Skip to comments.Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment
Posted on 05/30/2005 5:58:31 PM PDT by Remember_Salamis
Repeal the Seventeenth Amendment by Thomas J. DiLorenzo May 17, 2005
Every once in a blue moon someone in Congress (usually Congressman Ron Paul of Texas) proposes a law or resolution that would actually improve the prospects for human liberty and prosperity. Its rare, but not nonexistent. One such case is Senate Joint Resolution 35, introduced into the U.S. Senate on April 28, 2004, which was recently brought to my attention by Laurence Vance.
S.J. Res. 35 reads: "Resolved . . . . The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed." Thats Section 1. Section 2 reads that "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the legislature thereof, for six years . . ."
This was the original design of the founding fathers; U.S. senators were not directly elected by the voting public until 1914. Thus, S.J. Res. 35 proposes a return to founding principles and is therefore a most revolutionary idea. A good overview of the history of the Seventeenth Amendment is Ralph A. Rossums book, Federalism, the Supreme Court, and the Seventeenth Amendment. Rossum correctly points out that the system of federalism or "divided sovereignty" that the founding fathers created with the Constitution was never intended to be enforced by the Supreme Court alone. Congress, the president, and most importantly, the citizens of the states, were also to have an equal say on constitutional matters.
The citizens of the states were to be represented by their state legislatures. As Roger Sherman wrote in a letter to John Adams: "The senators, being . . . dependent on [state legislatures] for reelection, will be vigilant in supporting their rights against infringement by the legislative or executive of the United States."
Rossum also quotes Hamilton as saying that the election of senators by state legislatures would be an "absolute safeguard" against federal tyranny. George Mason believed that the appointment of senators by state legislatures would give the citizens of the states "some means of defending themselves against encroachments of the National Government."
Fisher Ames thought of U.S. senators as "ambassadors of the states," whereas Madison, in Federalist #62, wrote that "The appointment of senators by state legislatures gives to state governments such an agency in the formation of the federal government, as must secure the authority of the former." Moreover, said Madison, the mere "enumeration of [federal] powers" in the Constitution would never be sufficient to restrain the tyrannical proclivities of the central state, and were mere "parchment barriers" to tyranny. Structural arrangements, such as the appointment of senators by state legislatures, were necessary.
State legislatures did not hesitate to instruct U.S. senators on how to vote. In fact, the very first instruction that was given to them was to meet in public! The Virginia and Kentucky Resolves of 1798 (see William Watkins, Reclaiming the American Revolution) were the work of state legislatures that instructed their senators to oppose the Sedition Act, which essentially made it illegal to criticize the federal government.
State legislatures were instrumental in Andrew Jacksons famous battle with the Bank of the United States (BUS), which ended with the Bank being de-funded and replaced by the Independent Treasury System and the era of "free banking" (18421862). State legislatures throughout the U.S. instructed their senators to oppose the BUS in the senate. Senator Pelog Sprague of Maine was forced to resign in 1835 after ignoring his legislatures instructions to vote against the Bank. The U.S. Senate voted to censure President Andrew Jackson for opposing the BUS, but the states responded by forcing seven other senators to resign for taking part in that vote. (It seems that its not only twenty-first century Republicans who run for office by calling Washington, D.C. a cesspool, and then thinking of it as more like a hot tub once they get there).
The founding fathers understood that it would never be in the Supreme Courts self-interest to protect states rights. Rossum quotes the anti-federalist writer "Brutus" on this point:
It would never be in the self-interest of the Court to strike down federal laws trenching on the inviolable and residuary sovereignty of the states, because every extension of power of the general legislature, as well as of the judicial powers, will increase the powers of the courts.
"Brutus also pointed out that with increased powers of the courts would likely come increased compensation for federal judges.
The adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913 (along with the income tax and the Fed) was a result of the deification of "democracy" that began with the Union victory in the War to Prevent Southern Independence. The war was fought, said Lincoln at Gettysburg, so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people" should not perish from the earth. This of course was absurd nonsense, but Lincolns silver-tongued rhetoric was apparently persuasive enough to those residing north of the Mason-Dixon line.
The direct election of senators was said to be more democratic, and therefore would reduce, if not end, corruption. There was a good bit of corruption involved in the election of senators, but the source of the corruption was: democracy!
As Rossum recounts, in 1866 a new federal law was passed that mandated for the first time how the states were to appoint senators. First, a voice vote would be taken in each house. If there was no overwhelming choice, then a concurrent vote would be taken. This process revealed information about voting preferences to minority cliques within the legislatures, who then knew who they had to support or oppose. The end result was frequent gridlocks (71 from 1885 to 1912 alone). The deadlocks were inevitably ended by bribery. Thus "democracy, in the form of the 1866 law, led to the bribery, so that the natural "cure" for the problem was: More democracy!
The Seventeenth Amendment was one of the last nails to be pounded into the coffin of federalism in America. The citizens of the states, through their state legislators, could no longer place any roadblocks whatsoever in the way of federal power. The Sixteenth Amendment, which enacted the income tax in the same year, implicitly assumed that the federal government lays claim to all income, and that citizens would be allowed to keep whatever their rulers in Washington, D.C. decided they could keep by setting the tax rates. From that point on, the states were only mere appendages or franchises of the central government.
The federal government finally became a pure monopoly and citizen sovereignty became a dead letter. Further arming itself with the powers of legal counterfeiting (the Fed) in the same year, the federal government could ignore the wishes of great majority of the citizens with reckless and disastrous abandon, as it did with its entry into World War I just a few years later.
If Americans ever again become interested in living in a free society, one of their first orders of business should be the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment.
It has to do with the sort of people who strive for election to the Senate, and it doesn't really matter if there are 100 voters or 10,000,000!
The solution is to change the nature of the job.
I've proposed that we set aside certain elective jobs under the condition that you get elected one time only, but you get to steal or graft all that you can get away with, and at the end of your term you are taken out and publicly executed on the steps of Congress.
Being a US Senator would seem to be a suitible candidate for this process. Still, I think we'd still end up with the same guys in the Senate that we have now.
Why no link?
You totally miss the point. The 17th Amendment ABOLISHED the UNITED STATES SENATE! We now have two Houses of Representatives, both directly elected and subject to the pupulism of the masses.
The Senate was intended to represent the rights and interests of states at the national level. Nothing more, nothing less. That is now gone.
The states, and their respective legislatures, no longer have direct representation at the federal level. The only power legislatures now have is to gerrymander congressional districts.
To put it in historical perspestive, the seventeenth amendment is akin to Cesar emasculating the Roman Senate.
Here's an article by Bruce Bartlett in NRO from a year ago:
Oh that is so very wrong, and you should be ashamed of yourself for suggesting it.
The bloodstains would take months and months to come out of the steps. Do it on the grass instead.
You shudder to think what the system envisioned by the Founding Fathers would deliver?
One point you're missing is that the State Legislatures are far less important than they were pre-17th. If it was repealed, the makeup of the legislatures would be different. Remember, there was a time in American history when being a state senator was more important than being a congressman.
If you fail to notice that, you fail to notice the fundamental difference between the two bodies, of course.
If you have a legislature vote for a Senator, the only difference between that and having everybody in the state vote for a Senator is the number of voters!
We have the same issue when it comes to appointing or electing judges. Pretty much the same sort of people end up being judges, but the number of folks voting is different.
Personally, I prefer as broad a base as possible in the electorate for every office.
BTW, I think you are raising this meaningless objection simply because I pointed to the problem ~ the poor quality and character of Senators ~ and the solution ~ one term and then execution.
Playing around with the number of voters isn't going to address quality and character and you know it.
So what is it that we the Sheeple can do to help abolish the 17th Amendment? Our senators surely wouldnt stand for it. They would lose all of their money and actually have to represent an institution.
Well, the grass, or maybe down on the blacktop near a drain. That's where the big dogs park you know.
how could it get any worsr ?
""we"" ?? elected hillary and schumer.
Focus all efforts on it? IF the 17th was repealed, all other reform efforst would fall into place: judges, taxes, abortion, etc.
I'm with you. I would prefer to see the 17th abolished. I think it would change the nature of Congress fundamentally.
Actually, the Legislatures were able to recall senators who disobeyed the state legislatures. If the same system were still in place, Republican Sen. Lindsay Graham would have been recalled last week for his little filibuster fiasco.
I have long believed that returning some veto power to state governments via the US Senate would be the best counter-balance to the increasingly totalitarian central government.
It is an idea whose time has returned.
If senators don't tow the line of the legislature, they are recalled.
If we were under the old system, Kevin White and Billy Bulger would be senators for life. - tom
If you want "recall" you are going to have to add that to the Constitution!
Plus the people in flyover parts of the states had a larger voice you didn't like the people in the senate your local vote for state rep counted.
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