June 17, 2011 – Amendment XXII of the United States Constitution – Guest Essayist: Marc. S. Lampkin, a Vice President at Quinn Gillespie

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Amendment XXII

1: No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once. But this Article shall not apply to any person holding the office of President, when this Article was proposed by the Congress, and shall not prevent any person who may be holding the office of President, or acting as President, during the term within which this Article becomes operative from holding the office of President or acting as President during the remainder of such term.

2: This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States within seven years from the date of its submission to the States by the Congress.

“No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice, and no person who has held the office of President, or acted as President, for more than two years of a term to which some other person was elected President shall be elected to the office of the President more than once.

The 22nd Amendment was ratified on February 27, 1951.  It places terms limits on the office of the President and provides that no US President can be elected to more than two terms. It also limits the maximum time a President may serve to 10 years, if one should succeed to the office.

The issue wasn’t new – in fact the founders had specifically considered this issue.  Proposed language limiting the number of terms our elected officials could serve was rejected three times during the Constitutional Convention. The Founding Fathers saw no reason why an effective and popular elected official should be arbitrarily forced out of office. On the contrary, the Founders thought that short terms of office — interrupted by frequent elections — would better ensure accountability than limited terms, which is why members of the House of Representatives, the branch designed to be the closest to “the people,” have to run for re-election every two years.

However at the same time instead of using a rule in the Constitution – America had the Washington precedent.  At the founding of the United States government, a clear and consistent pattern had been created by Washington – Presidents served only for two terms.   Consistent with the idea that the American president was a monarch President George Washington made clear that he had no intention of running for a third term in 1796.  This pattern stayed intact for nearly 150 years and then Franklin Delano Roosevelt was elected President.

He was first elected President in 1932, and re-elected in 1936.  The eight years that followed his first election saw the dramatic expansion of the federal government as part of his administration’s response to the Great Depression.  Although the economy had not been revitalized by 1940, many Americans – particularly Democrats – were quite impressed with the leadership he showed in transitioning the federal government from a government of limited powers to one with far more ambitious goals.  From creating a federal minimum wage and a host of public works programs to expanding federal regulation of business generally, Roosevelt fundamentally transformed the Federal Government and American society.

And since the Depression had not yet ended, Democrats were especially fearful that these changes would get rolled back so when it came time for the Democrats to nominate a candidate for the Presidency in 1940, they settled on renominating Roosevelt.  At the same time WWII had begun — even though the U.S. would not enter it until 1941

When 1944 rolled around, changing leaders in the middle of World War II, which the United States was now fully engaged in, seemed extremely unwise, and FDR ran for and was elected to an unprecedented fourth term.

However he would not complete his fifth term.  He died less than 100 days after his inauguraton.  Within a year of the war ending Congress – pressed by Republicans – determined to insure that George Washington’s self-imposed two term limit would become enshrined in the Constistution.

Specifically excepting Truman from its provisions, the 22nd Amendment passed Congress on March 21, 1947. After Truman won a second term in 1948, it was ratified on February 27, 1951 (1,439 days).

Marc Lampkin is a Vice President at Quinn Gillespie

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