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Pennsylvania's plural executive was composed of twelve citizens elected for the term of three years, followed by a mandatory vacation of four years.

The Articles of Confederation, adopted in 1781, established term limits for the delegates to the Continental Congress, mandating in Article V that "no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years." On October 2, 1789, the Continental Congress appointed a committee of thirteen to examine forms of government for the impending union of the states.

Among the proposals was that from the State of Virginia, written by Thomas Jefferson, urging a limitation of tenure, "to prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress".

The committee made recommendations, which as regards congressional term limits were incorporated unchanged into the Articles of Confederation (1781–89). However, George Washington set the informal precedent for a two-term limit for the Presidency—a tradition that prevailed until Franklin Roosevelt's presidency, after which the 22nd Amendment to the U. Constitution was ratified in 1951 formally establishing in law the two-term limit.

The fifth Article stated that "no person shall be capable of being a delegate [to the continental congress] for more than three years in any term of six years". However, when the states ratified the Constitution (1787–88), several leading statesmen regarded the lack of mandatory limits to tenure as a dangerous defect, especially, they thought, as regards the presidency and the Senate.