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Constitution Revolution: How One Amendment is Actually Unraveling the Constitution


Is it possible that the Founders gave us a tool to put a limit on the power of the federal government? And then it was stripped away from us?

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This post is the continuation of a weekly Constitution Revolution series for and TheBlaze Radio’s Chris Salcedo Show. To see last week’s lesson, click here.

This article has been updated.

At first glance, Article 1, Section 3 looks like a very benign part of the Constitution.

All it does is lay out a few details about the Senate and give the qualifications a person needs to have to become a senator. In that way, it mirrors what Article 1, Section 2 does for the House of Representatives.

But tucked away in this section is one of the most important aspects of how our federal government was designed. If you have ever wondered why our federal government has gotten completely out of control, most of the answer lies in this innocent-looking part of the Constitution.

Article 1, Section 3 states that our senators would be appointed by state legislatures. That’s because - and burn this into your memory because it cannot be overemphasized - the original purpose of the Senate was to represent the interests of the state governments in Congress.

One of our most influential Founders, William Richardson Davie, explained it this way:

“The senators represent the sovereignty of the states; they are directly chosen by the state legislatures, and no legislative act can be done without their concurrence.”

What he’s saying here, is because the states would be represented in the Senate, the federal government can’t do much of anything without getting approval from the state governments first.

Under that system, any time that the federal government wanted to increase its own power - which would also have the effect of taking power away from the states - it would have to get permission from the states first.

Given what we know about human nature and our natural love of power, how likely do you think the states would be to voluntarily agree to give up some of their own power?

Not very likely.

That’s why having the Senate represent the state governments in Congress was such an effective way of keeping the federal government under control.

Here’s a great illustration that will help you to visualize how all of this works:

Unfortunately, in 1913 we ratified the 17th Amendment which set up the system we have today where senators are directly elected by the people. That amendment stripped the states of their voice in Washington, D.C. More importantly, it removed the biggest check we had on the power of our federal government.

If you want to know why it seems like it’s impossible for us to rein in our federal government, this is a huge part of it.

I know that it’s counter-intuitive to say that the state governments need to be represented in Congress. It seems like the right answer is to say, “This government is supposed to serve the people of this country, so the people should elect our senators!”

But in the real world, that doesn’t work.

We have to stop and think about what kind of system we can create that will actually keep our federal government from growing in the long term. In order to successfully do that, we have to find some force that is just as big, just as strong, and just as power-hungry as the federal government to act as a check on its power. In this country, the state governments are the only forces capable of performing that role.

So we have to get back to requiring the federal government to get permission from the states before it can take away any of their power. Otherwise, there is nothing to stop Washington, D.C. from continuing to get bigger and bigger - and from getting more and more involved in your personal life.

Chad Kent is an author and speaker with a unique style that makes the Constitution simple and fun. Listen to Chad every Saturday during The Chris Salcedo Show on TheBlaze Radio and visit his web site at

Feature Image: Courtesy of Author

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