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The Recent Constitutional Amendments, 23 Yale Law Journal 129 (1913)


The present year has witnessed the incorporation in our

National Constitution of two important changes to be known

respectively as the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments;-

the one, proclaimed by the Secretary of State as formally adopted

February 25, 1913, empowers Congress to lay a direct tax in the

nature of an income tax irrespective of the source whence such

income may be drawn, and freed, too, from any necessity of

apportionment among the several states in conformity to their

population; the other, proclaimed May 31, 1913, transfers the

choice of senators from state legislatures directly to the voters.

As in the instance of the adoption in 1798 of the Eleventh Amendment,

a constitutional interpretation rendered by the Supreme

Court has furnished the impulse leading to the adoption of the

Sixteenth. The Seventeenth Amendment, however,---a change

long-desired by many-draws its inspiration from widely-differing

sources and is fraught with far deeper constitutional significance.

Here we have our second national legislative chamber

brought to rest directly on the will of the citizen-body, and thus,

bearing in mind that the National Executive is now practically

although not constitutionally chosen by popular vote, our plan of

government is seen to be divested of that element of official

guardianship deemed essential when in 1787, it was sought to

interpose local legislators or Federal electors between the people

at large and those who should be selected to administer their

government. Time, however, has effectualy demonstrated the

peril or ineffectiveness of such intermediates, nor is the spirit of

modern self-government easily tolerant, as may be gathered from

recent discussions in the British and French parliaments, of legislators

whose immediate choice is not confided to the hands of

those for whose benefit it is supposed to have been made.

Date of Authorship for this Version


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