In a recent discussion with homeschoolers, I asked the question: What really is core? What really matters most? My own simple answer is: Whatever is on the test. And on what are we now being tested? Is it not faith and freedom? And after that whatever is needed for our personal missions.
Let’s talk about Freedom first, then faith. What if we were to be transferred through the veil this very day, welcomed by a Heavenly being, and asked, “What is your understanding of the proper role of personal, family, and civil government? How have you lived the principles? What have you taught your children about governing? What have you done to protect liberty in America?
The United States Constitution is a divinely inspired document, like unto scripture, that should take us into the Millennium if we will only follow it. The journey will require us to become Christlike in our political decisions and discussions. It would require us to be educated. This article is a call for citizens to know the principles of good government and live by them to avoid being deceived and to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands.
Our discussion will center on Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and the 17th Amendment to the Constitution because his final campaign mailer is what caught my attention, but the call is for all elected leaders and all citizens. Hatch is a nationally known Congressman who is closely aligned with Mitt Romney. If Romney is elected – and he is certainly the best of the two choices — we cannot assume that a burden has been lifted and go back to sleep. Our duty as citizens is to be ever vigilant in protecting our freedoms. We can’t all watch everything, but we can all do our parts. The hope for our country is not in political power but in the power of knowledge and righteousness and prayer. We have a long way to go.
The 17th Amendment to the Constitution
Do you know how the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution changed our government?
Do you know who backed that 1913 Amendment and why?
Do you know how the Founders originally wrote that section of the Constitution and why?
- Section III, 1st Clause.
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two senators from each State, chosen by the legislatures thereof, for six years ; and each senator shall have one vote.
– The Constitution as punctuated in an 1873 schoolbook.
(The Declaration and Constitution were once included in all school history books.)
- Amendment XVII, 1913
The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, elected by the people thereof, for six years; and each Senator shall have one vote.
If we are going to be able to discern truth and avoid being deceived as our Constitution hangs by a thread, we must understand America’s foundational documents and the intent of the Founding Fathers who birthed our nation. The following story provides many lessons:
About a week before the June 26, 2012, Utah Primary election, incumbent U.S. Senator Orrin Hatch, who was being challenged by former Utah State Legislator Dan Liljenquist, sent out a final mailer, this one about the 17th Amendment. Senator Hatch knows the Constitution well. When he was a young lawyer, about forty years ago, his strong commitment to the Constitution was noticed by wise men who vetted and supported him in a successful challenge to an incumbent U.S. Senator who had been in office 18 years. Hatch was a Constitutional hero in those early years. But what now? After 36 years as a Senator, and as a 78-year-old Latter-day Saint, he should be the pinnacle of respectability, honesty, and integrity. Sadly, the mailer tells a somewhat different story, that of a basically good man with a touch of arrogance.
One side of the 8 ½ x 11 glossy print mailer has a dark graphic and says:
Dan Liljenquist wants your vote – literally.
He wants to take away your right to vote for U.S. Senator and
and [sic] give it to the legislature.
The other side headlines with:
DAN LILJENQUIST WANTS YOUR NEXT VOTE [FOR] U.S. SENATOR
TO BE YOUR LAST VOTE FOR SENATOR…EVER.
A paragraph follows:
- Dan Liljenquist wants to repeal the 17th amendment, taking away your right to directly vote for U.S. Senators and give your vote to his former colleagues and friends in the state legislature. Changing back would [sic] to the old system for electing senators would set America back 100 years and introduce more corruption and backroom deals.
Then there is a quote from a published article:
- New American
Utah’s Liljenquist Pledges to Work to Repeal 17th Amendment
“Later in the interview, in a surprising answer to a question, Liljenquist
informed The New American that he supports the repeal of the 17th Amendment. Liljenquist explained his opposition to the popular election of the U.S. Senate that was effected by the ratification of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution.”
April 25, 2012
The tone of this mailer suggests that Mr. Liljenquist was doing something horrible. Was he? Senator Hatch did not tell us anything about the New American. We are not told whether the New American was pleased or disturbed by the “surprising answer.” Nor were we told what Liljenquist’s explanation was. Had the Senator continued to quote, the next paragraphs would have been:
- “There is a disconnect between the state legislatures and the state delegations in Washington, D.C.” “I commit that if I ever lose the support of the Utah State Legislature, I will come home and not return to Washington,” he continued.The candidate is correct in his view of the proper relationship between state government and federal Senate as established by our Founders in the Constitution. History is on Liljenquist’s side, as well.
Edmund Randolph, Governor of Virginia and representative of that state at the Constitutional Convention, said that the object of the particular mode of electing Senators was to “control the democratic branch.” Recognizing the terrors historically accompanying any government with even a slight tincture of democracy, Randolph admonished that “a firmness and independence may be the more necessary in this branch, as it ought to guard the Constitution against encroachments of the Executive who will be apt to form combinations with the demagogues of the popular branch.”
James Madison, known appropriately as the Father of the Constitution, said that “the use of the Senate is to consist in its proceeding with more coolness, with more system, and more wisdom than the popular branch” and to “protect the people against the transient impressions in which they themselves might be led.”
During the debates on the matter in the Convention, Luther Martin of Maryland said it plainly: “The Senate is to represent the states.” Finally, Roger Sherman, an influential delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, wrote in a letter to John Adams: “The senators, being … dependent on [state legislatures] for reelection, will be vigilant in supporting their rights against infringement by the legislative or executive of the United States.
”With Sherman’s assessment in mind, is it reasonable to regard the abolition of this check on the legislative and executive branches of the central government as a purposeful tactic of the enemies of our Constitution? That is to say, with the “artillery” of state legislatures silenced by the 17th Amendment, the ability of the legislative and executive branches to collude in the usurpation of power would be significantly increased. Indeed, the “combination” of demagogues in the executive and legislative branches has formed and has thrived in the post-17th Amendment electoral environment.
In his comments, Liljenquist displayed a remarkable and noteworthy comprehension of other fundamental aspects of federalism, as well. In response to a question from The New American regarding his interpretation of the Tenth Amendment, enumerated powers, and the right of states to be self-governing, Liljenquist answered in a frank and well-informed manner that should please all supporters of the Constitution in the Beehive State.
The New American did find fault with Liljenquist on a few issues but was obviously very pleased with his Constitutionalism. The New American is a publication of the John Birch Society, a favorite organization of past President Ezra Taft Benson and others of the General Authorities of the LDS Church.
Dr. Cleon Skousen is the man who mentored the young Orrin Hatch and helped him break into politics. In The 5,000 Year Leap, published in 1981, Dr. Skousen wrote:
- Originally, the states could protect themselves because U.S Senators were appointed by the state legislatures, and the Senate could veto any legislation by the House of Representatives which they considered a threat to the rights of the individual states. Unfortunately, the protection of states’ rights by this means was completely wiped out by the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913. . . .Sometime in the not-too-distant future, the people may want to take another look at the present trend and consider the advantages of returning to the Founders’ policy of having state legislatures [choose who would represent them] in the United States senate. It might give us another generation of Senators like Daniel Webster, John Calhoun, and Henry Clay.
The forward for this 1981 book was written by Senator Orrin G. Hatch (it has not been included in the most recent printings):
- . . . these precepts are precisely what America needs today. It is alarming to think of the billions of dollars which we are expending each year trying to solve problems by methods which the Founders knew were fallacious. They attempted to warn us, to share their wisdom with us. Too often their counsel has been ignored. Now we must return to them.I am also pleased that this book is easy to read . . . . it is the kind of stimulating book I should like to see being studied in all of our high schools and universities. It would be equally profitable reading for members of Congress and Justices of the Supreme Court. I would recommend it to the White House staff and the officers of executive agencies who are seeking guidance in solving the complex problems which face America today.
So, what are we to think? Did Senator Hatch just forget why the Founders wanted the State Legislatures to select the Senate? Did he purposely misrepresent the issue? If so, he purposely deceived many good citizens and belittled a good man in order to further his own ends.
Lesson #1: We need to be Constitutionally literate to avoid purposeful or
accidental deception and to be able to make wise judgments.
Part 2 coming soon