the Principle of Term Limits for Members of Congress Essay

October 14, 2020 by Essay Writer

Article 5 states that “no person shall be capable of being a delegate (to the continental congress ) for more than three years in any term of six years.” (“The Articles of Confederation”). The purpose of this article was for it to act as a preventive measure against abuse of office by elected public officials in the continental congress.

The origins of this school of thought was not in the American Revolution but long before, in ancient Greece to be exact where the council of 500 in Athens annually rotated its members in a bid to ensure accountability of the members.the ancient Romans also had a similar system where magistrates were elected after every year and the reelection of an individual was forbidden for ten years, this was a measure to ensure rotation of power and a way of preventing corruption thus suggesting that part of their policy was limited tenure of office.

On October 2, 1789, a committee of thirteen was appointed by congress to examine different forms of government because of the future union of the states. In his letter which was among proposals from the state of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson emphasized the importance of limitation of tenure as a means of protecting American freedom which might be threatened by individuals staying too long in office. the continental congress. committee made recommendations touching on the term limits and they are what came to be the fifth article in the Articles of Confederation (1781-1789). From the days by limiting the amount of time or number of terms.

The US constitution, however, is devoid of this article this is because the federal constitution convention in Philadelphia omitted the above mentioned mandatory term-limits from the Constitution in 1787. The main reason why this happened is because at that time, the delegates who were involved in preparation of this document deemed it unnecessary to include the article whereas support for the principle of rotation would be maintained at the grass root level (Macman 9).

Between 1787 and 1788, several states ratified the constitution, leading several leading statesmen to point out the threat posed by ignoring the issue of tenure of office. George Mason is quoted as saying that nothing is so essential to the preservation of a Republican government as a periodic rotation while historian Mercy Otis Warren pointed out that the lack of provision for rotation created a wide loop-hole for vices such as bribery and greed to take centre stage in government (

Richard Henry Lee, another statesman, commented that the lack of legal means to limit tenure from the Constitution was most highly and dangerously oligarchic ( What they were trying to bring across was that the constitution was going to create a scenario where individuals can manipulate systems to their own selfish ends.

In fact, according to Beckett (“Why Term Limits Should Be Opposed.”), ” Our founding fathers did not intend for the leaders of our country to remain in elected office for lengthy periods of time.” Two hundred years ago, it seemed irrelevant to tackle the issue of term limits because at the time, it was inconceivable to imagine a member of congress holding on to power because at the time, life expectancy was a mere 35 years and a congressman earned 6 dollars daily, only when they were in session (

If they could see the future, they surely would have included it without hesitation, this I say because two hundred years later, members of congress earn an excess of 174000 US dollars and very generous tax-payer funded expense allowances. An event that clearly epitomized the potential for corruption was the 1873 salary grab where on the last day of their term (March 13th 1873) members of the 42nd Congress, voted to give themselves a retroactive pay increase amounting to a $5000 good bye bonus.

Those who support the absence of article 5 in the constitution claim that whilst the constitution doesn’t touch on term limits, it gives the electorate to do just that by voting out leaders they no longer want. the above argument is not to place blame on the delegates who framed the constitution but rather to emphasize that they should have thought of the long term implications of omitting Article 5.

Works Cited

“A history of term limits in the United states.” Americans for Congressional Term, n.d.

Beckett, Roger. “Why Term Limits Should Be Opposed.” Res Publica 5.1 (1994): n. pag.

Macman. ” Term Limit Reasons.” Charleston Tea Party, 2010.

“The Articles of Confederation.” A Chronology of US Historical Documents, 2009.

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