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  • Writer's pictureLeRoy Cossette

FOUNDING FATHERS ON TERM LIMITS

Updated: Jul 7

The founding fathers engaged in a profound and vigorous debate on the topic of term limits for members of Congress. They even went as far as to include term limits for members of the Continental Congress in the first Articles of Confederation. However, this contentious issue did not reach the Constitution's final draft.


Despite the absence of legislatively mandated term limits, the founding fathers placed great faith in the power of democratic elections. They believed that these elections, along with the influence of custom and tradition, would effectively dictate the terms of office, empowering the people to steer the course of their nation.


While US presidents have faced term limits for most of the past century, members of Congress continue to serve as long as they like. (There are currently 20 members over the age of 80.)


Part of the reason for this omission may be that the founding fathers and early American leaders did not expect members of Congress to stay in office as long as they now do. In the years after the Constitution was ratified, members of Congress did not seek re-election as frequently.


If there’s one figure that deserves the most credit for creating the Constitution, it’s James Madison. His role as the architect of our separation of powers was not just instrumental but pivotal in guiding our country forward and codifying America's principles of limited government.


Madison knew the trick to forming any new government was providing it with enough power to be effective (like the power of taxation and self-defense). Still, power was limited enough so it wouldn’t infringe on people’s individual liberties (many founders knew the importance of limited government).


Madison’s Virginia Plan, penned in the weeks before the Convention by Madison and other Virginia delegates, not only framed the entire debate that summer but also left an enduring and influential mark on the resulting Constitution, shaping the structure of the government as we know it today.


The Virginia Plan proposed a two-house national legislature—with representation based partly on state populations—with broad and ambitious legislative authority, a national executive, and a national judiciary.


The United States finally had a structure sufficient for our federal government. But along with government structure, you need government responsibility. In Madison’s plan, we find that structure and the defining feature of the American Republic: The separation of powers.

The U.S. Constitution is the most successful and widely copied national political charter in Western civilization's history. For the first time in history, people founded a system of government based on ideas rather than power and purposefully delineated the separation of powers to preserve individual liberty.


Under the U.S. Constitution, the federal government's power is artfully split among three branches that minimally overlap and check each other’s power. Congress, composed of the House of Representatives and Senate, makes the laws; the president ensures the laws are enforced; and the Supreme Court ensures those laws are constitutional.


By dividing government power, Madison and the other Framers hoped no individual would ever be able to violate our individual rights. However, the fight for Madison’s vision of limited government continues today.


Beginning in the early 20th century, progressives/liberals claimed our system possessed deficiencies and have been trying to correct them ever since. Instead of decisions made by elected officials bound by the Constitution's structural limitations, they argued that appointed, expert bureaucrats should write, enforce, and adjudicate our laws. The laws (regulations) they created out of thin air would be directly applicable to the American people, and even worse, we would have no recourse to oppose arbitrary, discriminatory, or unconstitutional laws at the ballot box or in court. This is the threat of the modern Administrative State – “The Swamp.”


Madison wrote that “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, […] may justly be pronounced ‘the very definition of tyranny.’” Luckily, the Framers built the Constitution as a bulwark to enforce these vital guarantees.

But it is up to us to enforce and defend them, and doing so begins with convening a Convention of States under Article V of the Constitution. This Convention would solve one of the Founders' erroneous assumptions: custom, tradition, and democratic elections would dictate the terms of office.


Unfortunately, this has not been the case for America. Therefore, it is incumbent upon “We the People” to rectify this assumption with the passage of an Amendment calling for Term Limits on members of Congress and the Supreme Court.


We must get a Resolution calling for convening a Convention of States passed in North Carolina. We want every North Carolinian to contact your NC Senator today and urge him or her to do all they can to ensure that HJR 235 passes the NC Senate this session.     

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