U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 12 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

literary endeavor earned Wilkes a conviction for seditious libel and a 22-month prison sentence. In addition, Parliament declared Wilkes ineligible for membership and ordered him expelled. Despite (or perhaps because of) these difficulties, Wilkes was reelected several times. Parliament, however, persisted in its refusal to seat him. After several years of Wilkes' efforts, the House of Commons voted to expunge the resolutions that had expelled Wilkes and had declared him ineligible, labeling those prior actions " 'subversive of the rights of the whole body of electors of this kingdom.' " Id., at 528, quoting 22 Parliamentary History of England 1411 (1782) (Parl. Hist. Eng.). After reviewing Wilkes' "long and bitter struggle for the right of the British electorate to be represented by men of their own choice," 395 U. S., at 528, we concluded in Powell that "on the eve of the Constitutional Convention, English precedent stood for the proposition that 'the law of the land had regulated the qualifications of members to serve in parliament' and those qualifications were 'not occasional but fixed.' " Ibid., quoting 16 Parl. Hist. Eng. 589, 590 (1769).

Against this historical background, we viewed the Convention debates as manifesting the Framers' intent that the qualifications in the Constitution be fixed and exclusive. We found particularly revealing the debate concerning a proposal made by the Committee of Detail that would have given Congress the power to add property qualifications. James Madison argued that such a power would vest " 'an improper & dangerous power in the Legislature,' " by which the Legislature " 'can by degrees subvert the Constitution.' " 395 U. S., at 533-534, quoting 2 Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, pp. 249-250 (M. Farrand ed. 1911) (hereinafter Farrand).7 Madison continued: " 'A Republic may be

7 Though we recognized that Madison was responding to a proposal that would have allowed Congress to impose property restrictions, we noted that "Madison's argument was not aimed at the imposition of a property

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