The Rapid Sequence of Events Forcing the Senate's Hand: A Reappraisal of the Seventeenth Amendment, 1890-1913
For over 125 years, from the ratification of the Constitution to the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, the voting public did not elect U.S. senators. Instead, as a result of careful planning by the Founding Fathers, state legislatures alone possessed the authority to elect two senators to represent their respective interests in Washington. It did not take long for second and third generation Americans to question the legitimacy of this process. To many observers, the system was in dire need of reform, but the stimulus for a popular elections amendment was controversial and not inevitable. This essay examines why reform came in 1911 with the Senate’s unexpected passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, which was ratified twenty-four months later in the first year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency.