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 The seventeenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed."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.
Technically this is correct however, The Virginia Reslolves were written by Madison and the Kentucky Resolutions were written by Jefferson who was out of government completely at the time. The Alien and Sedition Acts were typical of what was done at a later time in the name of "crisis". The Emergency Powers Act of 1933 saddled us with the Executive Order form of government which is nowhere listed in the Constitution. Essentially, it granted Emergency Powers to the President, (FDR) which are still in use today.
At least the Alien and Sedition Acts had a "sunset clause" and they became automatically void on March 4, 1801. The day that Jefferson was sworn in as President.
The Souf' should have thought about that before firing on Fort Sumter. Next time I'm sure you will. In the meantime the 14th Amendment is in place ~ although it is frequently misread.
There's already a bill pending, with it's most prominent supporter being Tom DeLay.
The difference is that the state legislatures were more responsive to the voters of their respective states. If a U.S. Senator did not represent his state, the state legislature could and did remove him. An example: Jim Lane of Kansas was removed as Senator during the Cvil War and wound up committing suicide rather than face prosecution.
DiLorenzo's point is that the 16th wouldn't have meant anything if there was a TRUE SENATE there to block the growth of government.
Wonder what they did with their Senators in Arkansas when they ran two completely separate State governments during the Civil War?
Or at least illegally ratified 14th. That's when they learned to load the dice.
Maybe someone else remembers that.
Oh really? That's great. I just got done emailing 3 of my US reps and plan on doing it to the remaining 16. Do you know how it is going or have a link where i can read more about this?
The same Fort Sumter that was reinforced by the Union to facilitate tax collection in South Carolina? That Fort Sumter?
The Federal Reserve Act was brought up, and voted on on Christmas Eve when the majority of legislators were absent. Since we have no statement in the Constitution of a required Quorum, they can do that. It was signed into law before anyone knew about it. It had been voted down 3 times previously by the full house.
They helped slow the growth of government from 1789 - 1913.
Now if you are talking about the federal income tax, another poster noted that it was pasted into the Constitution to assuage the sensibility of Southerners who were getting darned tired of direct taxation on imports ~ inasmuch as they imported almost everything they used (except cotton).
If taxes were the issue, you boys sure got even with everybody. Now go pray to God that he might forgive you someday!
They did? Give me some examples. Betcha' one of them will be the Runaway Slave Act that initiated an unfunded mandate on the states to prosecute people for an unjust federal law that had no Constitutional underpinnings.
One of my favorite essays on the subject by a Freeper:
As much as I would like to see the 17th ammendment repealed, I unfortunately realize that the electorate is too ignorant of history to appreciate why it should be. It's depressing in a way.
If it did manage to gain any traction, I can already hear the Reid and Hillary types decrying it as a "destruction of democracy!", and neither the senators nor the people recognizing the irony of such a statement.
I still think single term Senate seats would do more good than anything fancy.
it was S.J.R. 25 in the 108th, but I don't know what it is now...
Arkansas passed an ordnance of secession.