Federalist Papers – Essay #72

Hamilton’s arguments in Essay #72, The Duration in Office of the Executive and Re-Eligibility of the Executive Considered, follow naturally from the previous paper in which he defended the four-year length of presidential terms. Now he argues that the number of terms served by the President should be unlimited.

His reasoning is as follows:

  • Too many different aspects of the executive branch of government as each new president brought in his own set of advisers and assistants;
  • Diminished “inducements to good behavior” since the president would not have to worry about getting reelected;
  • Continuity of experience – by limiting the president to one term, the country would not enjoy the benefits of having a highly experienced president in office;
  • The danger of a President leaving office at the outbreak of a war.

Hamilton makes a wonderful argument about the possibility of an “avaricious man.” Here are his words:

“Another ill effect of the exclusion would be the temptation to sordid views, to peculation, and, in some instances, to usurpation. An avaricious [having or showing an extreme greed for wealth or material gain] man, who might happen to fill the office, looking forward to a time when he must at all events yield up the emoluments he enjoyed, would feel a propensity, not easy to be resisted by such a man, to make the best use of the opportunity he enjoyed while it lasted, and might not scruple to have recourse to the most corrupt expedients to make the harvest as abundant as it was transitory; though the same man, probably, with a different prospect before him, might content himself with the regular perquisites of his situation, and might even be unwilling to risk the consequences of an abuse of his opportunities. His avarice might be a guard upon his avarice. Add to this that the same man might be vain or ambitious, as well as avaricious.”

As you are aware, the 22nd amendment, enacted in 1951, limited presidents to a maximum of two terms in office. This amendment was passed after President Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four terms as president.

Credit for the summary and analysis of Essay #72 is given to Brittany Nelson and Christopher Higgins (second revision 09/15/2011). Weinbloom, Elizabeth ed. “The Federalist Papers Essay #72 Summary and Analysis”. GradeSaver, 30 December 2011 Web. 18 February 2019.

You can read a summary and analysis of Essay #72 by clicking HERE.

You can read the entire text of Essay #72 by clicking HERE.

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