U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 16 (1995)

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Opinion of the Court

sized the egalitarian concept that the opportunity to be elected was open to all.11 We noted in particular Madison's statement in The Federalist that " '[u]nder these reasonable limitations [enumerated in the Constitution], the door of this part of the federal government is open to merit of every description, whether native or adoptive, whether young or old, and without regard to poverty or wealth, or to any particular profession of religious faith.' " Powell, 395 U. S., at 540, n. 74, quoting The Federalist No. 52, at 326. Similarly, we noted that Wilson Carey Nicholas defended the Constitution against the charge that it "violated democratic principles" by arguing: " 'It has ever been considered a great security to liberty, that very few should be excluded from the right of being chosen to the legislature. This Constitution has amply attended to this idea. We find no qualifications required except those of age and residence.' " 395 U. S., at 541, quoting 3 Elliot's Debates 8.

Second, we recognized the critical postulate that sovereignty is vested in the people, and that sovereignty confers on the people the right to choose freely their representatives to the National Government. For example, we noted that "Robert Livingston . . . endorsed this same fundamental principle: 'The people are the best judges who ought to represent them. To dictate and control them, to tell them whom they shall not elect, is to abridge their natural

Powell, 395 U. S., at 533-534, quoting 2 Farrand 250 (Madison) (" 'If the Legislature could regulate [the qualification of electors or elected], it can by degrees subvert the Constitution. A Republic may be 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 535-536 (citing statements of Williamson and Madison emphasizing the potential for legislative abuse).

11 Contrary to the dissent's suggestion, post, at 879, we do not understand Powell as reading the Qualifications Clauses "to create a personal right to be a candidate for Congress." The Clauses did, however, further the interest of the people of the entire Nation in keeping the door to the National Legislature open to merit of every description.

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