Skip to comments.The 17th Amendment, Gateway to Despotic Government
Posted on 04/08/2013 2:26:47 PM PDT by Jacquerie
Happy Anniversary! Today is the 100th Anniversary of the horrible 17th Amendment.
In 1787-1788, Anti-Federalists warned that historys lesson regarding republics would result in a despotic American government. Because republics rested on the will of the people, republics demanded among their communities a certain commonality of interests, traditions and morals. Absent commonality, society was certain to disintegrate into warring factions bent on besting and oppressing each other. Only an authoritarian government of force could keep the peace and control these hostile groups. Government could be one or a few men at the top lording over the many, or it could be the many overseeing the few. In either case, force and not ready acceptance of the rules they lived under were destined to be the lot of at least a portion of the populace.
To illustrate, the people of Boston in 1787 had seven generations or so of experience in forming a society that suited their religious views and ideas on self-government. Protestant and adapted to the harsh North Atlantic, the people of Boston were unique. What worked for their civil society could not be superimposed on Catholic Maryland, or the Planter dominated society of Virginia without serious social turmoil and strife.
Federalists OTOH believed State republics could peacefully unite in a larger republic without infringing on local traditions. They pointed to our colonial experience as well as political theory. Without prodding from Great Britain, pre-revolutionary American towns and counties naturally set up republican governments. After Independence, the towns and counties joined together under larger republics, the States. As for supportive theory, Charles De Montesquieu in The Spirit of the Laws determined that laws should reflect the distinctiveness of societies. To accomplish this, republics were best, and they should be small. In addition, he argued that a republic has the best chance of surviving if it consists of members that are also republican.
The Framers applied this arrangement to a larger government, a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, (From Mark Levin, Ameritopia.) by which several smaller states agree to become MEMBERS of a larger one, which they intend to form. It is a kind of assemblage of societies that constitute a new one, capable of increasing by means of new associations, until they arrive to such a degree of power as to be able to provide for the security of the united body.
IOW, the government of the American Confederated Republic depended on, and was composed of smaller republics, the member States. As long as the smaller State republics shared in national power, participated in the federal government, it was consistent with our colonial, post-colonial experiences and Montesquieu. By this, the people of Protestant Boston, Catholic Maryland and Planter Virginia were not asked to adopt each others societies. National interests such as treaties and interstate commerce that transcended State concerns were the domain of the larger republic of Confederated States, while local and strictly internal matters remained with the States.
The first beauty, the first gift to mankind of our Constitution was this separation of powers. The assemblage of societies was represented by republican states; they were to be self-governing yet simultaneously participate in a larger republic.
A hundred years ago today, the 17th Amendment not only upset this arrangement, it ignored Montesquieu and the lessons of history. Absent State participation in general matters, our federal government became national and opened the door to consolidation of all power. National governments over large territories cannot sympathize with, nor comport with local, smaller societies. It is inevitable that national laws affecting local traditions will please the people of some States and infuriate so many others. When too many people become too disgusted with rules imposed on them by others who have no connection to their society, they become less attached and devoted to both their neutered State government and the oppressive national government. This is a road map to dissolution of the Union.
To draw the distinction, in pre-17th America, some States had taxpayer supported churches. Public school curricula were outside the purview of the larger government. If the US was still a federal republic, perhaps some States would allow homosexual marriage while others would not. Intra-State commerce would not be a federal matter. Marijuana would likely be legal and taxed in some States.
My FRiends, the 17th Amendment did not simply mean the people vote for members to both houses of Congress. It meant member State republics no longer shared in the larger government. The States lost the single structural weapon to limit the national government to enumerated powers and keep it out of their local matters. For practical purposes the 10th Amendment no longer exists. As feared by the Federalists over two hundred years ago, without State participation, a national government would inevitably expand, become despotic, oppressive and soon snuff out our freedoms.
Consider the following warning from James Madison. At the Virginia ratification convention on June 6th 1788, he responded to Patrick Henrys charge that the Constitutions enumerated powers would be usurped and our freedoms destroyed by a national government that would quickly seize all power.
Madison: If the general government were wholly independent of the governments of the particular states, then, indeed, usurpation might be expected to the fullest extent. But, sir, on whom does this general government depend? It derives its authority from these governments, and from the same sources from which their authority is derived.
Indeed. The 17th removed State agency from the federal republic. As predicted by Montesquieu, Federalists and Anti-Federalists alike, we slipped into an overwhelming, consolidated national government that oppresses both the States and us with raw force.
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Great article. Thanks for posting. I’m a Federalist when it comes to social issues and a Libertarian on financial ones.
The early 20th century progressives [Roosevelt included] wreaked a lot of havoc on this country: destroyed the schools, created the Fed, and passed the 17th. I think they may have been worse than FDR at weakening the Constitution.
How about the "First Amendment Doesn't mean what it says", AKA Schenec v United States... from whence we have the saying "you can't yell fire in a crowded theater."
Agree. FDR reaped what they sowed twenty years prior. LBJ reaped what FDR . . . and Hussein has one hundred years of Constitutional butchery to build his Utopia upon.
On a related note, by my understanding, many states used to have a legislative body whose members represented counties until some court (I forget the details) ruled that such a thing violates “equal protection” or some such. Clearly the Founding Fathers could never intended for any entity to have half of a bicameral legislature whose members were not allocated according to population, right? After that ruling, “state senate” seats have been allocated in such fashion as to eliminate county representation.
BTW, do you have a copy of Mark Levin's Liberty Amendments?
I don’t think it matters that it took a year to get some engaged in the problems and intended consequences of the unconstitutional in principle seventeenth amendment. The fact that it changed the most important part of the Founder’s vision doesn’t seem to get much traction, but any interest in it’s dangers I appreciate.
The part of the amendment that gets my attention is those proposing it failed to take into account the term limits imposed on “REPRESEMTATIVES” by the Founding Fathers of two years, and allowed the six year term for a Senator chosen by State Legislatures to remain as a fixture. Categorically making the seventeenth amendment unconstitutional before it was ever ratified.
My answer to the year old thread you linked.
I dont think it matters that it took a year to get some engaged in the problems and intended consequences of the unconstitutional in principle seventeenth amendment. The fact that it changed the most important part of the Founders vision encapsulated in the tenth amendment doesnt seem to get much traction, but any interest in its dangers I appreciate.
The part of the amendment that gets my attention is those proposing it failed to take into account the term limits imposed on REPRESEMTATIVES by the Founding Fathers of two years, and allowed the six year term for a Senator chosen by State Legislatures to remain as a fixture. Categorically making the seventeenth amendment unconstitutional before it was ever ratified.
9 posted on Friday, April 25, 2014 7:23:51 AM by wita
I’ll say it again. Absent the 17th Amendment David Dewhurst would be the junior senator from Texas. Bob Bennett would still be the junior senator from Utah. Mtch McConnell and Lindsay Graham would be sitting at home comfortable in the knowledge that they would be returning to the Senate in 2015.