How a Corrupt Northern US Senator Gave Us the 17th Amendment (and helped destroy States’ Rights)

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William A. Clark created many job opportunities for Montanans, but don’t count the 17th Amendment among his “achievements.”

(FEE) – ark Twain never cared much for politicians. A famous remark falsely attributed to him nonetheless stuck for decades because it resonated as quintessentially Twain. He was supposed to have said, upon the passing of a politician he didn’t like, “I did not attend his funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it.”

We do know for certain that it was Twain who authored these remarks in 1907 about a politician from Montana:

He is as rotten a human being as can be found anywhere under the flag; he is a shame to the American nation, and no one has helped to send him to the Senate who did not know that his proper place was the penitentiary, with a ball and chain on his legs. To my mind he is the most disgusting creature that the republic has produced since Tweed’s time.


The object of Twain’s wrath was William A. Clark, a Pennsylvania native who eventually moved to Montana and made fortunes in banking, mining, newspapers, railroads and other ventures. He, along with Marcus Daly and Frederick Heinze, was one of the three “copper kings” so eloquently portrayed in C. B. Glasscock’s classic 1935 book, The War of the Copper Kings.

Helena, not Anaconda, is the capital of Montana today largely because Clark dumped a lot of personal money into the effort to make it so. Controversy was never far behind whatever Clark undertook, but if there’s one thing he did that clearly hurt the state and the country, it was his contribution to the passage of the 17th Amendment.

America’s Founding Fathers created a constitution in which the principle of “federalism” was a vital pillar. That’s the idea of…

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