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Thursday, April 07, 2016

Speaking Of Conspiracies, There Is No 17th Amendment

I think the 17th Amendment is just ducky, and not just because it's a perennial target for repeal by dishonest schmucks who claim a deep and abiding love for federalism.  I bring it up because of this hinky situation:

Connecticut had the distinction of being the requisite thirty-sixth state to ratify the Seventeenth Amendment, thereby making it a part of the Constitution. The governor, Simeon K. Baldwin, noted in his inaugural address on January 8, 1913, the importance of ratifying the proposed amendment.

Although the original resolution calling for ratification was adversely reported from the House committee on federal relations on March 27, the House was able to adopt a substitute resolution on April 8 by a vote of 151 to 77, and, five minutes later, the Senate concurred by a voice vote." While Connecticut was the last requisite state to vote ratification and did so on April 8, the Seventeenth Amendment did not become a part of the fundamental law of the land until May 31, 1913, because of the failure of the proper officials in a number of the states promptly to notify the State Department of the favorable action of their state legislatures.

Of course you're going to have certain inefficiencies in such a clunky mechanism, so it's not suprising that there were delays officially amending the Constitution thanks to various state officials dropping the proverbial ball (see Mississippi and the 13th Amendment).  What's interesting (to me) about this case is there appear to be some discrepancies between what various records say was the ratification date.

Okay, that might not be significant at first blush, but such things fuel conspiracy theories.  I mean, we've got some folks claiming there are "missing" amendments.  Others who assert the 14th Amendment was never ratified (I've covered a couple favorite arguments).  And let's not forget the despised 16th Amendment!

Even the 17th has its nutjob haters.  For example:

The amendment was declared ratified on April 8, 1913

According to the official documents from the National Archives, Arkansas ratified April 14, 1913; Connecticut ratified April 15, 1913; Wisconsin ratified May 9, 1913.

How is it the ratification process could be completed April 8, 1913, when three states didn't vote until after that date?

All it takes a little bit of misreading and misunderstanding to use such things as evidence of anything nefarious or otherwise faulty.

First of all, the amendment was declared ratified on May 31, not April 8.  You certainly can read contemporary accounts of what transpired back then which mark April 8 as the date when the 36th state approved, but it's not like the White House announced anything official on the twittertubez that day.  

But what about this claim that Connecticut didn't actually ratify until April 15?  I've found both a Connecticut government source and a Federal document which suggest that is the case.  Yet the GPO indicates April 8 is correct.

So who's right?  Lemme just observe that the GPO also shows Pennsylvania as having ratified on April 2.  Yet that same Congressional document above says April 15.  A series of typos?  A deliberate attempt to conceal the true dates so we don't see the process as illegitimate?

I suspect it has something to do with delays in reporting to SecState.  The history excerpted above seems to bolster that idea, as does Vermont's experience ratifying the Constitution itself: our Convention did its work on January 10, 1791, the Secretary transmitted results on January 21, and Congress received the necessary paperwork on February 9.  So on what date did we ratify?

Hardly something to hang a conspiracy on, yet these are the same people who see smudge marks, typos, etc, as indicative of something other than simple errors.  Kinda like election campaigns in the social media epocha.  So, you know, whatever.

ntodd

April 7, 2016 in Constitution, Schmonstitution | Permalink

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