17th Amendment


US Constitution of 1787


17th Amendment

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US Constitution Amendment
Proposal Date
Enacted Date
17th
Establishes the direct election of United States Senators by popular vote - Signers: Speaker of the House Champ Clark (D-MS) & Vice President James S. Sherman (R-NY)
May 12, 1912
April 8, 1913

The Seventeenth Amendment (Amendment XVII) to the United States Constitution was passed by the Senate on June 12, 1911, the House of Representatives on May 13, 1912, and ratified by the states on April 8, 1913. The amendment supersedes Article I, § 3, Clauses 1 and 2 of the Constitution, transferring Senator selection from each state's legislature to popular election by the people of each state. It also provides a contingency provision enabling a state's governor, if so authorized by the state legislature, to appoint a Senator in the event of a Senate vacancy until either a special or regular election to elect a new Senator is held.

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



The Republicans that introduced and pushed through the 17th Amendment argued that the cure for the republic’s shortcomings was more democracy. The opposition argued that the fundamental purpose of the U.S. Senate was to protect the sovereignty of the states which checked the federal government through legislative appointments of U.S. Senators.  Exhibited are two Pamphlets:




Speech of Hon. Wm. E. Chandler, of New Hampshire, against Senate joint resolution no. 37, proposing an amendment of the Constitution relating to the election of senators by the people: delivered in the Senate of the United States, April 12, 1892, Publication of Congress, Washington 1911        




 Election of senators by the people: If United States Senators are elected by the people instead of by the legislators the people should be permitted to vote. The constitutional method of electing senators has worked well for one hundred and twenty-two years. Why experiment? Speech of Hon. Chauncey M. Depew of New York in the Senate of the United States Tuesday, January 24, 1911, Publication of Congress, Washington 1911         

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