The US Presidents/Presidential Terms are Four Years

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What is a Term of Office?[edit]

As defined by Article 2 of the Constitution, a Term of office for the US President is four years. After the election, which is held in a leap year, the President Elect takes office by reciting the Oath of Office during an Inaugeration ceremony. If reelected to another term of office, another ceremony is performed and the President recites the Oath again. Only Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President, has been inaugerated for more than two terms.

When do Terms Start and Stop?[edit]

With a few notable exceptions, inaugeration of the early Presidents was performed on March 4th of the year following the election. Presidential terms therefore start and stop the years after leap year. This simple rule always applies, so its fairly easy to build up a short chain of Presidents and their terms based on a leap year. For instance:

  • 1788 was a Leap Year.
  • George Washington was 1st inaugerated in 1789.
  • This 1st of all Presidential terms expired in 1793.
  • In 1792, George Washington was reelected to a 2nd term.
  • The inaugeration for the 2nd term occurred in 1793, just as the 1st expired.
  • The 2nd term expired four years later in 1797.

Long before March 4, 1797, George Washington and the new Nation knew that he would not serve a 3rd term, for the simple fact that he had choosen not to run for the office. Succeeding his position by the election of 1796, John Adams became the 2nd President and served only one term, 1797-1801.

The First Eight Presidents[edit]

Let's take a quick look at the available List of Presidents and notice that, with one previously stated exception, the first eight all took office on March 4th following an election year and held office for a full four or eight years. The exception is George Washington, who was inaugerated for his first term on April 30, 1789.

Eight names is a fairly long list to remember, but there are ways to group the information. For instance, take a look at Unit 1. All five of these Presidents, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe, were founding members of the United States. With one exception, they all served two terms, for a total of eight years, while John Adams served only one term. With these bits of information, we can build ourselves a little table, like so:

  1. Number first five Presidents from 1st to 5th.
  2. Enter their names.
  3. Enter the number of terms. (Who held only one term?)
  4. List the years they were elected.
  5. What years were they in office?
Order President # of Terms Elected Dates in Office
1st George Washington 2 1789 & 1792 1789 - 1797
2nd John Adams 1 1796 1797 - 1801
3rd Thomas Jefferson 2 1800 & 1804 1801 - 1809
4th James Madison 2 1808 & 1812 1809 - 1817
5th James Monroe 2 1816 & 1820 1817 - 1825

Well, that's the first five, but we were looking for eight. For the rest, let's take a look at Unit 2, where we can see that the first three of these Presidents, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Martin Van Buren, all served full terms of office. Like his father before him, John Quincy Adams only served one term, while Andrew Jackson served two, and Martin Van Buren only one. With this information, we are sufficiently armed to add three more rows to our table, just as we did before:

Order President # of Terms Elected Dates in Office
6th John Quincy Adams 1 1824 1825 - 1829
7th Andrew Jackson 2 1828 & 1832 1829 - 1837
8th Martin Van Buren 1 1836 1837 - 1841

The names and terms for the first eight Presidents aren't too difficult to remember, however this is less than a fifth of the total 44 Presidents, so the problem with memorizing will get progressively more difficult as the list grows. Still, let's take advantage of what we know so far.

Assignment[edit]

Complete Worksheet 2.