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A constitutional convention is a gathering for the purpose of writing a new constitution or revising an existing constitution. A general constitutional convention is called to create the first constitution of a political unit or to entirely replace an existing constitution. An unlimited constitutional convention is called to revise an existing constitution to the extent that it deems to be proper, whereas a limited constitutional convention is restricted to revising only the areas of the current constitution named in the convention's call, the legal mandate establishing the convention. In the case of the Philadelphia Convention, delegates met for the "sole purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation." George Washington was elected president of this convention. Once the body convened, meeting and deliberations were conducted in secrecy with James Madison serving as recorder. It was rapidly decided that the body would ignore the limitations of its call and propose the replacement of the Articles with an entirely new basic instrument of government.

Examples of constitutional conventions include the:

Constitutional conventions have also been used by constituent states of federations — such as the individual state of the United Statesmarker — to create, replace, or revise their own constitutions. Though the several states have never held a national constitutional convention for the purpose of proposing amendments, the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution was ratified not by the state legislatures, but by state level conventions after it was passed by Congress, as described as an alternate method of ratification in Article V of the US Constitution.

Several American academics have criticized the United States Constitution for specific shortcomings and have called for a Second Constitutional Convention, including University of Texasmarker constitutional law expert Sanford Levinson, University of Virginiamarker professor Larry Sabato, University of Kentuckymarker professor Richard Labunski, Vanderbilt Universitymarker professor Dana D. Nelson, and Yale Universitymarker professor Robert A. Dahl,, although professor Dahl believes there is no real hope that such a Convention might ever happen.

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