SEVENTEENTH AMENDMENT IS A CENTURY OLD TODAY
Charleston, South Carolina (JFK+50) As JFK+50 is enjoying a short visit to the Holy City, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the 17th Amendment to the United States Constitution which was declared the law of the land by Secretary of State WILLIAM JENNINGS BRYAN on May 31, 1913.
By ARTICLE I, Section 3, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the LEGISLATURE there of, for 6 years..."
From the time the Constitution of the United States went into effect in 1789 until May 31, 1913, this was the law of the land.
National Archives Image
According to the SENATE HISTORICAL OFFICE...
"The framers thought that having senators elected by the legislatures would aid senators because they would be less subject to pressure and have more time to do business."
Another benefit was this arrangement would "strengthen the ties between the national and state governments."*
*Only one of the Founding Fathers supported direct election of the Senate by popular vote and that was JAMES WILSON.
These benefits did not seem so crucial to progressives of the early 20th Century, including W.J. Bryan, who lobbied for a change.
In 1911, the Senate approved the 17th Amendment providing for direct election of Senators by popular vote.
Approval by the House of Representatives followed in 1912.
The required approval of 3/4 of the state legislatures came on April 18, 1913.*
*TENNESSEE ratified on April 1, 1913 while Utah, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia DID NOT ratify.
Alabama, Delaware and Maryland ratified the 17th Amendment after the year 2000.
Support for the amendment in the Congress was not universal. The opposition was led by ELIHU ROOT and GEORGE FRISBIE HOAR.**
Senator Hoar said that THE PEOPLE were "less permanent and less trusted" than the members of state legislatures.
George Frisbie Hoar
United States Senator
**George Frisbie Hoar (1826-1904) was born in Concord, Massachusetts. He served as a Republican in the US House of Representatives from 1869 to 1877 and the US Senate from 1877 to 1904.
Hoar was a strong supporter of African American and Native American rights as well as woman suffrage. He was author of the Presidential Succession Act of 1886 and opposed US intervention in Cuba in the late 1800s.
"The 17th Amendment Observes Its Centennial," The National Archives, www.blogs.archives.gov/