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February 1, 1913. Presidential term. Senator Cummins. (Consult the indexes to vols. 48 and 49 for debates on S. J. Res. 78.)

Current Opinion: 54: 179–180. March, 1913. Changing the presidential term to six years.

Literary Digest: 44: 1086-1087. May 25, 1912 One-term movement; 46: 327–329, February 15, 1913, six-year Presidents.

Outlook: 102: 880, December 28, 1912. How long shall the term last? 103: 331, February 15, 1913, six-year term.

Review of Reviews: 47: 264–268, March, 1913. Only one term for President.

World's Work: 25: 499–500, March, 1913. Six-year term for Presidents.

Yale Review: 2: 511-520, April, 1913. Election and term of the President.


Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents. Vol. 2: 448, 519, 555.

Chautauquan: 67: 103–5. Jl., '12. Single Six-Year Presidential Term.

Congressional Record: 48: 31324. Mr. 11, '12; 49: 294–9, 357–61. D. 9, 10, '12. Presidential Term. Senator Works; 48: 11255–62. Ag. 19, '12. Senator Cummins.

Forum: 31: 23–9. Mr., ’01. Growing Powers of the President. Henry L. West.

Harper's Weekly: 56: 8. My. 18; 56: 19. My. 25, ’12. Clayton Resolution; 57: 4. F. 8, '13. Freeing the President.

Nation: 96: 280. Mr. 20, '13. Proposed Constitutional Amendment and Ex-Presidents. Herbert L. Baker.

North American Review: 155: 426-9. 0., '92. Business in Presidential Years. Charles S. Smith.


Congressional Record: 48: 11441–3; 11458–66. Ag. 21, '12. Presidential Term. Senators Crawford, Clapp, and Heyburn; 49: 2259, 2261–3, 2266–74. Ja. 30, '13. Senators Lodge, Dixon, Bristow, and Poindexter.

Independent: 74: 335–6. F. 13, '13. Presidential Term.
Nation: 94: 484. My. 16, '12. Presidential Term.

Outlook: 101: 152–3. My. 25, '12. Another Effort to Hamper the People; 102: 475–6. N. 2, ’12. People and the Presidency.

World's Work: 24: 257-8. Jl., '12. Shall a Third Term Be Forbidden?



(By Will P. Kennedy) The sudden passing of President Harding as a martyr to public service has called popular attention again to the burdens of that office, and leaders in Congress are studying measures to afford necessary

SD-70-1-vol 24- -17

Fess says.

relief. Senators Cummins, of Iowa, Harris, of Georgia, and others already have issued statements on this subject. The Institute for Government Research, which has been making a scientific study of the problems of public administration, also has advocated progressive improvement.

Now comes Senator Simeon D. Fess, of Ohio, recognized as an authority on government, who says that the most natural proposal is to change the tenure of office to six or seven years and forbid immediate reelection, a change which would require an amendment to the Constitution. "Doubtless early action will be taken by Congress and the States will readily ratify the proposal when once made," Senator

An additional proposal is to delegate much of the detail work to others, which could be done by legislation.

The first report in the Constitutional Convention on the tenure of the President was seven years and ineligibility for reelection, Senator Fess recalls. After discussion this was changed to four years with eligibility for reelection. The prevailing argument that led to the change was that the shorter term was protection against an avaricious, ambitious, and dangerous Executive. The discussion ranged from election for one year to life. Much was heard about the despotism of George III and the dangerous power of the King. Hamilton showed the proposed Executive had not a semblance of the power of the British King and was less than the Governor of New York or New Jersey.


Against inelgibility to reelection the argument set forth the following reasons: (1) A diminution of inducement to good behavior in office; (2) it would remove the temptation to sordid views to peculation and to usurpation; (3) the deprivation of the public of the valuable experience acquired in office; (4) the banishment from power of a leader at the time of an emergency that might unexpectedly arise when his leadership would be imperative; and (5) it would operate as a constitutional interdiction of stability on administration.

At the time this line of reasoning was decisive and the tenure was reduced to four years with the privilege of reelection so often as the electors chose. In the 136 years of national growth since that decision many changes have occurred. The relative powers of the Executive show the American President possessed of greater power than any ruler in any other constitutional government, Senator Fess emphasizes. This power has constantly increased until he is the most powerful officeholder of the world, while that of the British King has constantly decreased until he is merely a figurehead. Every year Congress adds by legislation to the President's duties in the enactment of laws authorizing the President thus and so.

Since the war numerous commissions, many permanent in character, have been created. Each looks for appointments and organization to the President, to whom it reports. While much of the detail is handled by heads of departments, bureau chiefs, etc., it all comes back to the President for final decision.


As a good example, Senator Fess cites the Post Office Department. Here is a Government agency, doing over a half billion dollars of business each year, employing more than 332,000 persons, touching the public at every point. The President has been unable to detach himself from final direction of this great service. As an example of added burdens by legislation witness the President's responsibility for the Federal Budget. The very genius of this legislation was to make the spending department, which is the executive, responsible for expenditures, to be audited by an independent auditor not subject to the Executive, but to Congress, which alone can remove him by impeachment. The operation of this law is most wearing upon the President. Since it went into operation President Harding felt it necessary to call into conference more than once the various bureau chiefs to instruct it not to issue orders. Executive orders have been issued directing many items of detail. Only recently one was issued which required the return of unexpended balances back into the Treasury, instead of, as heretofore, permitting these heads to issue orders that no balance was to be unexpended.

It has been suggested that this burden should be shifted from the President to Cabinet heads. This can not be done safely, Senator Fess and other students of political economy protest, because each Cabinet head is too apt to fall in with the unnecessary demands of departments, especially such as the Army and Navy. As a pertinent example we now have the Navy Department demanding $350,000,000 for next year, which the Budget Director announces must be reduced to at least $90,000,000.


A recent suggestion is to have this function given over to the Vice President. To this substantial objections are offered, not the least of which is that under our system at the present time we have no Vice President. Just now the Presiding Officer of the Senate, until March 4, 1925, will not be Vice President, but a Senator, who as such votes on all questions, but does not have a deciding vote in case of a tie, as has the Vice President. A better plan, Senator Fess feels, would be to make the Budget Director the head of a bureau, of which the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee would be members, to administer this system.

Steps must be taken to lessen the burdens of detail now carried by the President. This can be partially remedied by the President himself without further legislation. It has not been done in the past because an Executive responsible for his office wishes to exercise the power that goes with the responsibility. He is reluctant to delegate to others even the details in which official influence resides. It serves as the connecting link between leaders of the party in power and the President. The situation is greatly aggravated by the eligibility to reelection.

Not infrequently much of the energy of the head of the administration during the first term is expended in getting ready for reelection.


This is not necessarily the wish or judgment of the President. It is not his choice, but the case is made out for him by the exigencies of the office and party responsibility. In the case of our lamented Harding, who never was enamored with the Presidency, who had many times expressed his preference to remain in the Senate, where he was happy and satisfied, and who was so indifferent personally to reelection that a portion of the press persisted that he would not stand for renomination-much of his time had to be given over to leaders and issues, National and State, looking to party success. This involved the President, whether he willed it or not. His own wishes were not and could not be considered. To deny him a renomination or for him to decline it in either case would be tantamount in the public mind to a confession of failure and would render valueless the party nomination to anyone else.


This situation has the tendency, Senator Fess argues, to prevent the exercise of sound and independent judgment in the face of great clamor and enthusiastic advocacy of measures. In the case of Harding's bonus veto tremendous pressure was centered upon him to take that stand. It was placed by leaders on party necessity. A less courageous man would not have taken his position. It was urged that he should not act as a man of independent judgment, but rather as a leader acting in party interest. Herein lies the weakness and liability of reelection, Senator Fess feels.

Ineligibility would remove the grounds which to-day make the President too much the head of the party rather than the head of the Government, no matter how much he might detest the discrimination. The six or seven years' term is long enough to develop a real policy, advocates of this reform contend, and would enable an administration to accomplish better results than two terms of four years each, because of the overemphasis of party success rather than of the general good. This applies to too much legislation fully as much as to the character of legislation.

The objection to ineligibility previously enumerated will not hold. No man who reaches the high office of President needs the spur of reelection to insure good behavior or to guard against usurpation and sordid views. Neither would a longer term deprive the country of experience, but rather insure it.

It has been demonstrated that no man has been so indispensable that when he left office the country did not continue, and without much of a jar to its machinery. Our strength is in our system of government, our institutions, our popular loyalty, rather than in the type of leadership. When a change in the latter takes place, the Government goes on.


[From the Chautauquan, July, 1912]


The personal and unpleasant phases of the Roosevelt-Taft rivalry have had one important effect. They have revived and greatly stimulated the demand for a constitutional amendment expressly limiting the President to a single term, while lengthening the term to six years. Several Presidents and other political leaders, as well as historians and teachers of political science, have from time to time advocated such an amendment, but the great public never before paid any attention to this question, treating it as academic and theoretical. The spectacle of the President and the former President touring many States, attacking each other, bandying epithets and insults, has served to arouse many to the practical importance of the change mentioned. Republicans, Democrats, and independents alike, radicals and conservatives, have been urging it, and resolutions were offered in Congress proposing the amendment. Presidential advisory primaries are “coming" in every section, and they mean, among other things, campaigns of Presidents and ex-Presidents for second, third, or even fourth terms. For, with all its advantages, the direct primary brings the new element of intraparty and interfaction stump struggles for nominations. It means two long campaigns instead of one, and one of the campaigns must be fought out within the party fold. This often develops bitterness and passion, and forces governors and even the President to “ take off their coats” and talk, plead, shout, and work for nominations.

Under these circumstances the dignity and prestige of the presidential office would seem to require legislation removing either the necessity or the occasion for unseemly wrangling and personal campaigning: . An amendment limiting any man to one term of six years in the White House would have that effect. Perhaps similar amendments are desirable to cover the case of State executives.

But the argument for the reform in question is not based merely on considerations relating to dignity, prestige, propriety in high office. There are deeper and better reasons for making the change. Andrew Jackson thought that a single term without reelection for a President under any circumstances would add another safeguard to our liberties. Second terms are not now feared as threats to our liberties; whether third or fourth terms are a menace and danger is a matter upon which opinion differs. But what is undeniable and clear is that second and third terms are incompatible with efficient and single-minded public service. The best of men can not be exposed to constant temptation. The temptation of incumbents to use patronage, to build or strengthen machines, to “mend fences,"

” to make sure of delegates, to control conventions, is too strong to be resisted in most cases.

Nor is this all. Men in office who are candidates for second or third terms may, and generally do, consider bills and policies from the political or personal point of view. Some do it unconsciously, but all do it more or less. The incumbent who is not and can not be a candidate again for the same office is free to deal with public matters on their merits, to use his independent and sincere judgment, to make the public good his sole test or concern. This would be an enormous gain to good government and to “the rule of the people.”

The more the question is studied the more vital and progressive the single-term idea is seen to be. There is not the least danger that the supply of presidential "timber" will ever be so restricted that second or third terms will be necessary. No man or set of men is really indispensable to an age or generation or nation. Any vigorous, sound body politic contains many men and women who are fit to do

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