April 26, 2010 – Articles IV – VII – Cathy Gillespie
Tuesday, April 27th, 2010
Thank you for reading and blogging with us today in our 90 in 90 = History Holds the Key to the Future Program! Tomorrow is Day 5, and will be our last day on the United States Constitution before we embark upon the Federalist Papers. Please join us in blogging on the Amendments tomorrow. If you have been quietly reading along, we want to hear from you! And please continue to forward our website www.constitutingamerica.org to your friends, and post on Facebook, Tweet, mention on LinkedIn – help us spread the word!
A big thank you also to Professor Knipprath for your insightful comments on Articles IV – VII. I hate to admit that I am one of those people you speak of in your first sentence, for whom Articles IV – VII were terra incognita! Yet, these are some of the most important Articles in the Constitution: the amendment process arguably one of the most important of all.
With a 2/3 vote required in both houses of Congress, or 2/3 of state legislatures required to call for a constitional convention to propose an amendment, and then 3/4 of the State Legislatures required to ratify, or 3/4 of the states ratify in conventions, I marvel that the Constitution has been successfully amended as many times as it has. Our founders brilliantly put mechanisms in place to ensure that the Constitution be difficult, but not impossible to amend.
I noticed in the blog comments today many ideas as to what our next Constitutional amendments should be. These efforts may take many years. Various members of Congress have been working for decades to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment , for example. But thanks to the founders’ wisdom and vision, when the next Constitutional Amendment is passed, we will be assured it has been thoroughly vetted, rigorously debated, and that a super majority of the Congress and States (and therefore a majority of Americans), will agree it is necessary.
Thank you again for your participation, and contributions to our understanding of the United States Constitution. Keep spreading the word!!
See you in the morning!
2 Responses to “April 26, 2010 – Articles IV – VII – Cathy Gillespie”
Richard Heck says:
First thank you for mentioning God and how important He was and is to our country and how important He was to our founding fathers. I had a question on the election of Senators. Why was this changed and what implications did or does it have on how our government runs today? I saw where either you or Janine mentioned this last week and how health care might have been different if we were still electing them the original way.
Constituting America says:
Hi Richard – I recommend two excellent books that provide background on the U.S. Constitution and and the Amendments:
Seth Lipsky’s THE CITIZENS CONSTITUTION: AN ANNOTATED GUIDE, 2009 and the HERITAGE GUIDE TO THE CONSTITUTION edited by Ed Meese, Mathew Spalding and David Forte.
In brief, Amendment XVII was approved by Congress on May 12, 1912 and ratified by the required 3/4′s of the State Legislatures in less than 11 months. Most of the votes in the State Legislatures were overwhelmingly in favor of ratification, 52 of the 72 state legislative chambers voted unanimously in favor and in all of the 36 ratiflying States’ legislatures, votes against ratification totalled only 191 – 152 of these votes came from the lower chambers of Vermont and Connecticut. It is interesting it took the U.S. Congress so long to approve this Constitutional amendment, which had been considered in one form another since 1826. In 1912, Senators were already being picked by direct election in 29 of the 48 States. States moved to direct election of Senators through a process of non-binding primary elections by the people, whereby state legislators promised to vote for the candidate the people selected by direct election. State laws were even enacted that required State legislative candidates to sign pledges to vote for the Senate candidate the people selected in their “non binding” eection. (Heritage Guide the Constitution, page 413 – 414).
Electing U.S. Senators by the State Legislatures had become problematic over the years because many State Legislatures were deadlocked and couldn’t agree on a candidate, thus leaving some states without representation in U.S. Senate, often for more than a year. Corruption and Reconstruction politics contributed to these deadlocks. The Indiana Senate seat, for example, stayed empty for two years due to tension between the northern and southern regions of the state.
The argument for direct election of U.S. Senators was to make Congress more “democratic,” but this change also stripped away an important protection built into the Constitution by the framers to protect States’ rights. Because the health care bill puts new burdens on states, the argument could be made that had U.S. Senators still been elected by State Legislatures, they would have been more oriented towards protecting the interests of their State’s government.
Interestingly, Georgia Democrat Zell Miller called for the repeal of the 17th Amendment in 2004 before his retirement, saying “federalism has become to this generation of leaders some vague philosophy of the past that is dead, dead, dead. Reformers of the early 1900′s killed it dead and cremated the body when they allowed for the direct election of the U.S. Senators.” (The Citizen’s Constitution, an Annotated Guide, Page 66).