The Constitution says:

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, for six Years. Immediately after they shall be assembled in Consequence of the first Election, they shall be divided as equally as may be into three Classes. [U.S. Constitution, Article I, section 3, clauses 1-2]

My question has two parts. First, how were the initial Senate classes selected? Logically, some would only be elected for two- or four-year terms, right?

Second, once the Senate classes were divided, how did the U.S. Senate maintain fairly even thirds as the country grew to 50 states? Presumably, the states were not all admitted in nice even intervals, and each state would want both Senators to start immediately so were there some Senators who took truncated terms?

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    They simply used the original system of classes: your initial term is 2 years, his is 4 years; you keep the number to be elected in each 2-year cycle at about 1/3 of the total for the senate. Commented Nov 11, 2018 at 1:59

1 Answer 1


so were there some Senators who took truncated terms?

Yes, that's exactly how it was done. For example

  • Vermont elected its first two Senators in 1791. One Senator was up for re-election in 1794 (and lost), and the other was up for re-election in 1796 (and resigned).
  • Hawaii elected two Senators upon its statehood in 1959. One term expired in 1962, and the other in 1964.
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    Specifically, the one who resigned served five years of a six-year term, and historians seem to consider it uncertain why he resigned. That was Moses Robinson. He was chief justice of Vermont for a time before Vermont was admitted to the Union, and he served a one-year term as governor of Vermont that ended less than five months before Vermont's admission. Commented Jun 28, 2019 at 17:12

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