Fourth Term

April 17, 1943

Report Outline
Controversy Over Another Term for Roosevelt
President Roosevelt's Position on Third Term
Attitude of the Founding Fathers; Two-Term Tradition
Tenure of State Governors

Controversy Over Another Term for Roosevelt

Call for Fourth Term by President's Supporters

Controversy over the possibility of a fourth term for President Roosevelt began toward the end of February, nearly a year and a half before the nominating conventions of the two major parties are scheduled to convene. The conflict of views was precipitated when Governor Neely of West Virginia, in a speech in his state on Washington's Birthday, came out flatly for a fourth term. A few days later, when a dozen members of the Democratic National Committee, headed by Postmaster General Walker, who is the committee's chairman, called on the President at the White House, it was reported that “two or three” of them urged the President to run again if the war was still in progress in 1944. One of these later identified himself as former Governor Olsen of California, who said that under present circumstances a fourth term “was probably inevitable.” Walker said the President had made no reply to the proposals.

Governor Neely's call for a fourth term was followed by a number of similar proposals from staunch administration supporters in Congress. Rep. Sabath of Illinois, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said on February 23 that he had already talked to President Roosevelt about a fourth term and had urged him that he “owed it to the country and to the world to run again.” Senator Guffey of Pennsylvania made a fourth-term speech in the Senate on March 4. Senator Mead of New York, in an interview at Syracuse, declared that “there is neither rule nor law” against a fourth term, and predicted that Roosevelt “would be drafted to serve for the duration of the war and the securement of peace.”

Republican repercussions and countermoves began shortly after the first fourth-term proposals were advanced. In fact, even before Governor Neely's speech, both houses of the Republican-controlled Indiana legislature had adopted identical resolutions petitioning Congress to call a constitutional convention for the consideration of an amendment to the Constitution limiting presidential tenure to two terms.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Term Limits
Nov. 18, 1994  Testing Term Limits
Jan. 10, 1992  Term Limits
Apr. 17, 1943  Fourth Term
Mar. 19, 1927  The Third Term Tradition in American Politics
Powers and History of the Presidency
Term Limits
U.S. Constitution