Can you imagine Julius Caesar willingly turning back power? History is littered with examples of military men who seized power and were reluctant to give it up. Yet two remarkable individuals, separated by 2,000 years, both made the decision to give up near-absolute authority in favor of life as a citizen. George Washington, America’s first president, and Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, an early Roman statesman, lived dramatically different lives, but both understood the nature and importance of civic virtue. Washington’s decision to not seek a third term as president set a lasting precedent for the peaceful transition of power that endures today.   

In this short film, three experts, Dr. Matthew Spalding of Hillsdale College, Judge Andrew Oldham of the Fifth Circuit, and Dr. Jeffry Morrison of Christopher Newport University, tell the story of George Washington—The American Cincinnatus.

As always, the Federalist Society takes no position on particular legal or public policy issues; all expressions of opinion are those of the speaker.

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Learn more about Dr. Jeffry Morrison:​​​

Learn more about Judge Andrew Oldham:

Learn more about Dr. Matthew Spalding:

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Related Links & Differing views:

Washington's Farewell Address [U.S. Senate]

FDR’s third-term election and the 22nd amendment [National Constitution Center]

George Washington [Bill of Rights Institute]

Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus [Britannica]

Cincinnatus [Mount Vernon]

About the Name [The Society of the Cincinnati]

Cincinnatus [Ancient History]

Full poem: “Occasioned by General Washington’s Arrival in Philadelphia, On His Way to His Residence in Virginia” by Philip Freneau