U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 17 (1995)

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

Opinion of the Court

rights.' " 395 U. S., at 541, n. 76, quoting 2 Elliot's Debates 292-293. Similarly, we observed that "[b]efore the New York convention . . . , Hamilton emphasized: 'The true principle of a republic is, that the people should choose whom they please to govern them. Representation is imperfect in proportion as the current of popular favor is checked. This great source of free government, popular election, should be perfectly pure, and the most unbounded liberty allowed.' " 395 U. S., at 540-541, quoting 2 Elliot's Debates 257. Quoting from the statement made in 1807 by the Chairman of the House Committee on Elections, we noted that "restrictions upon the people to choose their own representatives must be limited to those 'absolutely necessary for the safety of the society.' " 395 U. S., at 543, quoting 17 Annals of Cong. 874 (1807). Thus, in Powell, we agreed with the sentiment expressed on behalf of Wilkes' admission to Parliament: " 'That the right of the electors to be represented by men of their own choice, was so essential for the preservation of all their other rights, that it ought to be considered as one of the most sacred parts of our constitution.' " 395 U. S., at 534, n. 65, quoting 16 Parl. Hist. Eng. 589-590 (1769).

Powell thus establishes two important propositions: first, that the "relevant historical materials" compel the conclusion that, at least with respect to qualifications imposed by Congress, the Framers intended the qualifications listed in the Constitution to be exclusive; and second, that that conclusion is equally compelled by an understanding of the "fundamental principle of our representative democracy . . . 'that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.' " 395 U. S., at 547.

Powell's Holding

Petitioners argue somewhat half-heartedly that the narrow holding in Powell, which involved the power of the House to exclude a Member pursuant to Art. I, 5, does not control the more general question whether Congress has the


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