This first article of three on constitutional revision is by Dr. W. Brooke Graves, considered the leading academic authority in the field of state constitutional revision. Americans have been writing and rewriting state constitutions for almost two hundred years. In that time, on the basis of a fund of experience acquired in individual states and in the nation, something approaching an art—or at least a method—of constitutional revision ought to have developed. But a study of the record gives little support for such an assumption. Some of the skills and fine judgment of the early framers of state constitutions appears to have been almost completely lost, but there are now signs of a more or less serious effort to regain them. In addition, some bad habits were acquired as time elapsed, so that it is now necessary to try to change these practices and overcome certain unfortunate effects flowing from them. At the same time, the record is not all bad. Some desirable practices have been developed. A renewed interest in the subject of constitutional revision over the last decade or so has resulted in a somewhat higher standard of performance in the last four conventions that have written new constitutions or made general revisions, and whose proposals have been approved by the voters: New Jersey (1947), Hawaii (1950), Puerto Rico (1951), and Alaska (1955). The purpose of this article is to examine current trends in broad historical perspective, and to analyze certain recent practices that, if continued, may develop into trends.

I. General Reluctance to Undertake Revision … A. Psychological Barriers … B. Legal and Political Barriers … C. Pressure Group Barriers

II. The Concept of Continuous Revision

III. The Limited Constitutional Convention

IV. The Legislature in the Role of a Convention

V. Revision through Piecemeal Amendment

VI. Conclusion: Responsiveness and Responsibility