Question regarding President Truman and presidential term limits

In “From Colony to Superpower” p. 642 the author George C. Herring states " p. 649 “Truman did not seek reelection in 1952”. This was after serving 7 years as President. He succeeded Roosevelt, who died during his fourth term in office.

I would like verify if I have understood this correctly: Truman served out FDR’s 4th term, was elected President in his own right for 4 year and eligible to serve another term. He chose not to. Had he been reelected, he would have served a total of 11 years in office.

I look forward to your feedback.

"The Twenty-second Amendment of the United States Constitution sets a term limit for election to the office of President of the United States. Congress passed the amendment on March 21, 1947. It was ratified by the requisite number of states on February 27, 1951.

Section 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.

What is the GQ?

Truman was not affected by the 22nd.

You are correct. From the amendment you quoted:

The Amendment was proposed while Truman was in office, therefore, it does not apply to him, regardless of the number of years he served. Had he chosen to run for president in 1952, 1956, 1960, 1964, 1968, and/or 1972, there would have been no legal bar to his doing so, even if he actually won the office in one or more of those races.

Even though it did not apply to him, he appears to have taken the spirit of the amendment seriously, since it codified a tradition that only Roosevelt had ignored.

**"…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…"
So does this section also exempt Alben W. Barkley (Truman’s V.P.) from term limitations, had Truman died, resigned, or been impeached during his last term?

FDR was not the first president to seek a third term, just the first to succeed at it.

Without cheating and looking it up, I thought Truman *did *want to run for a third term but gave up early after it became apparent that the Democratic Party was not interested in supporting him. They wanted a stronger candidate to run against Eisenhower and after the Korean War Truman was very unpopular. I thought that was the reason for the clause in the Amendment, he threatened to not support it otherwise.

Truman dropped out of the race when he lost the NH primary. He didn’t think he could win the nomination.

I think that they added the clause to the 22nd out of fairness or something. I doubt very much that it had anything to do with Truman’s support. He was pretty unpopular at the time and the President has nothing to do with ratification. Congress and the States get to decide.

This is correct; Truman would not have won a third term if he had run.

The amendment always had that text; it’s considered bad form to take the drastic step of amending the Constitution just for short-term political gain, so incumbents had to be excepted.

Who are you thinking of? The only one I can think of is Teddy Roosevelt, who would have been ineligible under the 22nd amendment, but can, I think, be classified as not breaking the spirit of Washington’s precedent, as he was only elected once.

Is there someone else I am forgetting about?

No. It would protect Barkley only “during the term within which this article becomes operative”. Given that the amendment had a seven-year time limit for ratification, it could not have become effective later than 1955. That would have been Barkley’s first full term, so he would not have run afoul of term limits before then, anyway.

The only person the clause conceivably could have applied to would have been Herbert Hoover. Suppose he would have come out of retirement and been elected in 1948 and 1952. (Not completely unimaginable; some delegates did support him at the 1940 convention.) That would be three terms. Then the amendment might be ratified in 1954. The clause makes it clear it wouldn’t force Hoover to relinquish the office. He couldn’t run again in 1956, but he could serve out his third (non-consecutive) term.

U.S. Grant very nearly won the Republican nomination in 1880, after he had served two terms and been out of office for four years. He didn’t exactly “seek” the office, since Nineteenth Century candidates never sought the office, but he was understood to want it very badly. (Among other things, he needed the money.)

I read the Truman biography not too long ago, the one by David McCullough. I’m sure I remember it saying Truman had decided not to try for a third term even before the amendment was proposed but kept that information to himself for a while.

Grant allowed his name to be put forward at the 1880 Republican Convention, and consistently led in the ballots against the other main candidate, Blaine, but could not obtain a majority. Finally, after 36 ballots (!), Blaine’s supporters deserted him and went to Garfield, who finally pulled ahead of Grant for the nomination.

See 1880 Republican National Convention.