**2383 Finally, the Government puts forward a cluster of arguments that can be grouped under the heading: "The Brady Act serves very important purposes, is most efficiently administered *932 by CLEOs during the interim period, and places a minimal and only temporary burden upon state officers." There is considerable disagreement over the extent of the burden, but we need not pause over that detail. Assuming all the mentioned factors were true, they might be relevant if we were evaluating whether the incidental application to the States of a federal law of general applicability excessively interfered with the functioning of state governments. See, e.g., Fry v. United States, 421 U.S. 542, 548, 95 S.Ct. 1792, 1796, 44 L.Ed.2d 363 (1975); National League of Cities v. Usery, 426 U.S. 833, 853, 96 S.Ct. 2465, 2475, 49 L.Ed.2d 245 (1976) (overruled by Garcia v. San Antonio Metropolitan Transit Authority, 469 U.S. 528, 105 S.Ct. 1005, 83 L.Ed.2d 1016 (1985)); South Carolina v. Baker, 485 U.S. 505, 529, 108 S.Ct. 1355, 1370, 99 L.Ed.2d 592 (1988) (REHNQUIST, C.J., concurring in judgment). But where, as here, it is the whole object of the law to direct the functioning of the state executive, and hence to compromise the structural framework of dual sovereignty, such a "balancing" analysis is inappropriate. [FN17] It is the very principle of separate state sovereignty that such a law offends, and no comparative assessment of the various interests can overcome that fundamental defect. Cf. Bowsher, 478 U.S., at 736, 106 S.Ct., at 3192-3193 (declining to subject principle of separation of powers to a balancing test); Chadha, 462 U.S., at 944-946, 103 S.Ct., at 2780-2782 (same); *933Plaut v. Spendthrift Farm, Inc., 514 U.S. 211, 239-240, 115 S.Ct. 1447, 1462-1463, 131 L.Ed.2d 328 (1995) (holding legislated invalidation of final judgments to be categorically unconstitutional). We expressly rejected such an approach in New York, and what we said bears repeating:
FN17. The dissent observes that "Congress could require private persons, such as hospital executives or school administrators, to provide arms merchants with relevant information about a prospective purchaser's fitness to own a weapon," and that "the burden on police officers [imposed by the Brady Act] would be permissible if a similar burden were also imposed on private parties with access to relevant data." Post, at 2397. That is undoubtedly true, but it does not advance the dissent's case. The Brady Act does not merely require CLEOs to report information in their private possession. It requires them to provide information that belongs to the State and is available to them only in their official capacity; and to conduct investigation in their official capacity, by examining databases and records that only state officials have access to. In other words, the suggestion that extension of this statute to private citizens would eliminate the constitutional problem posits the impossible.
"Much of the Constitution is concerned with setting forth the form of our government, and the courts have traditionally invalidated measures deviating from that form. The result may appear 'formalistic' in a given case to partisans of the measure at issue, because such measures are typically the product of the era's perceived necessity. But the Constitution protects us from our own best intentions: It divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day." 505 U.S., at 187, 112 S.Ct., at 2434.
We adhere to that principle today, and conclude categorically, as we concluded categorically in New York: "The Federal Government may not compel the States to enact or administer a federal regulatory program." Id., at 188, 112 S.Ct., at 2435. The mandatory obligation imposed on CLEOs to perform background checks on prospective handgun purchasers plainly runs afoul of that rule.
 What we have said makes it clear enough that the central obligation imposed upon CLEOs by the interim provisions of the Brady Act--the obligation to "make a reasonable effort to ascertain within 5 business **2384 days whether receipt or possession [of a handgun] would be in violation of the law, including research in whatever State and local recordkeeping systems are available and in a national system designated by the Attorney General," 18 U.S.C. § 922(s)(2)--is unconstitutional. Extinguished with it, of course, is the duty implicit in the background-check requirement that the CLEO accept notice of the contents of, and a copy of, the completed Brady *934 Form, which the firearms dealer is required to provide to him, § § 922(s)(1)(A)(i) (III) and (IV).
 Petitioners also challenge, however, two other provisions of the Act: (1) the requirement that any CLEO "to whom a [Brady Form] is transmitted" destroy the form and any record containing information derived from it, § 922(s)(6)(B)(i), and (2) the requirement that any CLEO who "determines that an individual is ineligible to receive a handgun" provide the would-be purchaser, upon request, a written statement of the reasons for that determination, § 922(s)(6)(C). With the background-check and implicit receipt-of-forms requirements invalidated, however, these provisions require no action whatsoever on the part of the CLEO. Quite obviously, the obligation to destroy all Brady Forms that he has received when he has received none, and the obligation to give reasons for a determination of ineligibility when he never makes a determination of ineligibility, are no obligations at all. These two provisions have conceivable application to a CLEO, in other words, only if he has chosen, voluntarily, to participate in administration of the federal scheme. The present petitioners are not in that position. [FN18] As to them, these last two challenged provisions are not unconstitutional, but simply inoperative.
FN18. We note, in this regard, that both CLEOs before us here assert that they are prohibited from taking on these federal responsibilities under state law. That assertion is clearly correct with regard to Montana law, which expressly enjoins any "county ... or other local government unit" from "prohibit[ing] ... or regulat[ing] the purchase, sale or other transfer (including delay in purchase, sale, or other transfer), ownership, [or] possession ... of any ... handgun," Mont.Code Ann. § 45- 8-351(1) (1995). It is arguably correct with regard to Arizona law as well, which states that "[a] political subdivision of this state shall not ... prohibit the ownership, purchase, sale or transfer of firearms," Ariz.Rev.Stat.Ann. § 13-3108(B) (1989). We need not resolve that question today; it is at least clear that Montana and Arizona do not require their CLEOs to implement the Brady Act, and CLEOs Printz and Mack have chosen not to do so.
 *935 There is involved in this Brady Act conundrum a severability question, which the parties have briefed and argued: whether firearms dealers in the jurisdictions at issue here, and in other jurisdictions, remain obliged to forward to the CLEO (even if he will not accept it) the requisite notice of the contents (and a copy) of the Brady Form, § § 922(s)(1)(A)(i)(III) and (IV); and to wait five business days before consummating the sale, § 922(s)(1)(A)(ii). These are important questions, but we have no business answering them in these cases. These provisions burden only firearms dealers and purchasers, and no plaintiff in either of those categories is before us here. We decline to speculate regarding the rights and obligations of parties not before the Court. Cf., e.g., New York, supra, at 186-187, 112 S.Ct., at 2434 (addressing severability where remaining provisions at issue affected the plaintiffs).
* * *
We held in New York that Congress cannot compel the States to enact or enforce a federal regulatory program. Today we hold that Congress cannot circumvent that prohibition by conscripting the State's officers directly. The Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the States' officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulatory program. It matters not whether policymaking is involved, and no case-by-case weighing of the burdens or benefits is necessary; such commands are fundamentally incompatible with our constitutional system of dual sovereignty. Accordingly, the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is reversed.
It is so ordered.
**2385 Justice O'CONNOR, concurring.
Our precedent and our Nation's historical practices support the Court's holding today. The Brady Act violates the *936 Tenth Amendment to the extent it forces States and local law enforcement officers to perform background checks on prospective handgun owners and to accept Brady Forms from firearms dealers. See ante, at 2378. Our holding, of course, does not spell the end of the objectives of the Brady Act. States and chief law enforcement officers may voluntarily continue to participate in the federal program. Moreover, the directives to the States are merely interim provisions scheduled to terminate November 30, 1998. Note following 18 U.S.C. § 922. Congress is also free to amend the interim program to provide for its continuance on a contractual basis with the States if it wishes, as it does with a number of other federal programs. See, e.g., 23 U.S.C. § 402 (conditioning States' receipt of federal funds for highway safety program on compliance with federal requirements).
In addition, the Court appropriately refrains from deciding whether other purely ministerial reporting requirements imposed by Congress on state and local authorities pursuant to its Commerce Clause powers are similarly invalid. See, e.g., 42 U.S.C. § 5779(a) (requiring state and local law enforcement agencies to report cases of missing children to the Department of Justice). The provisions invalidated here, however, which directly compel state officials to administer a federal regulatory program, utterly fail to adhere to the design and structure of our constitutional scheme.
Justice THOMAS, concurring.
The Court today properly holds that the Brady Act violates the Tenth Amendment in that it compels state law enforcement officers to "administer or enforce a federal regulatory program." See ante, at 2384. Although I join the Court's opinion in full, I write separately to emphasize that the Tenth Amendment affirms the undeniable notion that under our Constitution, the Federal Government is one of enumerated, hence limited, powers. See, e.g., *937McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 405, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819) ("This government is acknowledged by all to be one of enumerated powers"). "[T]hat those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written." Marbury v. Madison, 1 Cranch 137, 176, 2 L.Ed. 60 (1803). Accordingly, the Federal Government may act only where the Constitution authorizes it to do so. Cf. New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 112 S.Ct. 2408, 120 L.Ed.2d 120 (1992).
In my "revisionist" view, see post, at 2387, (STEVENS, J., dissenting), the Federal Government's authority under the Commerce Clause, which merely allocates to Congress the power "to regulate Commerce ... among the several States," does not extend to the regulation of wholly intra state, point-of-sale transactions. See United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 584, 115 S.Ct. 1624, 1642, 131 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995) (concurring opinion). Absent the underlying authority to regulate the intrastate transfer of firearms, Congress surely lacks the corollary power to impress state law enforcement officers into administering and enforcing such regulations. Although this Court has long interpreted the Constitution as ceding Congress extensive authority to regulate commerce (interstate or otherwise), I continue to believe that we must "temper our Commerce Clause jurisprudence" and return to an interpretation better rooted in the Clause's original understanding. Id., at 601, 115 S.Ct., at 1650 (concurring opinion); see also Camps Newfound/Owatonna, Inc. v. Town of Harrison, 520 U.S. 564, 620, 117 S.Ct. 1590, 1620, 137 L.Ed.2d 852 (1997) (THOMAS, J., dissenting).
Even if we construe Congress' authority to regulate interstate commerce to encompass those intrastate transactions that "substantially affect" interstate commerce, I question whether Congress can regulate the particular transactions at issue here. The Constitution, in addition to delegating certain enumerated powers to Congress, places whole areas outside the reach of Congress' regulatory authority. The First Amendment, for example, is fittingly celebrated for preventing Congress from "prohibiting the free exercise" of religion or "abridging the freedom of speech." The Second *938 Amendment similarly appears to contain an express limitation on **2386 the Government's authority. That Amendment provides: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." This Court has not had recent occasion to consider the nature of the substantive right safeguarded by the Second Amendment. [FN1] If, however, the Second Amendment is read to confer a personal right to "keep and bear arms," a colorable argument exists that the Federal Government's regulatory scheme, at least as it pertains to the purely intrastate sale or possession of firearms, runs afoul of that Amendment's protections. [FN2] As the parties did *939 not raise this argument, however, we need not consider it here. Perhaps, at some future date, this Court will have the opportunity to determine whether Justice Story was correct when he wrote that the right to bear arms "has justly been considered, as the palladium of the liberties of a republic." 3 J. Story, Commentaries § 1890, p. 746 (1833). In the meantime, I join the Court's opinion striking down the challenged provisions of the Brady Act as inconsistent with the Tenth Amendment.
FN1. Our most recent treatment of the Second Amendment occurred in United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174, 59 S.Ct. 816, 83 L.Ed. 1206 (1939), in which we reversed the District Court's invalidation of the National Firearms Act, enacted in 1934. In Miller, we determined that the Second Amendment did not guarantee a citizen's right to possess a sawed-off shotgun because that weapon had not been shown to be "ordinary military equipment" that could "contribute to the common defense." Id., at 178, 59 S.Ct., at 818. The Court did not, however, attempt to define, or otherwise construe, the substantive right protected by the Second Amendment.
FN2. Marshaling an impressive array of historical evidence, a growing body of scholarly commentary indicates that the "right to keep and bear arms" is, as the Amendment's text suggests, a personal right. See, e.g., J. Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right 162 (1994); S. Halbrook, That Every Man Be Armed, The Evolution of a Constitutional Right (1984); Van Alstyne, The Second Amendment and the Personal Right to Arms, 43 Duke L.J. 1236 (1994); Amar, The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, 101 Yale L.J. 1193 (1992); Cottrol & Diamond, The Second Amendment: Toward an Afro-Americanist Reconsideration, 80 Geo. L.J. 309 (1991); Levinson, The Embarrassing Second Amendment, 99 Yale L.J. 637 (1989); Kates, Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment, 82 Mich. L.Rev. 204 (1983). Other scholars, however, argue that the Second Amendment does not secure a personal right to keep or to bear arms. See, e.g., Bogus, Race, Riots, and Guns, 66 S. Cal. L.Rev. 1365 (1993); Williams, Civic Republicanism and the Citizen Militia: The Terrifying Second Amendment, 101 Yale L.J. 551 (1991); Brown, Guns, Cowboys, Philadelphia Mayors, and Civic Republicanism: On Sanford Levinson's The Embarrassing Second Amendment, 99 Yale L.J. 661 (1989); Cress, An Armed Community: The Origins and Meaning of the Right to Bear Arms, 71 J. Am. Hist. 22 (1984). Although somewhat overlooked in our jurisprudence, the Amendment has certainly engendered considerable academic, as well as public, debate.
Justice STEVENS, with whom Justice SOUTER, Justice GINSBURG, and Justice BREYER join, dissenting.
When Congress exercises the powers delegated to it by the Constitution, it may impose affirmative obligations on executive and judicial officers of state and local governments as well as ordinary citizens. This conclusion is firmly supported by the text of the Constitution, the early history of the Nation, decisions of this Court, and a correct understanding of the basic structure of the Federal Government.
These cases do not implicate the more difficult questions associated with congressional coercion of state legislatures addressed in New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144, 112 S.Ct. 2408, 120 L.Ed.2d 120 (1992). Nor need we consider the wisdom of relying on local officials rather than federal agents to carry out aspects of a federal program, or even the question whether such officials may be required to perform a federal function on a permanent basis. The question is whether Congress, acting on behalf of the people of the entire Nation, may require local law enforcement officers to perform certain duties during the interim needed for the development of a federal gun control program. It is remarkably similar to the question, heavily debated by the Framers of the Constitution, whether Congress could require state agents to collect federal taxes. Or the question *940 whether Congress could impress state judges into federal service to entertain and decide cases that they would prefer to ignore.
**2387 Indeed, since the ultimate issue is one of power, we must consider its implications in times of national emergency. Matters such as the enlistment of air raid wardens, the administration of a military draft, the mass inoculation of children to forestall an epidemic, or perhaps the threat of an international terrorist, may require a national response before federal personnel can be made available to respond. If the Constitution empowers Congress and the President to make an appropriate response, is there anything in the Tenth Amendment, "in historical understanding and practice, in the structure of the Constitution, [or] in the jurisprudence of this Court," ante, at 2370, that forbids the enlistment of state officers to make that response effective? More narrowly, what basis is there in any of those sources for concluding that it is the Members of this Court, rather than the elected representatives of the people, who should determine whether the Constitution contains the unwritten rule that the Court announces today?
Perhaps today's majority would suggest that no such emergency is presented by the facts of these cases. But such a suggestion is itself an expression of a policy judgment. And Congress' view of the matter is quite different from that implied by the Court today.
The Brady Act was passed in response to what Congress described as an "epidemic of gun violence." H.Rep. No. 103-344, 103rd Cong. 1st Sess. p. 8, 1993 U.S.Code Cong. & Admin. News pp. 1984, 1985. The Act's legislative history notes that 15,377 Americans were murdered with firearms in 1992, and that 12,489 of these deaths were caused by handguns. Ibid. Congress expressed special concern that "[t]he level of firearm violence in this country is, by far, the highest among developed nations." Ibid. The partial solution contained in the Brady Act, a mandatory background check before a *941 handgun may be purchased, has met with remarkable success. Between 1994 and 1996, approximately 6,600 firearm sales each month to potentially dangerous persons were prevented by Brady Act checks; over 70% of the rejected purchasers were convicted or indicted felons. See U.S. Dept. of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin, A National Estimate: Presale Firearm Checks 1 (Feb.1997). Whether or not the evaluation reflected in the enactment of the Brady Act is correct as to the extent of the danger and the efficacy of the legislation, the congressional decision surely warrants more respect than it is accorded in today's unprecedented decision.
The text of the Constitution provides a sufficient basis for a correct disposition of these cases.
Article I, § 8, grants Congress the power to regulate commerce among the States. Putting to one side the revisionist views expressed by Justice THOMAS in his concurring opinion in United States v. Lopez, 514 U.S. 549, 584, 115 S.Ct. 1624, 1642, 131 L.Ed.2d 626 (1995), there can be no question that that provision adequately supports the regulation of commerce in handguns effected by the Brady Act. Moreover, the additional grant of authority in that section of the Constitution "[t]o make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers" is surely adequate to support the temporary enlistment of local police officers in the process of identifying persons who should not be entrusted with the possession of handguns. In short, the affirmative delegation of power in Article I provides ample authority for the congressional enactment.
Unlike the First Amendment, which prohibits the enactment of a category of laws that would otherwise be authorized by Article I, the Tenth Amendment imposes no restriction on the exercise of delegated powers. Using language *942 that plainly refers only to powers that are "not " delegated to Congress, it provides:
"The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." U.S. Const., Amdt. 10.
The Amendment confirms the principle that the powers of the Federal Government are limited to those affirmatively granted by the Constitution, but it does not purport to limit **2388 the scope or the effectiveness of the exercise of powers that are delegated to Congress. [FN1] See New York v. United States, 505 U.S., at 156, 112 S.Ct., at 2417 ("In a case ... involving the division of authority between federal and state governments, the two inquiries are mirror images of each other"). Thus, the Amendment provides no support for a rule that immunizes local officials from obligations that might be imposed on ordinary citizens. [FN2] Indeed, it would be more reasonable to infer *943 that federal law may impose greater duties on state officials than on private citizens because another provision of the Constitution requires that "all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution." Art. VI, cl. 3.
FN1. Indeed, the Framers repeatedly rejected proposed changes to the Tenth Amendment that would have altered the text to refer to "powers not expressly delegated to the United States." 3 W. Crosskey & W. Jeffrey, Politics and the Constitution in the History of the United States 36 (1980). This was done, as Madison explained, because "it was impossible to confine a Government to the exercise of express powers; there must necessarily be admitted powers by implication, unless the constitution descended to recount every minutia." 1 Annals of Cong. 790 (Aug. 18, 1789); see McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 406-407, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819).
FN2. Recognizing the force of the argument, the Court suggests that this reasoning is in error because--even if it is responsive to the submission that the Tenth Amendment roots the principle set forth by the majority today--it does not answer the possibility that the Court's holding can be rooted in a "principle of state sovereignty" mentioned nowhere in the constitutional text. See ante, at 2378-2379. As a ground for invalidating important federal legislation, this argument is remarkably weak. The majority's further claim that, while the Brady Act may be legislation "necessary" to Congress' execution of its undisputed Commerce Clause authority to regulate firearms sales, it is nevertheless not "proper" because it violates state sovereignty, see ibid., is wholly circular, and provides no traction for its argument. Moreover, this reading of the term "proper" gives it a meaning directly contradicted by Chief Justice Marshall in McCulloch v. Maryland, 4 Wheat. 316, 4 L.Ed. 579 (1819). As the Chief Justice explained, the Necessary and Proper Clause by "[i]ts terms purport[s] to enlarge, not to diminish the powers vested in the government. It purports to be an additional power, not a restriction on those already granted." Id., at 420; see also id., at 418-419(explaining that "the only possible effect" of the use of the term "proper" was "to present to the mind the idea of some choice of means of legislation not straitened and compressed within ... narrow limits").
Our ruling in New York that the Commerce Clause does not provide Congress the authority to require States to enact legislation--a power that affects States far closer to the core of their sovereign authority--does nothing to support the majority's unwarranted extension of that reasoning today.
It is appropriate for state officials to make an oath or affirmation to support the Federal Constitution because, as explained in The Federalist, they "have an essential agency in giving effect to the federal Constitution." The Federalist No. 44, p. 312 (E. Bourne ed. 1947) (J. Madison). [FN3] There can be no conflict between their duties to the State and those owed to the Federal Government because Article VI unambiguously provides that federal law "shall be the supreme Law of the Land," binding in every State. U.S. Const., Art. *944 VI, cl. 2. Thus, not only the Constitution, but every law enacted by Congress as well, establishes policy for the States just as firmly as do laws enacted by state legislatures.
FN3. "It has been asked why it was thought necessary, that the State magistracy should be bound to support the federal Constitution, and unnecessary that a like oath should be imposed on the officers of the United States, in favor of the State constitutions.
"Several reasons might be assigned for the distinction. I content myself with one, which is obvious and conclusive. The members of the federal government will have no agency in carrying the State constitutions into effect. The members and officers of the State governments, on the contrary, will have an essential agency in giving effect to the federal Constitution." The Federalist No. 44, at 312 (J. Madison).
The reasoning in our unanimous opinion explaining why state tribunals with ordinary jurisdiction over tort litigation can be required to hear cases arising under the Federal Employers' Liability Act applies equally to local law enforcement officers whose ordinary duties parallel the modest obligations imposed by the Brady Act:
"The suggestion that the act of Congress is not in harmony with the policy of the State, and therefore that the courts of the State are free to decline jurisdiction, is **2389 quite inadmissible, because it presupposes what in legal contemplation does not exist. When Congress, in the exertion of the power confided to it by the Constitution, adopted that act, it spoke for all the people and all the States, and thereby established a policy for all. That policy is as much the policy of Connecticut as if the act had emanated from its own legislature, and should be respected accordingly in the courts of the State. As was said by this court in Claflin v. Houseman, 93 U.S. 130, 136, 137 [23 L.Ed. 833 (1876) ]:
" 'The laws of the United States are laws in the several States, and just as much binding on the citizens and courts thereof as the State laws are. The United States is not a foreign sovereignty as regards the several States, but is a concurrent, and, within its jurisdiction, paramount sovereignty.' " Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1, 57, 32 S.Ct. 169, 178, 56 L.Ed. 327 (1912).
See also Testa v. Katt, 330 U.S. 386, 392, 67 S.Ct. 810, 813-814, 91 L.Ed. 967 (1947).
There is not a clause, sentence, or paragraph in the entire text of the Constitution of the United States that supports the proposition that a local police officer can ignore a command contained in a statute enacted by Congress pursuant to an express delegation of power enumerated in Article I. *945 II
Under the Articles of Confederation the National Government had the power to issue commands to the several sovereign States, but it had no authority to govern individuals directly. Thus, it raised an army and financed its operations by issuing requisitions to the constituent members of the Confederacy, rather than by creating federal agencies to draft soldiers or to impose taxes.
That method of governing proved to be unacceptable, not because it demeaned the sovereign character of the several States, but rather because it was cumbersome and inefficient. Indeed, a confederation that allows each of its members to determine the ways and means of complying with an overriding requisition is obviously more deferential to state sovereignty concerns than a National Government that uses its own agents to impose its will directly on the citizenry. The basic change in the character of the government that the Framers conceived was designed to enhance the power of the national government, not to provide some new, unmentioned immunity for state officers. Because indirect control over individual citizens ("the only proper objects of government") was ineffective under the Articles of Confederation, Alexander Hamilton explained that "we must extend the authority of the Union to the persons of the citizens." The Federalist No. 15, at 101 (emphasis added).
Indeed, the historical materials strongly suggest that the founders intended to enhance the capacity of the Federal Government by empowering it--as a part of the new authority to make demands directly on individual citizens--to act through local officials. Hamilton made clear that the new Constitution, "by extending the authority of the federal head to the individual citizens of the several States, will enable the government to employ the ordinary magistracy of each in the execution of its laws." The Federalist No. 27, at 180. Hamilton's meaning was unambiguous; the Federal Government was to have the power to demand that local officials *946 implement national policy programs. As he went on to explain: "It is easy to perceive that this will tend to destroy, in the common apprehension, all distinction between the sources from which [the State and Federal Governments] might proceed; and will give the federal government the same advantage for securing a due obedience to its authority which is enjoyed by the government of each State." Ibid. [FN4]
FN4. The notion that central government would rule by directing the actions of local magistrates was scarcely a novel conception at the time of the founding. Indeed, as an eminent scholar recently observed: "At the time the Constitution was being framed ... Massachusetts had virtually no administrative apparatus of its own but used the towns for such purposes as tax gathering. In the 1830s Tocqueville observed this feature of government in New England and praised it for its ideal combination of centralized legislation and decentralized administration." S. Beer, To Make a Nation: The Rediscovery of American Federalism 252 (1993). This may have provided a model for the expectation of "Madison himself ... [that] the new federal government [would] govern through the state governments, rather in the manner of the New England states in relation to their local governments." Ibid.
**2390 More specifically, during the debates concerning the ratification of the Constitution, it was assumed that state agents would act as tax collectors for the Federal Government. Opponents of the Constitution had repeatedly expressed fears that the new Federal Government's ability to impose taxes directly on the citizenry would result in an overbearing presence of federal tax collectors in the States. [FN5] Federalists rejoined that this problem would not arise because, as Hamilton explained, "the United States ... will make use of the State officers and State regulations for collecting" certain *947 taxes. Id., No. 36, at 235. Similarly, Madison made clear that the new central Government's power to raise taxes directly from the citizenry would "not be resorted to, except for supplemental purposes of revenue ... and that the eventual collection, under the immediate authority of the Union, will generally be made by the officers ... appointed by the several States." Id.,No. 45, at 318. [FN6]
FN5. See, e.g., 1 Debate on the Constitution 502 (B. Bailyn ed.1993) (statement of "Brutus" that the new Constitution would "ope[n] a door to the appointment of a swarm of revenue and excise officers to prey upon the honest and industrious part of the community"); 2 id., at 633 (statement of Patrick Henry at the Virginia Convention that "the salaries and fees of the swarm of officers and dependants on the Government will cost this Continent immense sums" and noting that "[d]ouble sets of [tax] collectors will double the expence").
FN6. Antifederalists acknowledged this response, and recognized the likelihood that the Federal Government would rely on state officials to collect its taxes. See, e.g., 3 J. Elliot, Debates on the Federal Constitution 167-168 (2d ed. 1891) (statement of Patrick Henry). The wide acceptance of this point by all participants in the framing casts serious doubt on the majority's efforts, see ante, at 2375, n. 9, to suggest that the view that state officials could be called upon to implement federal programs was somehow an unusual or peculiar position.
The Court's response to this powerful historical evidence is weak. The majority suggests that "none of these statements necessarily implies ... Congress could impose these responsibilities without the consent of the States." Ante, at 2372 (emphasis deleted). No fair reading of these materials can justify such an interpretation. As Hamilton explained, the power of the Government to act on "individual citizens"--including "employ[ing] the ordinary magistracy" of the States--was an answer to the problems faced by a central Government that could act only directly "upon the States in their political or collective capacities." The Federalist, No. 27, at 179-180. The new Constitution would avoid this problem, resulting in "a regular and peaceable execution of the laws of the Union." Ibid.
This point is made especially clear in Hamilton's statement that "the legislatures, courts, and magistrates, of the respective members, will be incorporated into the operations of the national government as far as its just and constitutional authority extends; and will be rendered auxiliary to the enforcement of its laws." Ibid. (second emphasis added). It is hard to imagine a more unequivocal statement that state *948 judicial and executive branch officials may be required to implement federal law where the National Government acts within the scope of its affirmative powers. [FN7]
FN7. Hamilton recognized the force of his comments, acknowledging but rejecting opponents' "sophist[ic]" arguments to the effect that this position would "tend to the destruction of the State governments." The Federalist No. 27, at 180, n.
The Court makes two unpersuasive attempts to discount the force of this statement. First, according to the majority, because Hamilton mentioned the Supremacy Clause without specifically referring to any "congressional directive," the statement does not mean what it plainly says. Ante, at 2373. But the mere fact that the Supremacy Clause is the source of the obligation of state officials to implement congressional directives does not remotely suggest that they might be " 'incorporat[ed] into the operations of the national government,' " The Federalist No. 27, at 177 (A. Hamilton), before their obligations have been defined by Congress. Federal law establishes policy for the States just as firmly as laws enacted by state legislatures, **2391 but that does not mean that state or federal officials must implement directives that have not been specified in any law. [FN8] Second, the majority suggests that interpreting this passage to mean what it says would conflict with our decision in New York v. United States. Ante, at 2373. But since the New York opinion did not mention The Federalist No. 27, it does not affect either the relevance or the weight of the historical evidence provided by No. 27 insofar as it relates to state courts and magistrates.
FN8. Indeed, the majority's suggestion that this consequence flows "automatically" from the officers' oath, ante, at 2373 (emphasis deleted), is entirely without foundation in the quoted text. Although the fact that the Court has italicized the word "automatically" may give the reader the impression that it is a word Hamilton used, that is not so.
Bereft of support in the history of the founding, the Court rests its conclusion on the claim that there is little evidence the National Government actually exercised such a power in *949 the early years of the Republic. See ante, at 2371. This reasoning is misguided in principle and in fact. While we have indicated that the express consideration and resolution of difficult constitutional issues by the First Congress in particular "provides 'contemporaneous and weighty evidence' of the Constitution's meaning since many of [its] Members ... 'had taken part in framing that instrument,' " Bowsher v. Synar, 478 U.S. 714, 723-724, 106 S.Ct. 3181, 3186, 92 L.Ed.2d 583 (1986) (quoting Marsh v. Chambers, 463 U.S. 783, 790, 103 S.Ct. 3330, 3335, 77 L.Ed.2d 1019 (1983)), we have never suggested that the failure of the early Congresses to address the scope of federal power in a particular area or to exercise a particular authority was an argument against its existence. That position, if correct, would undermine most of our post-New Deal Commerce Clause jurisprudence. As Justice O'CONNOR quite properly noted in New York, "[t]he Federal Government undertakes activities today that would have been unimaginable to the Framers." 505 U.S., at 157, 112 S.Ct., at 2418.
More importantly, the fact that Congress did elect to rely on state judges and the clerks of state courts to perform a variety of executive functions, see ante, at 2369-2372, is surely evidence of a contemporary understanding that their status as state officials did not immunize them from federal service. The majority's description of these early statutes is both incomplete and at times misleading.
For example, statutes of the early Congresses required in mandatory terms that state judges and their clerks perform various executive duties with respect to applications for citizenship. The First Congress enacted a statute requiring that the state courts consider such applications, specifying that the state courts "shall administer" an oath of loyalty to the United States, and that "the clerk of such court shall record such application." Act of Mar. 26, 1790, ch. 3, § 1, 1 Stat. 103 (emphasis added). Early legislation passed by the Fifth Congress also imposed reporting requirements relating to naturalization on court clerks, specifying that failure to perform those duties would result in a fine. Act of June 18, *950 1798, ch. 54, § 2, 1 Stat. 567 (specifying that these obligations "shall be the duty of the clerk" (emphasis added)). Not long thereafter, the Seventh Congress mandated that state courts maintain a registry of aliens seeking naturalization. Court clerks were required to receive certain information from aliens, record those data, and provide certificates to the aliens; the statute specified fees to be received by local officials in compensation. Act of Apr. 14, 1802, ch. 28, § 2, 2 Stat. 154-155 (specifying that these burdens "shall be the duty of such clerk" including clerks "of a ... state" (emphasis added)). [FN9]
FN9. The majority asserts that these statutes relating to the administration of the federal naturalization scheme are not proper evidence of the original understanding because over a century later, in Holmgren v. United States, 217 U.S. 509, 30 S.Ct. 588, 54 L.Ed. 861 (1910), this Court observed that that case did not present the question whether the States can be required to enforce federal laws "against their consent," id., at 517, 30 S.Ct., at 589. The majority points to similar comments in United States v. Jones, 109 U.S. 513, 519-520, 3 S.Ct. 346, 350-351, 27 L.Ed. 1015 (1883). See ante, at 2370.
Those cases are unpersuasive authority. First, whatever their statements in dicta, the naturalization statutes at issue there, as made clear in the text, were framed in quite mandatory terms. Even the majority only goes so far as to say that "[i]t may well be" that these facially mandatory statutes in fact rested on voluntary state participation. Ibid. Any suggestion to the contrary is belied by the language of the statutes themselves. Second, both of the cases relied upon by the majority rest on now-rejected doctrine. In Jones, the Court indicated that various duties, including the requirement that state courts of appropriate jurisdiction hear federal questions, "could not be enforced against the consent of the States." 109 U.S., at 520, 3 S.Ct., at 351. That view was unanimously resolved to the contrary thereafter in the Second Employers' Liability Cases, 223 U.S. 1, 57, 32 S.Ct. 169, 178, 56 L.Ed. 327 (1912), and in Testa v. Katt, 330 U.S. 386, 67 S.Ct. 810, 91 L.Ed. 967 (1947).
Finally, the Court suggests that the obligation set forth in the latter two cases that state courts hear federal claims is "voluntary" in that States need not create courts of ordinary jurisdiction. That is true, but unhelpful to the majority. If a State chooses to have no local law enforcement officials it may avoid the Brady Act's requirements, and if it chooses to have no courts it may avoid Testa. But neither seems likely.
**2392 Similarly, the First Congress enacted legislation requiring state courts to serve, functionally, like contemporary regulatory *951 agencies in certifying the seaworthiness of vessels. Act of July 20, 1790, ch. 29, § 3, 1 Stat. 132-133. The majority casts this as an adjudicative duty, ante, at 2371, but that characterization is misleading. The law provided that upon a complaint raised by a ship's crew members, the state courts were (if no federal court was proximately located) to appoint an investigative committee of three persons "most skilful in maritime affairs" to report back. On this basis, the judge was to determine whether the ship was fit for its intended voyage. The statute sets forth, in essence, procedures for an expert inquisitorial proceeding, supervised by a judge but otherwise more characteristic of executive activity. [FN10]
FN10. Other statutes mentioned by the majority are also wrongly miscategorized as involving essentially judicial matters. For example, the Fifth Congress enacted legislation requiring state courts to serve as repositories for reporting what amounted to administrative claims against the United States Government, under a statute providing compensation in land to Canadian refugees who had supported the United States during the Revolutionary War. Contrary to the majority's suggestion, that statute did not amount to a requirement that state courts adjudicate claims, see ante, at 2371, n. 2; final decisions as to appropriate compensation were made by federal authorities, see Act of Apr. 7, 1798, ch. 26, § 3, 1 Stat. 548.
The Court assumes that the imposition of such essentially executive duties on state judges and their clerks sheds no light on the question whether executive officials might have an immunity from federal obligations. Ibid. Even assuming that the enlistment of state judges in their judicial role for federal purposes is irrelevant to the question whether executive officials may be asked to perform the same function--a claim disputed below, see infra, at 2400- 2401 the majority's analysis is badly mistaken.
We are far truer to the historical record by applying a functional approach in assessing the role played by these early state officials. The use of state judges and their clerks to perform executive functions was, in historical context, hardly unusual. As one scholar has noted, "two centuries ago, state and local judges and associated judicial personnel *952 performed many of the functions today performed by executive officers, including such varied tasks as laying city streets and ensuring the seaworthiness of vessels." Caminker, State Sovereignty and Subordinacy: May Congress Commandeer State Officers to Implement Federal Law?, 95 Colum. L.Rev. 1001, 1045, n. 176 (1995). And, of course, judges today continue to perform a variety of functions that may more properly be described as executive. See, e.g., Forrester v. White, 484 U.S. 219, 227, 108 S.Ct. 538, 544, 98 L.Ed.2d 555 (1988) (noting "intelligible distinction between judicial acts and the administrative, legislative, or executive functions that judges may on occasion be assigned by law to perform"). The majority's insistence that this evidence of federal enlistment of state officials to serve executive functions is irrelevant simply because the assistance of "judges" was at issue rests on empty formalistic reasoning of the highest order. [FN11]
FN11. Able to muster little response other than the bald claim that this argument strikes the majority as "doubtful," ante, at 2371, n. 2, the Court proceeds to attack the basic point that the statutes discussed above called state judges to serve what were substantially executive functions. The argument has little force. The majority's view that none of the statutes referred to in the text required judges to perform anything other than "quintessentially adjudicative tasks[s]," ibid., is quite wrong. The evaluation of applications for citizenship and the acceptance of Revolutionary War claims, for example, both discussed above, are hard to characterize as the sort of adversarial proceedings to which common-law courts are accustomed. As for the majority's suggestion that the substantial administrative requirements imposed on state-court clerks under the naturalization statutes are merely "ancillary" and therefore irrelevant, this conclusion is in considerable tension with the Court's holding that the minor burden imposed by the Brady Act violates the Constitution. Finally, the majority's suggestion that the early statute requiring state courts to assess the seaworthiness of vessels is essentially adjudicative in nature is not compelling. Activities of this sort, although they may bear some resemblance to traditional common-law adjudication, are far afield from the classical model of adversarial litigation.
**2393 The Court's evaluation of the historical evidence, furthermore, fails to acknowledge the important difference between *953 policy decisions that may have been influenced by respect for state sovereignty concerns, and decisions that are compelled by the Constitution. [FN12] Thus, for example, the decision by Congress to give President Wilson the authority to utilize the services of state officers in implementing the World War I draft, see Act of May 18, 1917, ch. 15, § 6, 40 Stat. 80-81, surely indicates that the National Legislature saw no constitutional impediment to the enlistment of state assistance during a federal emergency. The fact that the President was able to implement the program by respectfully "request[ing]" state action, rather than bluntly commanding it, is evidence that he was an effective statesman, but surely does not indicate that he doubted either his or Congress' power to use mandatory language if necessary. [FN13] If there were merit to the Court's appraisal of this incident, one would assume that there would have been some contemporary comment on the supposed constitutional concern that hypothetically might have motivated the President's choice of language. [FN14]
FN12. Indeed, an entirely appropriate concern for the prerogatives of state government readily explains Congress' sparing use of this otherwise "highly attractive," ante, at 2370, 2371, power. Congress' discretion, contrary to the majority's suggestion, indicates not that the power does not exist, but rather that the interests of the States are more than sufficiently protected by their participation in the National Government. See infra, at 2394-2395.
FN13. Indeed, the very commentator upon whom the majority relies noted that the "President might, under the act, have issued orders directly to every state officer, and this would have been, for war purposes, a justifiable Congressional grant of all state powers into the President's hands." Note, The President, The Senate, The Constitution, and the Executive Order of May 8, 1926, 21 U. Ill. L.Rev. 142, 144 (1926).
FN14. Even less probative is the Court's reliance on the decision by Congress to authorize federal marshals to rent temporary jail facilities instead of insisting that state jailkeepers house federal prisoners at federal expense. See ante, at 2372. The majority finds constitutional significance in the fact that the First Congress (apparently following practice appropriate under the Articles of Confederation) had issued a request to state legislatures rather than a command to state jailkeepers, see Resolution of Sept. 29, 1789, 1 Stat. 96, and the further fact that it chose not to change that request to a command 18 months later, see Resolution of Mar. 3, 1791, 1 Stat. 225. The Court does not point us to a single comment by any Member of Congress suggesting that either decision was motivated in the slightest by constitutional doubts. If this sort of unexplained congressional action provides sufficient historical evidence to support the fashioning of judge-made rules of constitutional law, the doctrine of judicial restraint has a brief, though probably colorful, life expectancy.