Assembled by Dennis Polhill (1990 – 2007)

Quotes Directly Related to TERM LIMITS






A7 I am for making of terms annual, and for sending an entire new set every year. John Adams
A8 Where annual elections end, there slavery begins … Humility, patience, and moderation, without which every man in power becomes a ravenous beast of prey. John Adams
A420 Politicians are like diapers: they must be changed often and for the same reason. Paul Harvey
A483 My reason for fixing them in office for a term of years, rather than for life, was that they might have an idea that they were at a certain period to return into the mass of the people and become the governed instead of the governors which might still keep alive that regard to the public good that otherwise they might perhaps be induced by their independence to forget. Thomas Jefferson
A490 No person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six. Thomas Jefferson
A510 The ordinary affairs of a nation offer little difficulty to a person of any experience. Thomas Jefferson
A562 The Governor (President) would serve a five-year term and be ineligible for reelection. Thomas Jefferson 1784 In his model Constitution
A881 The security intended to the general liberty consists in the frequent election and in the rotation of the members of Congress. James Madison & Alexander Hamilton 1782
A886 No political truth is certainly of greater intrinsic value or is stamped with the authority of more enlightened patrons of liberty than that … the accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. James Madison
A1367 Term limits would cure both senility and seniority– both terrible legislative diseases. Harry S. Truman
A1407 The people must remain ever vigilant against tyrants masquerading as public servants. George Washington
A1439 Term limits would make Congress bolder, more independent, and less risk-averse. George Will
A1440 I am opposed to term limits because if we did not have seasoned professionals, we would not have the good government that we have. George Will [The statement he made that lead him to reverse his opinion]
27 Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on office, a rottenness begins in his conduct. Thomas Jefferson
61 There is a long and honorable tradition of citizens in service to their nation that goes back at least as far as Cincinnatus, the Roman citizen who, more than once answered his country’s call, then returned to his farm and his family and his work. Tom Clancy 1996 Executive Orders Rights.com


118 The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office. Will Rogers 1879-1935 Rights.com 11/9/2000
436 A fondness for power is implanted in most men, and it is natural to abuse it when acquired. Alexander Hamilton
437 That the members (of the three branches of government) may be restrained from oppression by feeling and participating in the burdens of the people, they should at fixed periods be reduced to a private station, return into that body from which they were originally taken, and the vacancies be supplied by frequent, certain, and regular elections, in which all or any part of the former members shall be again eligible or ineligible, as the laws shall direct. George Mason
439 If many have their turns to rule, … this will encourage all men to advance Righteousness and that the Commonwealth will hereby be furnished with able and experienced men, fit to govern. Gerrard Winstanley
572 The truth is that all men having power ought to be mistrusted. James Madison 1751-1836 Rights.com
863 The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with the power to endanger the public liberty. John Adams 1772 Rights.com
1160 Those who formerly usurped the name of federalists, which, in fact, they never were, have now openly abandoned it, and are as openly marching by the road of construction, in a direct line to that consolidation which was always their real object.  They, almost to a man, are in possession of one branch of the government, and appear to be very strong in yours.  The three great questions of amendment now before you, will give the measure of their strength, I mean, 1st, the limitation of the term of the Presidential service; 2nd, the placing the choice of President effectually in the hands of the people; 3rd, the giving to Congress the power of internal improvement … Thomas Jefferson Feb. 14, 1824 Letter to Robert J. Garnett
1355 Nothing so strongly impels a man to regard the interest of his constituents, as the certainty of returning to the general mass of the people, from whence he was taken, where he must participate in their burdens. George Mason June 17, 1788 Speech at Virginia Ratifying Convention Founder’s Almanac 2001
1357 I leave to others the sublime delights of riding in the storm, better pleased with sound sleep & a warmer berth below it encircled, with the society of neighbors, friends & fellow laborers of the earth rather than with spies & sycophants … I have no ambition to govern men.  It is a painful and thankless office. Thomas Jefferson Dec. 28, 1796 Letter to John Adams Founder’s Almanac 2001
1358 The aim of every political constitution is, or ought to be, first to obtain for rulers men who possess most wisdom to discern, and most virtue to pursue, the common good of the society; and in the next place, to take the most effectual precautions for keeping them virtuous whilst they continue to hold their public trust. James Madison Feb. 19, 1788 Federalist No. 57 Founder’s Almanac 2001
1407 Those gentlemen, who will be elected senators, will fix themselves in the federal town, and become citizens of that town more than of your state. George Mason June 14, 1788 Speech in the Virginia Ratifying Convention Founder’s Almanac 2001
1664 Politics and self-interest have been so uniformly connected, that the world, from being so often deceived, has a right to be suspicious of public characters. Thomas Paine Feb. 1791 Rights of Man

p. 210

2071 Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians. Chester Bowles 1901-1986
2154 Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question. Thomas Jefferson
2202 It is tempting to believe that social evils arise from the activities of evil men and that if only good men (like ourselves, naturally) wielded power, all would be well.  That view requires only emotion and self-praise – easy to come by and satisfying as well.  To understand why it is that ‘good’ men in positions of power will produce evil, while the ordinary man without power but able to engage in voluntary cooperation with his neighbors will produce good, requires analysis and thought, subordinating emotions to the rational. F.A. Hayek 1944 The Road to Serfdom

p. xii  preface by Friedman

2402 Judging is a matter for mature people and the breadth and depth necessary for maturity can better be acquired in the private sector than by a total lifetime on the bench. Judge Malcolm R. Wilkey 1995 Dilger
2528 A (constitutional) amendment (for congressional term limits) could never achieve the blessing of Congress; it could be initiated only by the states. Dwight D. Eisenhower 1965 Dilger
2587 Of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their careers by paying obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants. Alexander Hamilton Dilger

Federalist No. #1

2794 The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by a small elite. Thomas Jefferson Rights.com
2893 All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. James Madison

Federalist Papers

Your Money or your Life by Sheldon Richman, for ward by Walter E Williams
3029 The member (of Congress) who is not making a career of politics looks quite differently at the world. Robert Novak 2003 Breach of Trust


3031 Careerism: the self-centered philosophy of governing to win the next election above all else. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust


3034 The career politicians in Washington had transformed a government “for the people” into a government for themselves and for special interests. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust


3037 Careerism in Washington “goes to the heart of what’s wrong in America right now.” Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 10

3040 The voting records of virtually every member of Congress reveal that the oath of office is more a ceremonial gesture than a sacred commitment. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 16

3045 When I came to Washington, I was troubled to observe so many similarities between the behaviors of drug-addicted patients and my political colleagues.  In Washington power is like morphine. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 32

3046 It is easy to see how after receiving this adoration for a term or two most members become convinced they are indispensable. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 33

3049 Career politicians do not have the courage to prioritize spending and say no to demanding special interest groups who do not reflect the best interests of the country. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 45

3050 What makes this mentality dangerous is that when the team is held together by careerism and mindless partisanship, individual members are punished for thinking for themselves. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 79

3056 If the voters really understood what we were up to they’d vote us out of office. Senator Robert Byrd 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 123

3058 People that had the guts to put their loyalty to the Constitution ahead of their loyalty to their political party were citizen legislators. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 139

3059 The founding fathers never once rationalized getting in power and having control so they could stay in power. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 164

3066 Critics may blame self-imposed term limits for encouraging fiscally conscientious Members of Congress to leave, but they fail to give term limits credit for developing that conscience. John Berthoud 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 178

3069 Statesmen exhibit five key commitments:

1)      A commitment to principles above politics;

2)      An ability to compromise without abandoning principle;

3)      A commitment to truth over spin;

4)      A commitment to courage over cowardice; and

5)      A commitment, or willingness, to give up power.

Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 188

3078 Few things infuse a member of Congress with more courage than self-imposed term limits or an imminent retirement.  The issues they choose to focus on in their final months say a great deal about what are really the most important issues in the country. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 208

3079 I would like to believe I would not have behaved differently had I not made a term limits pledge, but my own frailties and human desire for prestige and position tell me my term limits pledge did make a difference in how I approached my job in Congress. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3080 “I’ve become a huge fan of term limits,” the former aide said, “because Armey and the others in leadership used to be just like you and your crew in their approach to spending.  They have changed over the years.” Former Dick Armey aide 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 208, quote from Mark Sanford’s book, The Trust Committed to Me

3081 “Of course, it’s easy for Coburn to rebel.  His six-year, self-imposed term limit ends in 2000, so there are no threats leadership can make to dissuade him.” Roll Call 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3082 “Term limits set him free.  Having kept his word on term limits, Coburn also is more inclined than House careerists to make Congress keep its word.” Debra Sanders 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3083 Coburn has little to fear in challenging the leaders because he came to Congress promising to stay no more than three terms, and his time is almost up. Washington Post 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 209

3086 The longer a politician bears power, the more he is controlled by that power. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 213

3089 The traits in career politicians the public detests most are produced when ego triumphs over principle. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 215

3090 We can achieve much greater representation through term-limited members. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 218

3092 I often found it ironic that many of my colleagues from the Class of 1994 who were accused of being partisan ideologues were far more willing to work with members from the other side of the aisle than some career politicians. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 221

3094 I still believe that term limits is the best way to ensure that the next generation, not the next election, is the central concern in our elected bodies. Tom Coburn 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 247

3095 Those who have once been intoxicated with power … can never willingly abandon it. Edmund Burke 2003 Breach of Trust

P. 253

3266 Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived. Thomas Paine 1776 Future of Freedom Foundation 11/5/04

Common Sense

3343 Power is sweet; it is a drug, the desire for which increases with a habit. Bertrand Russell 1872-1970 Rights.com, 1951

Saturday Review

3416 After a time, civil servants tend to become no longer servants and no longer civil. Winston Churchill
3819 Those who have been intoxicated with power  … can never willingly abandon it. Edmund Burke Rights.com
3843 We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office. Aesop Future of Freedom Foundation, Sept. 18, 2005
3920 It’s time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended for us by the Founding Fathers.  James Madison said, ‘We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.’ This idea that government was beholden to the people, that it had no other source of power, is still the newest, most unique idea in all the long history of man’s relation to man.  This is the issue of this election: Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves. Ronald Reagan Oct. 27, 1964 Rights.com
4197 I still spit on authority today, the people who have the power and everyone trying to get it. Professional politicians are the biggest bunch of lazy f**ks in the world. We ought to forbid politicians from being professionals. Politics is a way of life, and if you make your living from it you don’t know anything about life anymore. This country is being run by politicians who don’t understand anything about life. They control more and more people, and it’s disgusting. Roger Daltrey of ‘The Who’ in ‘Le nouvel Observateur’ July 12, 1994 Right.com
4443 The short memories of American voters, is what keeps our politicians in office. Will Rogers Rights.com
4489 Government is too big and too important to be left to the politicians. Chester Bowles
4565 Republicans believe in certain things and Democrats in certain other things. But once in office, they both believe in one thing above all else: incumbency! Paul Jacobs “Common Sense”
4871 No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent. Abraham Lincoln 1854 Rights.com
4956 I apprehend… that the total abandonment of the principle of rotation in the offices of President and Senator will end in abuse. Thomas Jefferson 1788 Future of Freedom Foundation, Sept. 28, 2007  Letter to Edward Rutledge
5025 They wanted me to be a Washington. Napoleon Washington’s Christmas Farewell
5163 I know politicians well enough to be more than just skeptical.  They are ALL a bunch of lying SOB’s if you ask me… if they’re not when they start, it doesn’t take them long to become one. Dave Pearson Jan 4 2008
5326 There is a danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty. John Adams, Spring 1772 Future of Freedom Foundation, March 24, 2008 Notes for an Oration at Braintree
5353 Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself.  Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him?  Let history answer this question. Thomas Jefferson 1801 Rights.com

Investor’s Business Daily, November 25, 1998