I was honored to be asked to share remarks at the Walton County Tea Party, on our Independence Day, July 4, 2009 on the 22nd Amendment.
Good evening, I am Brett Harrell from Gwinnett and I will share some thoughts on the 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951 and provides that, “No person shall be elected to the Office of President more than twice.”
In common language, the 22nd Amendment to our Constitution establishes Term Limits for our highest elected executive office. It is an example that ought to be emulated throughout the executive branches of government at all levels as our Founder’s wisely established a system of citizen legislators not career politicians.
Before you surmise the 22nd Amendment, ratified in 1951, was simply a more recent response to President Franklin Roosevelt’s four terms, recall the words of Thomas Jefferson in 1805 who wrote, “General Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after eight years. I shall follow it and a few more precedents will oppose the obstacle of habit to anyone after a while who shall endeavor to extend his term. Perhaps it may beget a disposition to establish it by an amendment of the Constitution.” Clearly Jefferson contemplated Constitutional term limits.
Further evidence our Founder’s intended limited terms for many in public office, Jefferson wrote in 1807, “If some to the service of the Chief Magistrate be not fixed by the Constitution or supplied by practice, his office normally four years, will in fact become life.” His letter to the Legislature of Vermont continued, “Believing that a representative government, responsible at short periods of election, is that which produces the greatest sum of happiness to mankind. I feel it a duty to do no act which shall essentially impair that principle; and I should unwillingly be the person who, disregarding the sound precedent set by an illustrious predecessor, should finish the first example of prolongation beyond the second term of office.”
Our Founder’s recognized the dangers of extended terms and in practice, voluntarily set term limits themselves. They understood the dangers of an accumulation of power and their actions reflected the adage of Lord Acton who wrote in 1887, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
As citizens, we must remain ever vigilant. We cannot rest on the wise counsel of our Founding Fathers or even an established Amendment to our Constitution.
Consider that on January 20, 2009, the very day President Barack Obama swore an Oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, those that would see him serve indefinitely launched an internet campaign and website at End22.com an effort to repeal the 22nd Amendment. New York Representative Jose Serrano introduced House Resolution 5, as his has done several times previously, on January 6, 2009 to abolish the 22nd Amendment.
Were it not for the incredible personal integrity of our first President George Washington, we may very well live under a Monarch today. As free citizens, we must remain vigilant and involved and we must insist that those we elect serve with the integrity, courage, and honor of our Founders.
Thank you, happy Independence Day, and God Bless you all.