Front Page Titles (by Subject) DIRECT ELECTION OF U.S. SENATORS - The American Nation: Primary Sources
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DIRECT ELECTION OF U.S. SENATORS - Bruce Frohnen, The American Nation: Primary Sources 
The American Nation: Primary Sources, ed. Bruce Frohnen (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2008).
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DIRECT ELECTION OF U.S. SENATORS
The American Constitution originally required that U.S. senators be appointed by their state legislatures. This provision was intended to protect the rights of states and the independence of senators from electoral pressures. Beginning in the 1850s there were a number of instances of legislative deadlock resulting in vacant Senate seats, as well as a number of bribery scandals related to the choosing of senators. While proposals for direct election had been made as early as 1826, they made little headway until the late nineteenth century, and resistance among senators remained especially fierce. In 1893 the House of Representatives passed a resolution favoring direct election of senators. Senator George Hoar of Massachusetts successfully led opposition to the resolution. After federal reforms failed, states began enacting laws providing for increasing participation of the general public in the election of senators, as well as petitioning Congress for reform. Over time the focus of resistance shifted from direct election itself to the question of whether the federal government should be allowed to control the means of senators’ selection; Southern senators in particular protested the possibility of federal troops at the polls enforcing federal regulations. A version of the amendment was passed by the Senate in April 1912 and sent to the states for ratification, which was achieved the next year, with Delaware and Utah the only states refusing to ratify.
Resolution Opposing Direct Election of Senators
IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES
April 3, 1893.—Laid on the table and ordered to be printed.
Mr. Hoar submitted the following RESOLUTION:
Resolved, That it is inexpedient that the resolution sent to the Senate by the House of Representatives during the last Congress providing for an amendment of the Constitution securing the election of Senators by the people of the several States be adopted;
Such a method of election would essentially change the character of the Senate as conceived by the convention that framed the Constitution and the people who adopted it;
It would transfer, practically, the selection of the members of this body from the legislatures, who are intrusted with all legislative powers of the States, to bodies having no other responsibilities, whose election can not be regulated by law, whose members act by proxy, whose tenure of office is for a single day, whose votes and proceedings are not recorded, who act under no personal responsibility, whose mistakes, ordinarily, can only be corrected by the choice of Senators who do not represent the opinions concerning public measures and policies of the people who choose them;
It requires the substitution of pluralities for majorities in the election;
It will transfer the seat of political power in great States, now distributed evenly over their territory, to the great cities and masses of population;
It will create new temptation to fraud, corruption, and other illegal practices, and, in close cases, will give rise to numerous election contests, which must tend seriously to weaken the confidence of the people in the Senate;
It will absolve the larger States from the constitutional obligation which secures the equal representation of all the States in the Senate by providing that no State shall be deprived of that equality without its consent;
It implies what the whole current of our history shows to be untrue, that the Senate has during the past century failed to meet the just expectations of the people, and that the State legislatures have proved themselves unfit to be the depositaries of the power of electing Senators;
The reasons which require this change, if acted upon and carried to their logical result, will lead to the election by the direct popular vote, and by popular majorities, of the President and of the Judiciary, and will compel the placing of these elections under complete national control;
It will result in the overthrow of the whole scheme of the Senate and, in the end, of the whole scheme of the National Constitution as designed and established by the framers of the Constitution and the people who adopted it.
U.S. Constitution, Seventeenth Amendment
May 31, 1913
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 demand for alcohol on the frontier, where there was little by way of law or material comforts, conflicted with the self-denying Calvinist roots of American religious life. Temperance societies, committed to the closing of saloons and the outlawing of strong drink, were powerful by early in the nineteenth century. Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902) was for decades a leader in the women’s temperance movement, as well as in movements for women’s rights and the abolition of slavery. Stanton, who worked closely with the suffragist Susan B. Anthony for decades, consistently argued that social and political progress required temperance and that the banning of alcoholic beverages would reduce crime, poverty, and the costs of government. Opponents of prohibition had been painted as enemies of progress, and their statements tended to question the wisdom, not of prohibition itself, but rather of the placement of prohibition in a federal constitutional amendment. States’rights arguments failed, and the Eighteenth Amendment was ratified. Within a few years, however, even former supporters were calling for the repeal of prohibition on the grounds that the “noble experiment” had not yielded the desired results—indeed, had produced increased crime, poverty, and government expense. It should be noted that repeal of the Eighteenth Amendment merely undid the national policy of prohibition, leaving the states to decide what policy to take in regard to alcoholic beverages.