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Thrice Presented Him a Kingly Crown, drawing by Fred O. Seibel, July 19, 1940

Cartoonist Frank Seibel commented on widely held perceptions that President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s third election to the highest executive office crossed a dangerous threshold to potential monarchy or dictatorship. Seibel titled the cartoon with a line from William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, a tragedy about fears of the abuse of power.

Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library

Thrice Presented Him a Kingly Crown, drawing by Fred O. Seibel, July 19, 1940

Congress Limits Presidential Terms

President George Washington set a precedent for peaceful turnover of executive power by declining to serve a third term. The tradition of a two-term presidency held for nearly 150 years, even as Congress—seeking a safeguard against dictatorship—made many unsuccessful attempts to legislate presidential term limits. After President Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected to third and fourth terms in the 1940s, Congress proposed the Twenty-Second Amendment constitutionally limiting the president to two terms.

When he refused nomination for a third term, George Washington warned the people that they might again be subjected to the tyranny of monarchy if they permitted any individual to become too firmly entrenched as Chief Executive.

Representative Leo E. Allen of Illinois, Speech to the U.S. House of Representatives, February 6, 1947