U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 13 (1995)

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Cite as: 514 U. S. 779 (1995)

Opinion of the Court

converted into an aristocracy or oligarchy as well by limiting the number capable of being elected, as the number authorised to elect.' " 395 U. S., at 534, quoting 2 Farrand 250. We expressly noted that the "parallel between Madison's arguments and those made in Wilkes' behalf is striking." 395 U. S., at 534.

The Framers further revealed their concerns about congressional abuse of power when Gouverneur Morris suggested modifying the proposal of the Committee of Detail to grant Congress unfettered power to add qualifications. We noted that Hugh Williamson "expressed concern that if a majority of the legislature should happen to be 'composed of any particular description of men, of lawyers for example, . . . the future elections might be secured to their own body.' " Id., at 535, quoting 2 Farrand 250. We noted, too, that Madison emphasized the British Parliament's attempts to regulate qualifications, and that he observed: " '[T]he abuse they had made of it was a lesson worthy of our attention.' " 395 U. S., at 535, quoting 2 Farrand 250. We found significant that the Convention rejected both Morris' modification and the Committee's proposal.

We also recognized in Powell that the post-Convention ratification debates confirmed that the Framers understood the qualifications in the Constitution to be fixed and unalterable by Congress. For example, we noted that in response to the antifederalist charge that the new Constitution favored the wealthy and well born, Alexander Hamilton wrote:

" 'The truth is that there is no method of securing to the rich the preference apprehended but by prescribing qualifications of property either for those who may elect or be elected. But this forms no part of the power to be conferred upon the national government. . . . The

qualification as such, but rather at the delegation to the Congress of the discretionary power to establish any qualifications." Id., at 534.


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