Term limits & the Founding Fathers, more from Jefferson

6 c) Term limits & the Founding Fathers, more from Jefferson

The government of the United States, then, is essentially a people’s government. It was to be run by people who were from their number and closely associated with their interests.

“All [reforms] can be… [achieved] peaceably by the people confining their choice of Representatives and Senators to persons attached to republican government and the principles of 1776; not office-hunters, but farmers whose interests are entirely agricultural. Such men are the true representatives of the great American interest and are alone to be relied on for expressing the proper American sentiments.” –Thomas Jefferson to A. Campbell, 1797.

Farming was, of course, the principle occupation of that day. Most of Jefferson’s writings that concerned the term of office spoke of the need for having short terms so that the people’s will may be exercised over their representatives more directly. In fact, he considered very short terms to be the ideal:

“A government by representatives elected by the people at short periods was our object, and our maxim… was, ‘where annual election ends, tyranny begins;’ nor have our departures from it been sanctioned by the happiness of their effects.” –Thomas Jefferson to S. Adams, 1800.

The idea was that the people would keep watch over their representatives and through their votes, make needed corrections.

“Should things go wrong at any time, the people will set them to rights by the peaceable exercise of their elective rights.” –Thomas Jefferson to W. Nicholas, 1806.

Public office was to be a public service, not a means for self-enrichment.

“Our public economy is such as to offer drudgery and subsistence only to those entrusted with its administration–a wise and necessary precaution against the degeneracy of the public servants.” –Thomas Jefferson to M. de Meunier, 1795.

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