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Term Limits

Rotation in office was a central feature of early American government. Under the Articles of Confederation, newly independent Americans limited delegates to Congress to no more than “three years in any term of six years.”

In 1777, for instance, 7 of the 10 new state constitutions limited the terms of the executive. The Declaration of Rights in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, for instance, required “public officers to return to private life” so as “to prevent those, who are vested with authority, from becoming oppressors.” Pennsylvania required rotation of legislators and executives to obviate “the danger of establishing an inconvenient aristocracy.” Rotation in office was a venerable principle of republican governments long before the American Revolution. Political scientist Mark Petracca has outlined the importance of rotation ...

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