There is a limit on how long a president can hold the office; however, this limit has not always been law. One president not only served three terms in office, but was settling into his fourth when he suddenly passed away. If he would have survived, he would have accounted for nearly two decades in the White House.
Not many presidents in the past had attempted to serve more than two terms, and although there was no formal legislation, there was something that restrained others from attempting to remain in the position of presidency any longer. Perhaps it was the fact that George Washington did not seek re-election after two terms. Whether that was because he was getting older or because he really felt that a person should not act as president for any longer may not really ever be known. Either way though, he had an impact on the future.
The only president to serve more than two terms was Franklin D. Roosevelt. In 1940 he won the election for his third term. Four years later in 1944, he ran again. He became the only president to be elected to a fourth term. However, he was president for only a year into his fourth term before he suffered from a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away.
Perhaps he was able to remain president for so long because his country was in a state of turmoil, World War II and the post-depression era, and they wanted a reliable figure to turn to and lead them during one of their weakened times.
Known as FDR by many, he will always be remembered for igniting hope in the millions of people in the United States who were suffering from the consequences of the Great Depression. One of his most well known programs was the New Deal, in which he started a chain of events to stimulate the economy. It was successful at first and the economy was booming; however, by 1937, a recession began.
He provided money to China and Britain during the war, and gave aid to those countries who were fighting against Nazi Germany. Although he had tried to remain somewhat "neutral" and to allow the rest of the world to do the fighting, he could not resist any longer after December 7, 1941. Once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he convinced the country to join in on World War II.
A few presidents unsuccessfully tried to hold their position for more than eight years. In 1880, after a three year break from the presidency, Ulysses S. Grant attempted to run again. However, he did not win his party's nomination so he was not even a choice in the final election. About two decades later, Theodore Roosevelt became the president when William McKinley was assassinated. He then served as president from 1901-1909. Three years later, he tried to become the president again; however, he lost to Woodrow Wilson.
In 1947, President Harry S. Truman proposed the Hoover Commission which recommended that no president be allowed to serve more than two terms. One of the reasons for such a proposal was that many people felt that allowing more than two terms would lead to a sort of monarchy. So many lives were lost and so much time and effort were spent fighting in the Revolutionary War to get rid of the monarchy, that the people certainly did not want to revert back to those days.
As a result of that proposal, the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution was formed limiting the number of terms that the president may serve to two. The amendment was passed by Congress on March 21, 1947, and was ratified on February 27, 1951.