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
Sherman, Gordon E., "The Recent Constitutional Amendments" (1913). Faculty Scholarship Series. Paper 4838.