Skip to comments.A Magic Bullet Will Be Needed to Kill the 17th Amendment.
Posted on 05/01/2009 9:16:40 AM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
The U.S Constitution "originally" laid out the separation of powers between the federal government and the State governments in the first paragraph of article 1 section 3. How this paragraph accomplished that goal will become clear later in this article. This paragraph states:
"The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the LEGISLATURE thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote."
Then in Article I, section 4 we also find this:
"The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the PLACES of chusing Senators." Those places were to be in the State Legislatures.
This balance of power was then permanently locked in by the last clause of article 5. I call this clause the magic bullet because it can't be stopped by any means that I can see. Article 5 dealing with amendments to the Constitution clearly states:
"... and that NO State, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate."
By including this in the section dealing with amendments, it is obvious that the sections of the Constitution concerning selection of Senators and the suffrage they provided was not amendable unless ALL of States consented and that this was to be a permanent provision. All of the above shows how adamant the founders were about this point by referring to the States representation on no less than 3 occasions. If even ONE State objected to changes in an area that would affect their suffrage, that change would be invalid. The normal ratification process could not be used to alter this principle. Yet that is exactly what happened when the 17th amendment was adopted.
The father of our Constitution, James Madison, in Federalist 43, further supports this claim. He states that the Constitution was completely amendable with 2 exceptions only. One of the exceptions dealt with the importation of slaves and became moot after 1808. The other was the State's equal suffrage in the Senate.
It appears, then, that this all boils down to definition. What is the definition of State suffrage? In Federalist 59, Hamilton explains State suffrage as the State legislatures having a voice in the Senate. The 17th amendment effectively canceled that voice and turned it over to the citizens of the States. I submit to you that now, however, this definition has been left entirely to the discretion of the States themselves. The courts have no say in the matter. I will explain this bold statement in detail later. Why do I feel this issue vitally important to restoring States rights? For the same reasons our Founders did, to support the concept of federalism and the balance of power between the States and federal government.
This concept strictly limited the federal governments powers to those specifically enumerated in Article 1, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. The People, through the Constitution, permitted the national government to exercise certain enumerated powers. By limiting the federal government's power and granting the States nearly unlimited power, the federal government would merely be protecting the States collectively and allowing the States to handle their own affairs.
Federalism allowed the States wide latitude to run their own affairs and by doing so, created 13 laboratories of freedom to experiment and formulate the best system of self-governance. This situation also created an atmosphere of competition between the States. When a State allowed its inhabitants to prosper and keep what they earn, The State would prosper and be allowed to continue governing its people. When the State government became a burden to them, the people could vote out the tyrants during the next election. Another alternative was for the businesses and the people to move to a State that was more to their liking. Business leaving the State would cause the tax base to erode and so would the peoples support of that government. Sooner or later, either the State government or the people would wake up and correct the problem.
The 17th amendment took away the States protection from the abuses of federal power allowing the federal government to get away with legislating in areas where they had no business doing so. This was a grave error seriously upsetting the balance of power so carefully crafted into our magnificent Constitution. The concept of Federalism was all but destroyed leading to endless abuses by the federal government from which there is no escape.
The enforcement mechanism against federal encroachment prior to the invalid 17th was the States' representation in the Senate. The "Peoples House" i.e. the House of Representatives amply represents the people, while the States were to be represented by the Senate.
The States now have no representation and we are experiencing the folly of this venture toward pure democracy today. We were founded as a Republic not a democracy and now we see why. All the States needed to do in the past was to recall or direct their Senators before a bad law made it to the floor of the Senate for a vote and the damage could be stopped in its tracks. Hamilton's Federalist essay 59 addresses this issue directly. This power has been unconstitutionally snatched from the States by the invalid 17th amendment.
Careful study of the 17th amendments ratification reveals at least 10 states that failed to do so. Those 10 were FL, MS, DE, KY, UT, MD, RI, AL, IA and GA. The clear manner in which article 5 is written places the statement dealing with States equal suffrage in the Senate after the words: "Provided that no Amendment which may be made..." further showing that this was an exception to the rule regarding amendments.
With the failure those of 10 states to ratify the 17th, they were denied their equal suffrage in the Senate without their consent in violation of Article 5, thus making the 17th amendment invalid. However, once any state declares the 17th invalid, based on what I have pointed out here, that State, even though it had previously consented to the 17th can withdraw its consent anytime it so chooses. Any State that previously consented can say "we no longer consent" because Article 5 mentions nary a word about the permanence of any such consent. The right of the state to withdraw that consent is further fully supported by the clear wording of the 10th amendment:
AMENDMENT X (1791)
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
The power to withdraw that consent is not prohibited by article 5 so the power to withdraw it is reserved and retained by the States. Fits like a glove. All the states need to do is select their Senators in their legislatures and send them to Washington. Simple. And what would the courts say about move such as this? No court can attempt to make the State comply with the 17th because they won't have jurisdiction to try the case. Here's why:
When a sovereign State declares the 17th amendment invalid, the Senate would be unlawfully seated. It would then follow that the Supreme Court is also unlawfully seated as is the entire federal bench because the Senate approves those federal court appointments including the Supreme Court. Anything decided by those federal courts would be null and void. The State could simply refuse to recognize the jurisdiction of the court system. The States could argue that the federal judiciary has been confirmed by a Senate that did not have the states best interest at heart.
The only other argument that could be made against the State would be the power of the Senate to be the ultimate judge of their elections and refuse to seat the Senators. However, how can an illegitimate Senate make such a decision? The answer is, they can't.
I have presented these facts in many forums over the years and they have never been successfully challenged. One argument that always seems to arise is this: "Well, all the states do have equal suffrage because they still each have two senators." This invalid argument comes from a lack of full understanding of what "suffrage" really stands for and by a focus on the first term "equal" while ignoring the second, "suffrage." The point of my entire article is that the States (meaning the State Legislatures) are the ones who have lost suffrage. The people of the State now elect Senators and are in possession of that suffrage. The real point is who do these senators now represent? After I make this point, I usually get this: "Well, the people ARE the "State." This is not entirely accurate either. In all instances I can find in the Constitution where it is speaking about the States, it is speaking of the Legislature of the States. The best example I can find that clearly delineates between the two is the last clause of that wonderful 10th Amendment again. That clause clearly lists the "People" and the "States" as two separate entities. If they were the same thing, there would be no need to list them both in the very same sentence.
There are other far-reaching implications of an invalid 17th and I'm sure that opponents of what's been written here will use them to fight these truths. I will not give them ammunition by detailing what those far reaching implications are. However, I will say this: If we endeavor to rid ourselves of the invalid 17th amendment in the manner outlined above, be prepared for the fight of your lives because there are many entrenched interests that would like nothing more than to never have this information reach the light of day.
There have been many articles written concerning the "repeal" of the 17th amendment. While many of these articles correctly point out the folly of the 17th, they fail to realize that a movement to repeal is nothing more than a pipe dream. The only way to remove the 17th amendment is through outright repudiation using the method I have described above. I will explain why below.
There are 2 methods laid out in Article 5 for amending the Constitution. One of those methods is through a Convention of the States. I will not go into details as to why this method should never be used under any circumstances other than to say that if you truly value your freedoms, this method should be avoided at all costs. The other method would be an exercise in futility. To use the method that all the other amendments have used since the 10th would entail having to first convince 67 senators to vote themselves out of a job. Then 290 House members would have to vote for the repeal of an amendment which will make all the laws they want to pass much more difficult to push through the Senate. A senate which as a result of its passage would now be jealously guarding the rights of the States that the House laws frequently trample. If that isn't enough, you need to get 38 state legislatures to vote for repealing an amendment over the objections of the people who would feel like their right to vote was being stolen (a right which never really existed due to an invalid 17th). To educate the masses in 38 separate states that the 17th amendment was a mistake is an insurmountable task. To do it for just one, as would be the case in a move to repudiate it, Maybe. In a repudiation argument, it could be demonstrated to the people that the right to vote for their Senators should have never been theirs in the first place due to the fraudulent manner in which the 17th was adopted.
My first target for a move to repudiate would be done in a State that swings to the right most of the time and where the voters are well informed and leery of the feds. Utah would be my choice since Utah rejected the 17th outright and they have been stung recently by federal land grabs. Please join me in this endeavor to repudiate the 17th and get the concept of federalism firmly back on track.
We must educate ourselves and our posterity in the wonderful documents that founded our great Republic if we are ever to set it back on course toward freedom and prosperity. That is why I'm writing this today. My positions on the 17th amendment are supported by the Constitution of the United States including the 10th amendment and "The Federalist Papers", specifically Madison 43 and Hamilton 59.
Thanks for your attention,
Paul C. Hanson
Thanks for the ping!
Ping for later
The 17th Amendment was a terrible thing. I’d love to see it go. But it would take a revolution.
Bottom line... the 17th exists, it is part of the constitution and has been valid and followed for many years now. Nothing can change that except another amendment to repeal it.
OK, call me silly, but what does this article have to do with anything current?
Is there some issue where this argument would come into play, or is it just a general diatribe?
Ping for later
The issue in play is that a Senator elected by a states legislature would be accountable to that legislature.
You may recall that one of the issues put forward by R. Reagan when running of office was the nasty habit of a spend thrift congress was to pass laws imposing on the states unfunded mandates.
A Senate elected by state legislatures would be unlikely to impose such laws on the states that elect them.
magic bullet nonsense....it stays around only as long as We the People decide it will. When enough of us get up off our sofas, turn of the TV, step away from the keyboard ..and go organize out state legislatures in 34 states to repeal it...it will happpen.
Direct election of senators had been proposed as early as the 1820s, and picked up support over the years. By the time the amendment was passed, 29 states had enacted some form of direct election on their own. Unless an amendment that not only repealed the 17th, but forbade the states from allowing direct election was passed, there's little reason to think much would change. People like the idea of electing their senators, and you're going to have to work hard to convince them to give up that right.
Seems like the argument in the article has merit...
Because the Senate is a collegial body, where compromise and deal making is the only way forward, Senators can operate on the national level in a way which pleases a good number of people within their state, but which may not best help the state itself.
Because of the 17th, our Reps and our Senators are very similar. But in fact they ought to be serving different masters. I think the growth of the Federal Government was greatly asssisted by the removal of Senators are true advocates of their state legislature.
While it is true that many people for a long time wanted popular election of senators, this article points out that the Founding Fathers understood that many people might WANT that -- but that they should not HAVE that. It was supposed to be blocked, but the change got through anyway.
“except as to the PLACES of chusing Senators.””
I think the founders needed to use their spell checkers.
I looked up “doctrine of laches,” which means that if you don’t assert your rights in a timely manner, they could be lost as far as a court is concerned. Since nearly 100 years have passed since the 17th was ratified, if a state attempted to repudiate it now, any citizen who sued that state for the loss of his Senate voting rights would probably win.
Yep. That's the way I see it too. Repealing the 17th is my pet constitutional argument. I think the 17th changed the fate of the nation- and for the worse.
I can understand people's arguments about the corruption inherent in the system and states not having senators for big stretches of time due to internal squabbles but the way I see it- that's that particular state's affair. If they can't get their sh1t together and send a senator to Capitol Hill, well they lose. I don't think the rest of the states should be denied doing it the way the founders set it out for them to be able to do because of this though.
Although I don't see the 17th ever getting repealed, I do like to bring this up to liberals and point out to them that the USA was never meant to be a democracy. It doesn't seem to sink in to their heads. But then, in all honesty, not too much does seem to sink into their heads...
The people of the nation elect the President.
That's the only part of your post I took issue with. The way I read the constitution, this is not true. The States elect the president via the electoral college. The way I read it, the general election is mainly for show (but one that cannot be denied to the people), a way to let the people say what they want. The States aren't necessarily bound to vote for a president based on the general election results.
Florida, for example in the 2000 election was simply doing it the way the constitution set out for the states to do by deciding to give the votes to Bush. They could equally have decided to give them to Gore- regardless of the actual tally of votes and chads and so forth.
It’s time for an Article V Constitutional Convention
IMHO, this single ammendment has ruined our system of gevernment more than just about anything else. It was “Progressives” who had advocated this ammendment when the Federal Government touched the average citizens’ lives very little.
We need to repeal this. Right now, there is nobody to represent the interest of the States in the U.S. Congress. State governments are forced to hire lobbiest to line up with all the special interests to get thier interests heard. This is a discrace.
Here is a great site on the subject:
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