This post is part of a series that will make more sense if it is read in order. If you haven’t read the earlier posts in this series, please click here to start with the first one. One reason I’ve broken this series into fairly small parts is that we have a tendency to rush through reading the Constitution and miss a lot of it. I hope the readers of this series will ponder the points in each session. I also hope you will comment on each post as we go along.
We’re slowly working our way through the Constitution and its amendments. Today, we’ll consider the Seventeenth Amendment.
Throughout this series on the Constitution, my comments will be in black normal font, and the text of the document will be in this color and italicized.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote. The electors in each State shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the State legislatures.
When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies: Provided, That the legislature of any State may empower the executive thereof to make temporary appointments until the people fill the vacancies by election as the legislature may direct.
This amendment shall not be so construed as to affect the election or term of any Senator chosen before it becomes valid as part of the Constitution.
This amendment changes the method of choosing members of the U. S. Senate. Prior to the ratification of this amendment, senators were chosen under Article I, Section 3, which reads: The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years . . .
Although we tended to have real statesmen under the old system rather than politicians more intent on re-election than serving the nation well, for some reason the populism movement caused us to make this change.
Benjamin Franklin, exiting Constitutional Convention:
“We’ve given you a republic, if you can keep it.”
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The whole thing has become much more politicized since this amendment. Today’s Senators seem much more concerned about re-election than good government.
I did not know that the state legislators used to select the 2 U.S. Senators for their state. It seems to me that this 17th Amendment, allowing for the people of the state to select its U.S. senators, would be more democratic than the original selection method.