Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and MuseumVirtual Tour
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A New Deal:  A Third Term?

A Third Term?

As FDR neared the end of his second term speculation began about his successor. There was no constitutional barrier to a third term at that time. But no president had ever exceeded the two-term precedent established by George Washington.

FDR seemed ready to follow tradition. He began planning for retirement, establishing a library in Hyde Park for his papers and discussing potential Presidential candidates with advisers. Yet he made no formal announcement of his intentions.

By late 1939, with war underway in Europe and Asia, the press began speculating that Roosevelt might seek a third term. FDR seemed to enjoy keeping the pundits guessing about his decision. In 1940 the "third term" question became a burning political issue.

To learn more about the artifacts seen above, including the Campaign Buttons and the Sphinx Sculpture, visit our Digital Artifact Collection.

The 22nd Amendment

The Framers of America's Constitution did not put a limit on the number of terms a president could serve. But George Washington chose to serve only two before retiring. That precedent was followed by every subsequent president until FDR, who was elected to a total of four terms.

After Roosevelt's death, Republicans mounted a campaign to pass an amendment to the Constitution placing a cap on the number of terms a president could serve. The 22nd Amendment, limiting presidents to two terms, was ratified in 1951.
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