U. S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, 514 U.S. 779, 25 (1995)

Page:   Index   Previous  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  Next

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

Opinion of the Court

With respect to setting qualifications for service in Congress, no such right existed before the Constitution was ratified. The contrary argument overlooks the revolutionary character of the Government that the Framers conceived. Prior to the adoption of the Constitution, the States had joined together under the Articles of Confederation. In that system, "the States retained most of their sovereignty, like independent nations bound together only by treaties." Wes-berry v. Sanders, 376 U. S. 1, 9 (1964). After the Constitutional Convention convened, the Framers were presented with, and eventually adopted a variation of, "a plan not merely to amend the Articles of Confederation but to create an entirely new National Government with a National Executive, National Judiciary, and a National Legislature." Id., at 10. In adopting that plan, the Framers envisioned a uniform national system, rejecting the notion that the Nation was a collection of States, and instead creating a direct link between the National Government and the people of the United States. See, e. g., FERC v. Mississippi, 456 U. S. 742, 791 (1982) (O'Connor, J., concurring in judgment in part and dissenting in part) ("The Constitution . . . permitt[ed] direct contact between the National Government and the individual citizen"). In that National Government, representatives owe primary allegiance not to the people of a State, but to the people of the Nation. As Justice Story observed, each Member of Congress is "an officer of the union, deriving his powers and qualifications from the constitution, and neither created by, dependent upon, nor controllable by, the states. . . . Those officers owe their existence and functions to the united voice of the whole, not of a portion, of the people." 1 Story 627. Representatives and Senators are as much officers of the entire Union as is the President. States thus "have just as much right, and no more, to prescribe new qualifications for a representative, as they have for a president. . . . It is no original prerogative of state

803

Page:   Index   Previous  18  19  20  21  22  23  24  25  26  27  28  29  30  31  32  Next

Last modified: October 4, 2007