Franklin D. Roosevelt was president of the US for twelve years. How could this be?

Roosevelt was president from 4/03/1933 until his death on 12/04/1945, a period of twelve years. You can only be president for eight years in the US, right? And if he hadn’t died, how long could he have remained president?

Asker: Axel, 16 years old


The limitation of the presidential term to two times was written into the US Constitution in 1951. This was done by the 22nd Amendment.

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.

In fact, this rule has existed for much longer, since Washington (first president), who refused to run for a third term.
It was the intent of the proposers to put this rule in writing, especially after the precedent of Roosevelt’s election (third time in 1940 and fourth time in 1944).
The historical context (post-depression, World War II) undoubtedly has something to do with this exceptional fact.

If you read the text carefully, it is possible by hypothesis to have someone who has served two terms as president be elected as vice president, after which he/she can serve a third term if necessary (although an argument can be found here contra in the 12th amendment).

Had FD Roosevelt not died, he could have served his term until the November 1948 election, a term his vice president, Truman, served.

Answered by

Werner Vandenbruwaene

constitutional law, administrative law, European institutional law

University of Antwerp
Prinsstraat 13 2000 Antwerp


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