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The 22nd Amendment – Part 1

April 2, 2014

Washington voluntarily retired from the Presidency after serving two full terms.  His example of self-limitation was followed by Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, and Grant.  Four years after Grant’s retirement his friends tried to nominate him for a third term, but they were not successful.

Vice President Theodore Roosevelt became President in 1901 after McKinley’s assassination.  He served less than two full terms when he retired in 1909.  When his hand-picked successor William Howard Taft failed to meet his expectations, he ran against him in 1912.  Even if Roosevelt had been successful that year, it would have been only the second time he was elected President.  Incidentally, neither Roosevelt nor Taft won that year.  They split the Republican vote and gave the election to Woodrow Wilson.

Calvin Coolidge did not believe the tradition of serving only two terms would have been violated if Roosevelt had won in 1912.  Coolidge himself had completed Harding’s term and was then elected to a term of his own in 1924.  He could have run again in 1928 without breaking tradition, but a victory followed by a four-year term would have made him President longer than any of his predecessors.  In his 1929 autobiography he explained his decision.

“It is necessary for the head of the nation to differ with many people who are honest in their opinions.  As his term progresses, the number who are disappointed accumulates.  Finally, there is so large a body who have lost confidence in him that he meets a rising opposition which makes his efforts less effective.”

This was not mere opinion, but fact.  Coolidge called upon history to support his conclusion.

“An examination of the records of those Presidents who have served eight years will disclose that in almost every instance the latter part of their term has shown very little in the way of constructive accomplishment.  They have often been clouded with grave disappointments.”

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