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The 28th Amendment has an ancestor; the 22nd Amendment. This amendment was ratified in 1951 to limit the number of terms a president could hold office. If term limits are acceptable for the Executive Branch, why should the Legislative Branch enjoy a longer tenure in Washington? Shouldn’t their power be limited as well?
A look back at history can teach us much.
The 22nd Amendment reads as follows:
No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President when this article was proposed by the Congress and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.
This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several states within seven years from the date of its submission to the states by the Congress.
Farmer. Soldier. Visionary. President. Legend. George Washington evolved from a hardworking farmer in colonial Virginia to a brave soldier in the French and Indian War. But his evolution didn’t stop there. His peers elected him to preside over the 1787 Constitutional Convention and because of his leadership throughout those harrowing debates that formed our Constitution, he was nominated his party’s presidential candidate in the country’s first election.
Washington won the 1789 election to the highest seat in the newly formed nation and served as its first President. During his presidency, he was keenly aware that his actions would serve as an exemplar for future presidents and influence their decision making. Washington was urged by many to run for a third term, but because of party politics, he chose to leave public office and return to life on the farm. When a friend urged him to seek a 3rd term, Washington stated, “The line between parties, has become so clearly drawn that politicians regard neither truth nor decency; attacking every character, without respect to persons – public or private, who happen to differ from themselves in politics.”
His words ring eerily true today. His conscience and his character prevented him from using his favoritism and success to his benefit and willingly passed the torch to John Adams, a Federalist, a party George Washington never joined. With integrity and valor, President Washington led by example and set an unofficial precedent when he chose not to seek a third term, thus establishing an unspoken rule limiting future presidents to two terms. This “gentlemen’s agreement” worked, until it didn’t.
Between 1796 and 1940, several two-term presidents sought a third term, without success, including: Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, and Theodor Roosevelt. The first and only president to break the unwritten rule was Franklin Roosevelt, amid World War II, much to the dismay of some of his key supporters. But his campaign to keep America out of the war in Europe appealed to most Americans, and he easily defeated his opponent Wendell Willkie on Election Day.
In 1951, after Roosevelt’s death, the war ended and momentum grew to establish presidential term limits, The 22nd Amendment was ratified, officially limiting the number of terms a president can serve to two. The approval process took over three years to achieve, garnering support in three-quarters of the states to ratify the amendment.
Americans for Term Limits seeks the same outcome for the 28th Amendment. We are confident George Washington would side with our effort to humble the powerful elite in his namesake city.
A HISTORY OF TERM LIMITS
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