The Progressive Era of Constitutional Amendment

Eficiência e Ética na Administração Pública (Luiz Alberto Blanchet et al. eds., 2015)

Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 386

27 Pages Posted: 30 Dec 2015 Last revised: 6 Jan 2016

See all articles by Richard Albert

Richard Albert

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law; Yale University - Law School; University of Toronto - Faculty of Law; Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho; Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law

Date Written: December 30, 2015

Abstract

As hard as it is today to amend the United States Constitution — and empirical studies confirm that it is one of the hardest democratic constitutions to amend, if not the hardest, in the entire world — the United States Constitution was once thought too easy to amend. During the Progressive Era, a period of social activism and institutional reform from the 1890s through the 1920s, the United States adopted four constitutional amendments in a short span of roughly 10 years: the Sixteenth Amendment, authorizing a direct income tax; the Seventeenth Amendment, establishing direct elections to the United States Senate; the Eighteenth Amendment, imposing prohibition; and the Nineteenth Amendment, constitutionalizing women’s suffrage. In this Essay prepared for a conference on corruption and institutional design in comparative perspective, I explore the impetus for the Seventeenth Amendment, which was in large measure driven by an effort to curb corruption in senatorial elections. Today, roughly one hundred years since the entrenchment of the Seventeenth Amendment, there appears to be some support to repeal it. The challenge, however, is that it is much harder today than before to formally amend the Constitution.

Keywords: United States Constitution, Constitutional Amendment, Progressive Era, Seventeenth Amendment, United States Senate, Corruption, Amendment Difficulty

Suggested Citation

Albert, Richard, The Progressive Era of Constitutional Amendment (December 30, 2015). Eficiência e Ética na Administração Pública (Luiz Alberto Blanchet et al. eds., 2015), Boston College Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 386, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2709211

Richard Albert (Contact Author)

University of Texas at Austin - School of Law ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://law.utexas.edu/faculty/richard-albert

Yale University - Law School

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University of Toronto - Faculty of Law ( email )

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Canada

HOME PAGE: http://www.law.utoronto.ca

Universidad Externado de Colombia - Facultad de Derecho

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Bogota D.C, Cundinamarca 3456
Colombia

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.uexternado.edu.co/derecho/

Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 167
Herzliya, 46150
Israel

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.idc.ac.il/en/schools/law/pages/home.aspx

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