Founders / Framers Minute
Article 1, Section 3, Clause 1
“The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof1, for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote.”
by Cornel Rasor
On May 29, 1787 Edmund Randolph proposed a bicameral legislature with proportional representation for each house. The House would be popularly elected while the Senate would be composed of members nominated by the state legislatures of each state and then elected by the members of the lower house. Smaller states were concerned that their interest would be abrogated by the larger states. Debate was lively and even included a motion (not seconded), to have the state governor appoint the senators.
There was concern about government always evolving towards democracy. Randolph observed that “the general object was to provide a cure for the evils under which the U. S. laboured; that in tracing these evils to their origin every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy: that some check therefore was to be sought for agst. this tendency of our Governments: and that a good Senate seemed most likely to answer the purpose.”
On May 31 The Committee proceeded to Resolution 5, “that the second, (or senatorial) branch of the National Legislature ought to be chosen by the first branch out of persons nominated by the State Legislatures.” Mr. Spaight contended that the 2d. branch ought to be chosen by the State Legislatures and moved an amendment to that effect. Mr. King reminded: According to this idea, there must be 80 or 100 members to entitle Delaware to the choice of one of them.–Mr. Spaight withdrew his motion.
Votes resulted in deadlock: “So the clause was disagreed to & a chasm left in this part of the plan.”
A smaller number of senators was proposed and Randolph was “for offering such a check as to keep up the balance, and to restrain, if possible, the fury of democracy.”
The convention just couldn’t decide.
On June 7 the convention moved “that the members of the 2d. branch ought to be chosen by the individual Legislatures.” Still a proportional body, there remained concern that smaller states could be easily muted. By June 11 the idea of one senator for each state was being discussed. This failed on a vote of 5-6. The length of service was also debated with 7 years proposed, others suggested 3 years. Those favoring longer terms for the senate noted that this would provide stability. Those against were concerned at the mischief a bad senator could do with so long a term.
The debate dragged on with the idea of all states having an equal vote in the senate surfacing. One vote per state failed 5-5-1 on July 2 and concern was rising that the convention was exceeding its delegated powers.
On July 14 “Mr. Pinkney moved that instead of an equality of votes the States should be represented in the 2d branch with differing representation making in the whole 36.” This proposal failed 4-6.
Finally on July 23 after a failed vote to have 3 senators from each state, the convention settled on 2 senators supplied by the legislature of each state.
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
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