roughly $250 billion in today’s money. Then the progressives ushered in the New Deal, and 30 years later, the Great Society and federal government’s power and spending took off.

The response was the rise of the conservative movement, which sought to limit government power and spending. Some progress was made cutting spending, and there was even a balanced budget by the late 90s. All that changed with the election of Barack Obama. The federal government’s spending and debt has exploded in the past 20 years. It took our government 218 years to accumulate $6.7 trillion in national debt by 2006. Today it is over five times that amount, $34 trillion!

With spending comes power. The feds have gained more control over the states (and over you) than ever before by routinely exceeding their authority then daring the courts to strike these excesses down. As you can see, this crisis is a new and exponentially worsening phenomena that has worsened under both Democrat and Republican control in DC.

So why do we need a convention of states when we’ve never had one before? Because we have reached a tipping point where other solutions are no longer effective.

Washington, DC, will never voluntarily relinquish its own power, no matter who is elected. The only rational conclusion is this: unless some political force outside of Washington, DC, intervenes, the federal government will continue to bankrupt this nation, usurp the legitimate authority of the states, and destroy the liberty of the people.

Another benefit of a convention: this historic event will ignite a national conversation about the proper role of the federal government like we haven’t witnessed since the founding. The people, including students, will learn about the Constitution, federalism, and checks and balances. Movements will form around different amendments that would never be debated in Congress, like federal ownership of land, water rights, spending, and tax limitations. It will be covered like no other convention in history, streamed and televised, keeping the citizens of each state aware and involved.

How is this time different? The “state of our union” today demands a “solution as big as the problem.” Contrary to what opponents of a convention of states claim, this process will focus the country on what we can all agree to do to make this country better because it requires 75% of the states to ratify any amendment proposed at the convention. That’s the reason why there have only been 17 amendments ratified since the founding; issues that divide the country are not ratified (Equal Rights Amendment), those that unite us are (women’s suffrage). If 38 states ratify an amendment, you achieve a consensus that protects it from being undone with administrative or congressional power changes.

Here are the basics:

What is a convention of states? A convention of states is a meeting initiated by the state legislatures under Article V of the Constitution for the sole purpose of proposing amendments to the US Constitution, a power the Congress has and can exercise at their discretion without any notice or input from the people.

What happens at a convention of states? Delegates discuss and propose amendment proposals that fit the topic framed by the 34 state resolutions that triggered the convention. Each state gets one vote, and it takes 26 states to approve an amendment to be sent to each state legislature for ratification. It takes the affirmative vote of both chambers of 38 states to ratify any proposed amendments for it to be added to the Constitution. This is the most difficult approval process found in our country. It takes only one house in 13 different states to simply do nothing to block ratification of any amendment.

What is the plan? Our resolution calls for a convention to propose amendments on particular subjects — limiting federal power, mandating fiscal responsibility, and imposing term limits — rather than a particular amendment. Over the past 10 years, we have grown a grassroots army that is working to implement an Article V convention. With over 4.5 million supporters and signed petitions in 100% of legislative districts across America, our grassroots army is the largest Article V grassroots movement in history.

Where are we now? The North Carolina House of Representatives has passed the resolution to call a convention. It only requires that the Senate do the same to make North Carolina the 20th state to call for a convention.