lasted for fifty-two years
1861 - 1913
In 1861 the United States government faced a financial crisis. Secession was under way and a war loomed on the horizon. Much like modern congresses, that august body of 1861 began grabbing in many directions for money and one idea that struck their fancy was an income tax. It didn't matter that the Constitution had already addressed that question in the following:
ARTICLE I, Section. 2.
And this was followed by Amendment X of the Bill of Rights which stated in clear terms:
It is clear from the above that the United States Congress did not have ANY powers under the Constitution to impose a direct income tax on the citizens of the various states but they didn't let that stand in their way. They proceeded to place an income tax on incomes over $800 and with that act the Genie was out of the bottle. In 1868 Amendment XIV was passed to change the rules of apportionment for Representatives but compare the language of the Amendment to the text of Article I, Section. 2. above to see how skillfully the "taxing powers" question was avoided.
Amendment XIV (1868)
The tax remained in effect throughout the Civil War and beyond. Finally, in 1909 congress realized their mistake but rather than convert the tax to a legal levy, they proposed changing the Constitution! Congress passed a proposed amendment and sent it to the states where it languished for the next three years. In 1912, the states brought a problem to the attention of the congress... Since the beginning of the United States, the state legislatures were required to appoint two U.S. Senators. This was a serious problem for state politicians; -- it required them to answer for the acts of the senators and focused attention of voters on state politicians. Working together, the U.S. Congress and state politicians contrived a scheme... Make the gullible public an offer they could not refuse. Convince the public that direct election of senators was a great idea. The public would never realize that direct election of senators was defeating some of the greatest principles of the Constitution: Oversight of the U.S. Representatives, oversight of the federal Executive, and protection of state's rights. Direct election of senators changed these principles. It gave the voters three representatives in Washington instead of one, but it destroyed oversight and state's rights protection.
The founders viewed the body of U.S. Senators as the watchdog of the union. The concept evolved from the history of ancient Greek and Roman senates. The founders had witnessed the British House of Lords as an ineffective body and did not want the same thing to happen in America. Therefore, they believed that standing for re-appointment every six years would provide controls through the state legislatures, yet the six-year staggered terms would shield the senators from current public debates over issues of the day. The founders expected that the states would appoint the wisest men, who were well versed in domestic and foreign matters, and who would act as a council for "advice and consent" to the President and his Cabinet. At the same time, these wise men would valiantly fight and hold the line for state's rights. This worked well for 124 years. The federal government was able to do all of the things it needed to do, but was not able to do many of the things that it wanted to do. Direct election of senators allowed the central government to start doing anything it wished to do.
The states were delighted to get rid of the political problem of appointing senators notwithstanding that the states were relinguishing control of taxes. Instead of following the intent of the founders of raising the taxes in the states and sending some of it to Washington, let the flow be reversed. Allow Washington to raise the money and take the heat for assessing taxes. The states ratified Amendments XVI and XVII in 1913. One-hundred and nine years after his death, Alexander Hamilton had won. State government became irrelevant.
Amendment XVI (1913)
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