Anti-Federalists and Term Limits
Argument against term limits for the Presidency
In 1787, with America in it’s infancy, the Anti-Federalists wrote responses to the Federalist papers and the Federalist support of what became the U.S. Constitution. The Anti-Federalist response (unlike the Federalist) was not coordinated, but was effective in voicing valid concerns about the formation of our government. Nearly 150 years after the Anti-Federalist papers, Franklin Roosevelt’s (FDR) presidency saw a different era in American History. Our country had evolved to include an economy that involved a stock market, new modes of transportation, and modern aspects to foreign policy. FDR is widely regarded as the most successful president of the 20th century and as one of the top three most successful presidents in U.S. history. While the concerns of the Anti-Federalists addressed many features of the formation of our government, this paper will focus on the Anti-Federalist concerns over the Executive Office and the presidential term of office, to fit within the parameters of the assignment. Anti-Federalist concerns over the Executive Office will be compared and examined against the FDR presidency, along with the corresponding more modern transitional time in which FDR governed, to provide some insight into the direction our government is headed. Analysis
One of the main concerns of the Anti-Federalists, the formation of the Executive Branch and the powers given to this office, was addressed in the Anti-Federalist Paper #67. The paper addresses various fears related to the Executive Office: the election process was not clearly outlined, the length of a presidential term, the likelihood of corruption, favoring of the president’s and vice president’s home state, questioning the need for a vice president, and the Electoral College is not the “immediate choice” of the people. Noted Anti-Federalist Patrick Henry argued, “If your American chief be a man of ambition and abilities, how easy is it for him to render himself absolute. The army is in his hands, and if he be a man of address, it will be attached to him ... Away with your president! We shall have a king: the army will salute him monarch(1).” Rawlins Lowndes, in the South Carolina Convention, declared the proposed presidential office “the best preparatory plan for a monarchical government he had read.” Lowndes thought the President resembled the British Monarch so much that he predicted, “As to our changing from a republic to a monarchy, it was what everybody must expect(1).” Anti-Federalist Paper #71 (AFP #71) is specifically critical over the length of term for a president. Anti-Federalists saw any type of rotation of office or term limit as a protection of liberty. AF #71 proposed that the president should serve only a one year term and be chosen successively from different states. Lastly AFP#71 criticizes the proposed wording regarding the four year term limits and moreso looks for clarification as to the proposed term limits and elections for the executive office. Alexander Hamilton took up the mantle of the Office of the President in Federalist Papers #67 – 77, specifically addressing the duration in Office for the President in Federalist Paper #71 (FP#71). In the conflict of the public’s interest versus the public welfare, Hamilton sides with the public welfare. Hamilton thought the opinion of the people should not guide the elected President. Thus, the President should have mechanisms in place to shield him from the public’s backlash, which is why he initially argued for a life-long term. If the term is too short, the President would only do what was popular(2). Hamilton did not pursue the life-long term, realizing it was not politically feasible. Still, he gained the reputation as “monarch sympathizer”. He mocked those who equated the authority of the President with that of a hereditary British King in his essays. As a strategy,...