National Constitution CenterCenturies of Citizenship: A Constitutional Timeline Exhibit
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1791-1824: We forge a nation where the people rule

September 19, 1796
Noble, yes; royal, never: our president will step down

George Washington

Philadelphians fought back tears as they read the news today. George Washington will retire, rather than serve a third term.

Just nine years ago, delegates to the Constitutional Convention worried that a president might stay in office for life, like a king. But Washington’s belief in our republican government stands firm. His farewell letter, printed in the Daily Advertiser, warns us to beware the “absolute power of an individual.”

If Washington steps down after two terms, who would dare hold the office longer?

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