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The roles of the government in the United States were discussed and accepted during to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. However, some of the adopted laws were altered over time due to historical and cultural changes. The Seventeenth Amendment is one of them. Therefore, the aim of this paper is to evaluate the 17th Amendment through studying the historical context, discussing process of the change, and its positive and negative consequences.
To begin with, the 17th Amendment was adopted in 1913 when the voters gained the possibility to elect senators for the first time. However, many events between 1787 and 1913 led to introducing a new amendment. The first attempts to make the amendment to Constitution appeared in 1826. However, they failed. Later, in 1866, American Congress specified the time and procedures of election due to the difficulties in New Jersey and Indiana, but the procedure itself was left untouched. After the Civil War, discussion about electing senators increased among state legislatures and resulted into the absence of the representatives of certain states for a long period. For example, Delaware was without representation in the Senate for two years due to constant ballots. Other states suffered from similar problems, so the claims about the necessity to make reforms became stronger. Therefore, in the beginning of the twentieth century, some states, particularly Oregon, introduced new rules that gave people the right to choose senators. In addition to that, the necessity of reforms was strengthened by the publications of Philips in Cosmopolitan magazine who described senators as officials dependable on manufactures. Finally, in 1911, the Senate’s resolution to amend Constitution was adopted, and in 1913, the 17th Amendment was officially added. Therefore, Civil War was one of the most important historical events that led to the appearance of the amendment due to a strong calling for reforms (Moreno, 2013).
As for the intial intention of the Founding Fathers, they voted for electing senators by state legislators due to several reasons. First, it had to reduce the possibility of the centralization of power and supporting only federal interests. Second, the Constitution allowed states to express their interests in discussing federal interests, agreements, etc. Third, creating legislative brunch through two different procedures provided the possibility to conduct a political check over them. Besides, state legislators know more about the personality and qualifications of the potential senators, so they could make a more objective decision on the elections (Hoebeke, 1995).
The final decisions of the Founders Fathers were influenced greatly by the culture of the eighteenth century. In particular, the states were more differentiated. For example, they had various interests, vision of dealing with problems, etc. Therefore, the idea of uniting them and creating the powerful federal government looked frightening. However, Civil War and other historical events in the United States also contributed to adopting the Seventeenth Amendment (Moreno, 2013).
Nevertheless, the adoption of the Seventeenth Amendment had both positive and negative consequences. On the one hand, it enhanced the election of state senators as well as normalized the work of state officials that spent too much time on discussing the potential candidates. In addition, people got more rights to express their opinion (Byrd, 1998)
On the other hand, the 17th Amendment led to reducing the representation of the states in the government. As a result, the power of state legislatures became smaller, whereas the influence of federal government increased. This provoked the emergence of the groups lobbying their interests. In addition, the provision that allows replacing free senate seats by the federal government is not clearly explained. Besides, it changed the political composition of the Senate. In particular, earlier rural population and citiies had equal representation in the government, because the vote of one was equal to the votes of 200 citizens from the cities. As a result, the interests of different groups of citizens could be considered during making decisions in the Senate (Haynes, 1938).
Therefore, the Seventeenth Amendment put an end to the absence of state representatives for a long time, but it differed from the initial intentions of the Founding Fathers. The authors of the Constitution intended to save the power of states to control keeping their interests and avoid the centralization of power in the hands of the federal government. In addition, introducing the rule that one citizen can give one vote destroyed the intention of the Founding Fathers to give the equal rights to people from rural places and cities. However, such difference between the initial intentions of the Founding Fathers expressed in the Constitution and the amendment adopted in 1913 can be easily explained by culture changes. In particular, there was a tendency for uniting people, whereas in the eighteenth century, people tended to stay isolated. In addition, people were less involved in the political life. However, over time, their interests gradually increased, so they started requiring more influence in the country. Besides, destroying the slavery also strengthened the desire for democracy and more active position (Moreno, 2013).
To sum up, historical events as well as cultural changes provoked the calls to make changes in the American Constitution, particularly the way of electing the legislative branch. One of such amendments was adopted in 1913. However, it had both negative and positive consequences. On the one hand, it stopped the blockage of the states due to their inability to choose senators and gave more rights to people. On the other hand, it increased the risk of centralization of the power in federal government denying the interests of states, reducing equity between rural and urban population, and lobbying interests of the certain interests.
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