The history of third term presidents

We were taught that the founding fathers had a ‘gentle-men’s agreement’ that a person would only serve as president for two terms and then not seek that office again. History class told us that everyone complied until FDR choose to run for a third office, then a forth. But reading ‘Dark Horse’ the author talks about the nomination of Grant in the primaries, which if he got it would have been his third term and he was not opposed to the idea. My question is- were there any other almost third term presidents but they were not successful?

Teddy Roosevelt became President after McKinley died only 6 months into his term in 1901. The then was elected in 1904 and served a full term. He didn’t run in 1908. In 1912 he sought the Republican nomination and when he didn’t get it formed the Progressive (or Bull Moose) Party. He split the Republican vote and Wilson won. Roosevelt actually gained more votes than Taft, the Republican nominee and incumbent. He carried Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, South Dakota, California, and Washington.

Grover Cleveland served two nonconsecutive terms being elected in 1884 and 1892. He also ran in 1888 and got more popular votes than Harrison.

There were plenty of people who wanted a third term. The only “gentlemen’s agreement” was that the voters refused to give them one until FDR came along.

Post Washington and pre 22nd Amendment.
Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, Jackson, Lincoln, Grant, Hayes*, McKinley, Roosevelt, Wilson, Coolidge, FDR. How many pre-FDR had actual realistic propects of getting a Third Term? Grant was a non consecutive third term attempt and I have counted VP beibg elevated as 1 term.
Some guys like Van Buren and the younger Harrison lost reelection bids. In the mid to late 19th century, it seemed 1 terms was the norm, indeed, Lincoln, Grant are the only Presidents to stand for reelection, until the Cleveland-Harrison matches.

So, no two term tradition as far as I can see.

I don’t know about “plenty”. I’d say more like three. And of the three, one (Grant) was ambiguous because non-consecutive, and one (T.Roosevelt) was doubly ambiguous because non-consecutive and the first term was a partial term.

Of the two-term presidents, Washington was of course adamant that he didn’t want a third term, although he received two electoral votes anyway in 1796. In the cases of Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, and Jackson, it was understood, almost without anything being said by anybody, that they would retire after two terms. If any of these gentlemen wanted a third term, or resented being not being considered for a third nomination, they kept it well concealed from their associates.

Grant as noted was a candidate for the 1880 nomination; although Nineteenth Century candidates didn’t actively campaign, it was understood by all concerned that Grant not only would accept the nomination but lusted after it. He peaked at 313 out of 756 votes on the 35th ballot of the Republican National Convention, after which James Garfield won the nomination.

Theodore Roosevelt of course actively sought a third (counting the partial) non-consecutive term in 1912, both at the Republican Convention and as a third party candidate.

Finally in the case of Woodrow Wilson in 1920 we had a man who wanted a third consecutive nomination and election–but had no chance of getting it. Again, he didn’t actively campaign–he couldn’t even if he had wanted to, because he had been incapacitated by a stroke. But everyone who spoke to him reported that he wanted the 1920 Democratic nomination, believed it was his by right to carry on the glorious fight for the League of Nations, and was certain that the Democratic Party would turn to him after a deadlock.

The Democratic National Convention of 1920 did indeed deadlock, but never gave Wilson a thought. He received a grand total of 2 votes on the 22nd ballot, then nothing. The nomination went to James Cox.

Finally, Calvin Coolidge in 1928 was a one-plus-a-partial President who stood down, partly because of personal grief over the death of his son.

Which two-term Presidents ran for a third term other than the Roosevelts?

IIRC from my reading of history books - Washington’s concern with recent European history in mind, that the risk was that an elected leader could over long time morph into a strongman president-for-life, essentially a hereditary ruler like so many European rulers. Hence, he thought 8 years was enough. After several decades of “everyone takes their turn and leaves”, plus a slow demise of rulers-for-life on the European front with the rise of constitutional controls on many monarchs, by the later 1800’s the issue became less one of controlling despotic tendencies and more one of tradition; plus the nastiness of politics in the USA seemed to guarantee a turnover. Although, one can sense the general feeling in any ex-president’s mind after 4 years “I can do better than the useless moron that replaced me”. Or the Roosevelt-esque thought that “nobody can do a better job than me in these trying times…”

Edith: He don’t mean nothing. His whole family was for Roosevelt.
Archie: That was for two terms. That was it! We didn’t know the guy was going to hold on to the job like a pope!

Grant and Wilson both sought a third term but were not nominated. And Cleveland apparently considered it. That means four or maybe five out of the nine Presidents who completed two terms (prior to the 22nd Amendment) wanted a third term.

Truman, who was exempt from the 22nd Amendment, kept his options open going into 1952, but ultimately decided that he wouldn’t win.