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Constitution Day 2013: Delaware and the Ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment

AMENDMENT XVII (Seventeenth Amendment)

2013 is the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment

Passed by Congress May 13, 1912. Ratified by the states April 8, 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.


Note: this amendment modified Article I, section 3, of the Constitution.

Popular Election of Senators

Article I of the Constitution established the composition of the Senate. Each state would have two Senators and they would be chosen by the State Legislature (Article I, section 3).

The Seventeenth Amendment changed the selection process. The Senators are elected by the people of the state.


Large quotes around the words In 1899, problems in electing a Senator in Delaware were so acute that the state legislature did not send a senator to Washington for four years.

Direct Election of Senators (U.S. Senate)


Direct election of senators grew from twin causes. One was the desire for democratization of a process that was perceived to exclude "the common man." This desire was forcefully and eloquently expressed by leaders of the Progressive movement, such as William Jennings Bryan. Secondly, popular elections were seen as antidotes for what had been an increasingly corrupt process in which state legislatures were dominated by political machines. Political mechanizations sometimes resulted in legislative deadlocks, when no senator was sent to Washington or in situations where the Senate refused to seat the senator on grounds of corruption in the election process.

Delaware's situation was striking enough that it was often given as an example of legislative failures.

The amendment was controversial both when it was proposed and today.

Delaware Ratifies the Seventeenth Amendment

Delaware ratified Amendment XVII on June 25, 2010. This was ninety-seven years after the amendment was ratified by the states.

John Edward Addicks is "credited" with causing much of the disruption and deadlocked legislative senatorial votes in Delaware in the 1880s and 1890s.

According to Todd J. Zywicki, Delaware voted to reject the Seventeenth Amendment. (Zywicki, 1997, p. 199), but no date was cited. In contrast, other sources, such as Boyer and Ratledge (Delaware Politics and Government, p. 86) state that the General Assembly chose not to vote on the amendment.

See bibliography:

"Beyond the Shell and Husk of History: The History of the Seventeenth Amendment and its Implications for Current Reform Proposals"

Delaware Politics and Government