The commoner. (Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-1923, October 22, 1909, Page 2, Image 2

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V?1 !
The Commoner.
Angus McSwcen, Washington correspondent
for tho Philadelphia North American sends to
his paper this dispatch:
Washington, October 10. That tho legisla
tures of thirty-one states have adopted resolu
tions favoring the election of United States sen
ators by a direct vote and calling upon congress
to take the necessary steps to amend the' con
stitution, lias just been brought to public at
tention. ,
The constitution provides that whenever two
thirds of tho states shall demand by petition or
other action of the legislatures congress shall
adopt a resolution providing for a constitutional
convention to make such changes in the consti
tution as will make that instrument accord with
tho will of tlie people. v
With the action of tho Alabama legislature
last August, the requisite two-thirds of the
states had acted affirmatively upon the. question
of direct senatorial election, and the most im
perative mandate possible under the existing
system of government had been issued to the
Tho situation created is one of interest be
cause it is already v known that the congress,
controlled by Aldrich and Cannon, will pay no
more heed to this mandate than if it had riot
been issued. - '
At the same time, another defect; in the
constitution is brought to. Jiglit, inasmuch as
while congress is cdhimahded to ak'e action in
accordance with the demand of two-thirds of
the states, there is absolutely no method pro
vided by which congress, can be compelled to
obeyitthe constitution. , , ... .
Tliat' any effort "to got through 'a resolution
in the coming session in compliance with ' tho
provision .of the constitution will be tftifledby
, Senator Aldrich is already, known, , . t,. t
Senator Oyven, of Oklahoma, who is now in
Washington, brought to' the attention of sen
ators during the last session the fact that be
fore the next meeting the requisite number of
states would have" acted upon the question of
olecting senators by a direct vote to put the
matter squarely up to co'ngress.
He is authority for the statement that "both
Senators Aldrich and Hale rebuked him for his
activity and told him it was a question the
majority would deal with in its own time and
its own way.
It is Owen's, opinion that if a resolution pro
viding for a constitutional convention is offered,
it 'will be referred to a committee and held
A technical objection to the action asked for
. will be that the resolutions adopted by the
state legislatures are not uniform in character;
some of them demand action by congress, others
merely recommend. The situation is one, how
over, to arouse such general interest in the ques
tion involved as may force congress In tho near
future to take action.
Fourteen years have elapsed since the first
state legislature took action on the proposition;
since then the states have been acting on an
average of two a year, until last August, when
the action of the Alabama legislature completed
ihe two-thirds of the total number of states.
These are tho states included in the number:
New Jersey
No. Carolina
No. Dakota
So. Dakota
Wisconsin VY
It must be encouraging to democrats to read
in papers like the Chicago Record-Herald such
editorials as one entitled "The Senate and tho
People' and appearing in a recent issue of
Chicago's great newspaper. The editorial
Now that thirty-one states have petitioned
congress to do its share' toward amending the
federal constitution go as to secure the election
of senators by direct vote of tho people, the
moral power of the desire of two-thirds of tho
states is upon congress.
The lower house does not need to be urged,
for it has four times voted for the submission
of such an amendment.
The senate, however, has repeatedly rejected
the proposal, and nobody thinks that a "moral
power" will have much weight with it.
But there is a constitutional power lurking
just behind the moral power. Already twenty
six of the thirty-one states have put their reso
lutions in constitutional form and made them a
formal demand upon congress to call a constitu
tional convention to prepare tho amendment.
When five more put their demands in this
form unless new states have meanwhile been
admitted,- in which case six demands will be
necessary the senate will be compelled to join
with the lower house in acting, or, else put
itself squarely on record as a willful rebel
against the constitution and a contemner. of its
constitutional obligations.
The issue may be forced sooner. than one ex
pects. It may come like a flash at any time
when a number of state legislatures are in ses
sion. If the five states which, have acted in-'
formally, Alabama, California, Ohio, North Da
kota -.-and ,Wyomihg-act formally the critical
moment will have arrived Or, again, if the
fiye states which have net passed any; r.esolu-.
tions, but which, nevertheless, use tlie direct
primary system themselves for senatorial elec
tions, should take formal action for the benefit
of their sister states any dilatory action in the
other states could bescompensatqd for. These
states are, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina,
Maryland and Virginia.
If a constitutional convention is assemhled
under the call of the states it ie probable that
it will feel free to go ahead and present amend
ments of any nature whatsoever. The senate
will want a convention of that kind even less
than it wants the particular amendment for
changing the manner of its members' election.
Consequently there is reason to believe that
when the leaders of the senate see that a call
for a convention is on the point of success in
other words, when two or three or four more
states have formally made the demand they
will yield and let the desired amendment go to
the people without a convention.
Pennsylvania being Inoluded In this list Sen
ator Owen, in the last session of the senate, ap
proached Senator Penrose and asked him if ho
would aid in putting through the resolution
providing for. the necessary constitutional con
vention. From nothing Senator Penrose said
could Senator Owen obtain the least encourage
ment for the belief that the Pennsylvania sena
tor will do anything of the kind.
Paradoxical as it may seem, when unfaithful
public servants apparently are most successful
in their disobedience of law and the public will,
they are "Going more to hasten the day of legis
lation that will guard all the stronger the rights
of the people.
This is the real meaning of the fact announced
for the first time by the North American yes
terday, that the legislatures of thirty-one states
the required two-thirds have adopted reso
lutions favoring the election of United States
senators by a direct vote and calling upon con
gress to take the necessary steps to amend the
We think that this news startled most read
ers We have no doubt that the majority of.
citizens, at first blush, felt alarm at this un
suspected progress of radical sentiment in other
trans-Mississippi states and those of the south,
concerning which too many easterners have no
knowledge, but just an uneasy feeling that they
are sections crudely devoted to demagogy and
dangerous revolutionary theorizing,
It should, we think, give all pause for thought
when they note that included in the states for
mally recorded by their legislatures as demand
ing this radical departure aro Pennsylvania
and New Jersey.
This demand is not tho creation of denia
gggues or revolutionaries. All citizens who so
believe are short-sighted and in error. It is
the work of Aldrich and Hale and Galllnger and
Smoot and Penrose and Lorimer and their kind.
Who, in the present, are sent to Washington to
misrepresent their states by grace of corrupt or
incompetent legislatures, that register the will
not of the people, but of utterly vicious state and
city machines.
It is part of tho legacy of the past which a
careless people permitted to bo shaped by Quay
and Gorman and Foraker'and Piatt and tho
other soiled senators' of their sort.
The wrongdoers have done what; wrongdoers
always do. In excess of evil they have opened
tho people's eyes to evils to which they had
been blind. And so, as ever, the world moves
forward, helped to the ultimate good by dint
of the temporarily successful and therefore dis
heartening efforts of the forces most eager to
retard progress.
We are not prepared to say that this extreme
change in our electoral system would be the
right, immediate remedy. We regard it merely
as a sign of the times, scarcely calling for dis
cussion, that would be only academic as long as
Cannonism and Aldrichism dominate the na
tional congress.
.; For this expression of the will of two-thirds
of the states will -not reach further than the
pigeonhole of the desk of some committee chair
man. Tho smoothly phrased, plausible excuse of
devotion to such rigid adherence to the letter
of the law as to defeat its spirit has been some
what overworked since last March.- But it is
due to be lugged out once more'.
The constitution declares tliat "on the appli
cation of the legislatures of two-thirds of tho
several states" congress shall adopt ' a! resolu
tion providing for a constitutional convention to
make such changes in the- constitution as will
make that instrument accord with the will of
the, people.
But the constitution provides no way to com
. pel congress; to put in(o effect the will., of the
'people so long' as tlie people fail, lo"send) to con
gress only 'such men as are honestly" desirous of
, doing .the, people's will.. ,,.,-, ,1 .,n,,.,.r., . t ,
So there will be elaborate explaining that
the action of some of the legislatures did not
constitute an "applicatldh," but amounted only
to a "statement" or a "declaration." And,
- therefore, in their reverence for the law the
honorable senators and representatives will feel
bound to conclude that no message fit for their
consideration has been sent to Washington by
those various states.
But what these men can not check Is tho
lcnowledge that this discussion will impart to
the people of that wise provision of the consti
tution that causes favorable action of a state
upon a proposed constitutional amendment to
stand for all time.
There is just one job too big for all the preda
tory powers combined the control of every
state in the union every year.
One by one, this year, next year or a dozen
years hence,, the distant and diversified com
.munities that compose America will align them
selves, for the right and the general good. This
gradual action toward a concerted protest
against the unfaith of past and present senators
is just a warning and a certain sign that tho
American spirit moves forward always. Edi
torial in Philadelphia North American, Rep.
Tho states of Kentucky, Maryland, Massachu
setts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Rhode
Island, South Carolina and Virginia will hold
legislative sessions next winter. Every candi
date for the legislature in these states should be
publicly pledged -to vote for the ratification of
the income tax amendment to the federal con
stitution. Don't vote for any candidate who refuses to
publish such a promise. Now is-the time to
strike. Non-partiBan clubs should be organized
in every doubtful state so that the whole strength
of the income tax sentiment may be brought to
bear on the legislature. There is no partisan
ship among the tax dodgers they act together
and there shouJd be no partisanship among those
who want justice in taxation. The question is
now up to tho people lot the people do their
t ..,
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