A Quick Start Guide To The Seventeenth Amendment—”A republic, if you can keep it.”

U.S. History In A Nutshell

On July 4, 1776, representatives of the thirteen united states of America declared independence from Great Britain. You can read all the reasons why via this link: Declaration of Independence: A Transcription.

The war actually began the year before on April 19, 1775 at the battles of Lexington and Concord—the British fired first.

The Revolutionary War effectively ended with the surrender of the British forces at Yorktown, Virginia. The war formally ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

The Period of the Confederacy

Along the way, the thirteen colonies, now thirteen independent states [definition 5a], organized under the Articles of Confederation, came into effect on March 1, 1781 when Maryland, the last to sign on, ratified the Articles.

The question of the power of central government evolved around representation. Would the popular vote prevail and render irrelevant the lesser populated states?

After the British forces captured the city of Philadelphia, urgency took center stage and the delegates agreed to state-by-state voting. As you will see later on, this decision defined our nation forever, well at least until ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment.

Birth of the Federation

On September 17, 1787, delegates of the thirteen states to the Constitutional Convention signed the final constitution. The famous quote of Benjamin Franklin dates to this date as he left the convention after member states signed it.

The Constitution was ratified when New Hampshire, the ninth of thirteen states, ratified the document on June 21, 1788.

A Nation of States, Not A Nation-State

Our present-day nation is a federation of fifty states. Limited and specific authorities were assigned to the federal government, most authorities reserved to the states, as per the Tenth Amendment. The limited and specific authority of the federal government is known as enumerated powers.

In his Federalist Paper No. 10, James Madison underscored the benefit of a nation of states with equal authority, regardless of the respective state populations.

The influence of factious leaders may kindle a flame within their particular States, but will be unable to spread a general conflagration through the other States. A religious sect may degenerate into a political faction in a part of the Confederacy; but the variety of sects dispersed over the entire face of it must secure the national councils against any danger from that source. Federalist 10, 22nd paragraph

Our republican form of government prevents factious state leaders like Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) from having power that would eclipse and render of no importance less populous states like Vermont, Rhode Island, and Alaska. Cuomo may get away with tyranny in New York state, but we in Texas are not under his control. One state = one vote.

re•pub•lic n. a state which is governed by representatives who are chosen by citizens in elections

The Senate

U.S. Senators were elected by the respective state legislatures to represent the interests of the states. The U.S. House represented the general population of the respective states.

“…in Article I, Section 3, the Framers designed the Senate, like they had other fixtures within the Constitution, such as the Electoral College and the judiciary, to be counter-majoritarian. The Framers’ distrust of tyrannies extended to popular majorities, and the Senate was originally constructed and empowered to function in ways that frustrated direct democracy and kept the House of Representatives in check. Whereas the Constitution provided that members of the House of Representatives would each be elected by popular majorities in their respective districts, the Constitution originally treated Senators quite differently.  In the original design, Senators were chosen by their respective State legislatures; indeed, as a result, they were subject to instruction and recall if they did not do what their legislatures told them to do…Moreover, the Constitution provides, in one of the most important compromises forged at the Constitutional Convention, that each State has two Senators in the Senate, regardless of the size of its population.National Constitution Center, Article 1, Section 3: The Senate

The Seventeenth Amendment

The House of Representatives proposed proposed amendments for the direct election of Senators. The Seventeenth Amendment was ratified on April 8, 1913. This amendment undermined the goal of the founding fathers to prevent tyrannies of popular majorities.

The U.S. senators are elected by a popular vote of the people of a state in the same way U.S. representatives are elected. Effectively, we have a lower house of representatives and an upper house. One consequence is the redistribution of wealth, a socialist ideal.

The ‘Big Dig’ in Boston was the most costly highway project in American history. Grossly underestimated, the ultimate price tag was $24 billion, almost ten times the original estimate. Who paid for it? All fifty states but the lion’s share was paid by the states of Texas, California, and Florida, the greatest consumers of motor fuel. For the record, after President Reagan vetoed the bill, the House passed a bill to override the president’s veto. The bill passed by ONE VOTE in the Senate.

A tyranny of the majority is not a pretty sight.

Repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment

In 2004, as his term in the Senate was ending, Georgia senator Zell Miller called for repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. Miller thought that direct election of senators had upset the Constitution’s careful balance between state and federal governments and made senators more susceptible to special interests from which they drew campaign contributions. “Make no mistake about it,” said Miller, who had been appointed to the Senate by the governor to fill a vacancy and then had won a special election to finish the term. “It is the special interest groups and their fundraising power that elect U.S. senators and then hold them in bondage forever.” Annenberg Classroom – Seventeenth Amendment

The Seventeenth Amendment eviscerated federalism.

I was flabbergasted when a majority of the 2020 Rockwall County GOP convention delegates voted down two proposals to repeal the amendment. But, I am thankful the proposition survived the state convention and is a plank, item 75, in our 2020 Republican Party Platform. Upload a PDF copy via the following link:

Let us preserve and strengthen our Republic and restore accountability of the U.S. Senate to the state legislatures.

John White
Rockwall, Texas

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