By Gary Randleas
Many Americans may not realize the history of the 17th Amendment and how it came to be. Although acclaimed as a triumph for the American people, it negates the Founders’ original intent which was to create checks and balances within the Federal Government.
The American Founders had extensive knowledge of governments throughout history. Of their strengths and weaknesses; their successes and failures. They saw patterns that, time and again, led to a society’s destruction. Because of this, the Founders went to great lengths to design a system that would eliminate the potential for similar failures. When they created the three branches of government, they were insistent that there be a complete balance of power. Not only did they devise checks and balances among the three branches, they also created them within each individual branch. The legislative branch was set up as a House of Representatives elected by the people and a Senate elected by the state legislatures. The Founders’ hope was that by allowing state legislatures to elect senators, the state would retain a large degree of sovereignty, thereby ensuring that their rights would be protected in a federal system. The Founders didn’t want senators to involve themselves with the popular issues of the day. It was their responsibility to concentrate on states’ rights. They were to focus on balancing the budget, keeping taxes as low as possible, and serving as the primary check over the ‘sometimes radical’ ideas of the House of Representatives.
There were those who argued that by not letting the people elect all branches of government, corruption would creep in and gradually form a tyrannical aristocracy. The Founders’ response was that in order for corruption to prevail, the Senate itself would have to become corrupt, then the state legislatures, the House of Representatives, and finally the corruption of the people. This was unlikely to happen because a succession of new representatives would take over after an election.
In 1911 corruption came into play and there were those who wanted to change what the founders had established. U.S. senators bought their seats with bribes paid to members of state legislatures. As a result of this corruption, the 17th Amendment of the Constitution was adopted on April 8, 1913. This has not solved the problem but has only made it worse. Now we have tens of thousands of illegal transactions between several thousand unknown funding sources and the state no longer has a voice at the federal level.
Whether or not the repeal of the 17th Amendment is ever realized, it is important to learn from history, as our Founders did, not to repeat the mistakes that have proven to be the undoing of nations.
Federalist Papers # 62
Federalist Papers # 63
Federalist Papers # 64
Federalist Papers # 65
Federalist Papers # 66
The Federalist Papers can be a hard read. But, as Sir Walter Scott has said "All men who have turned out worth anything have had the cheif hand in their own education."