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This is not the Senate the Framers Imagined

Below is an excerpt from a recent piece about the much debated Seventeenth Amendment.


Roger Sherman, a convention delegate representing Connecticut, explained in a July 1789 letter to John Adams, the idea was that the “senators, being eligible by the legislatures of the several states, and dependent on them for reelection, will be vigilant in supporting their rights against infringement by the legislative or executive of the United States.”

The French diplomat Alexis de Tocqueville famously, and snootily, disdained the “vulgarity and … poverty of talent” of the “obscure individuals” who made up the House of Representatives. “It is said that the representatives of the people do not always know how to write correctly,” Tocqueville scoffed. Yards away, however, was “the door of the Senate, which contains within a small space a large proportion of the celebrated men of America,” whom he praised as “eloquent advocates, distinguished generals, wise magistrates, and statesmen of note, whose language would at all times do honor to the most remarkable parliamentary debates of Europe.”

Tocqueville attributed the “strange contrast” between the chambers entirely to the manner of their members’ selection. Although both assemblies reflected the choices of the people, in his estimation, the fact “that the House of Representatives is elected by the populace directly, and that the Senate is elected by elected bodies” changed everything. The “transmission of the popular authority through an assembly of chosen men” resulted in a Senate that reflected the best of the American spirit, a body capable of representing the community’s “elevated thoughts” and “nobler actions” rather than its “petty passions” and “vices.”

The Atlantic: This Is Not the Senate the Framers Imagined. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/01/not-senate-framers-imagined/605017/?utm_source=feed