There is a limit on how long a president can hold the office in the US; however, this limit has not always been law. One president not only served three full terms in office, but was settling into his fourth when he died. If he had finished his fourth term, 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. Although there was no formal legislation, there was something that restrained others from attempting to remain in the 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 be president for any longer may not be known. Either way, he had set an example for future presidents. So, which president served more than two terms, overturning this precedent?
Just One President Served More Than Two Terms
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 and became the only president to be elected to a fourth term. However, he was just a few months into his fourth term when he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage and passed away on April 12, 1945.
Roosevelt was able to remain president for so long because the country was in a state of turmoil — World War II and the post-depression era — and he was a popular and reliable figure the people felt could lead them during 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.
Roosevelt 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 allow the rest of the world to do the fighting, he could not stay on the sidelines any longer after December 7, 1941. Once the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, he convinced the country to join the allies in World War II.
Attempts at Third Terms
Although FDR was the only president to successfully get reelected three times, other presidents had tried to hold the position for more than two terms. 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.
Future of Multiple Terms
Discussions on limiting presedential terms began in 1944, when Roosevelt ran for his fourth term. 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 was threat to democracy and would, in fact, lead to a sort of monarchy. So many lives were lost and so much time and effort was spent fighting in the Revolutionary War to be free of the monarchy, that the people certainly did not want to revert back to those days.
As a result of that proposal, the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution was formed limiting the number of terms that a president may serve to two. The amendment was passed by Congress on March 21, 1947, and was ratified on February 27, 1951.
Since then, periodically, members of Congress have made efforts to repeal the 22nd Amendment, but none of these efforts have made it out of committee.