Federalist 62: Who’s Allowed in the Senate?

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What is Federalist 62 about? What does it say about the qualifications to be a Senator?

Federalist 62 is one of two essays on the U.S. Senate as drafted in the Constitution. This essay describes the minimum qualifications of Senators.

Keep reading for a summary of Federalist 62.

Federalist 62: Senate Overview

The Senate is the upper chamber of the national legislature. Unlike the House, its members must be 30 years of age and have been citizens of the United States for nine years prior to their election. Thus, senators would tend to be older and more experienced, and have greater familiarity with the laws and customs of the United States, than their counterparts in the House.

These more stringent qualifications (as compared to those for the House) were in place to make it more likely that temperate and considered representatives would serve in the upper chamber, according to Federalist 62.

Senators were to serve six-year terms and be elected by the state legislatures—not by the people themselves. One-third of the senators would be up for reelection every two years. This structure blended the principles of national government and federal government. By having state legislatures choose senators, the Constitution preserved an essential role for state governments in the composition of the national legislature. This was a continuation of the federal practices of the Articles of Confederation. It checked the national government orientation of the House, in which the people, not the states, directly elected representatives.

(Shortform note: The system of having state legislatures elect senators had become rife with corruption by the late-19th century, with scandalous incidents of Senate seats being openly bought and sold. Moreover, the political polarization of the time had frequently resulted in state legislatures failing to come to agreement on elections to the Senate. This resulted in many Senate seats going unfilled, leaving states without representation in the upper chamber of Congress. The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1913, finally ended senatorial election by state legislatures, mandating instead that senators be directly elected by the voters of their states.)

Lastly, each state was to have two senators, regardless of population. This was also meant to counterbalance the House, where representation was proportional based on a state’s population (with three-fifths of a state’s slave population counting as one person for these purposes). Naturally, the Senate conferred an advantage on smaller states, who received disproportional representation in the upper chamber relative to their actual number of voters.

(Shortform note: Some political observers have argued that the disproportionate representation in the Senate has become problematic and undermines democratic norms. At the time of the Constitution’s adoption, the largest state, Virginia, had a population roughly nine times greater than that of the smallest state, Georgia. Today, the most populous state, California, has a population approximately 70 times that of the smallest state, Wyoming. Put another way, Wyoming voters have 70 times the voting power of Californians within the Senate.)

Federalist 62: Who’s Allowed in the Senate?

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Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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