Founders / Framers Minute 8:
Article 1, Section 3, Clause 2
“Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. The Seats of the Senators of the first Class shall be vacated at the Expiration of the second Year, of the second Class at the Expiration of the fourth Year, and of the third Class at the Expiration of the sixth Year, so that one third may be chosen every second Year; and if Vacancies happen by Resignation, or otherwise, during the Recess of the Legislature of any State, the Executive thereof may make temporary Appointments until the next Meeting of the Legislature, which shall then fill such Vacancies.”
by Cornel Rasor
Fisher Ames observed during the Massachusetts ratifying convention that “The senators represent the sovereignty of the states; in the other house, individuals are represented.” Even so, there was concern over the proposed 6 year term of senators. That 6 year term, already discussed, formed the basis for the three classes mentioned.
Once the concerns about a perpetual body that would assume the characteristics of an aristocracy were somewhat alleviated, the convention then settled on the method of the first senate election. Providing for a rotation that would leave many sitting senators in office would prevent the loss of institutional memory and process.
The longer term, older citizenship age and greater age reflected the desire for a more stable body that engaged in a different set of enumerated responsibilities requiring more trust. Madison said in Federalist 62:
“A senator must be thirty years of age at least; as a representative, must be twenty-five. And the former must have been a citizen nine years; as seven years are required for the latter. The propriety of these distinctions is explained by the nature of the senatorial trust; which requiring greater extent of information and stability of character, requires at the same time that the senator should have reached a period of life most likely to supply these advantages; and which participating immediately in transactions with foreign nations, ought to be exercised by none who are not thoroughly weaned from the prepossessions and habits incident to foreign birth and education.”
Finally, any vacancies would be effected by the Governor of the state until the state legislature so deprived, met to fill the vacancy.1
1 Changed by the 17th Amendment.
Founders / Framers Minute 1: Article I, Section 1
Founders / Framers Minute 2: Article I, Section 2, Clause 1-2
Founders / Framers Minute 3: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3a
Founders / Framers Minute 4: Article I, Section 2, Clause 3b
Founders / Framers Minute 5: Article I, Section 2, Clause 4
Founders / Framers Minute 6: Article I, Section 2, Clause 5
Founders / Framers Minute 7: Article I, Section 3, Clause 1
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