In 1800, vindicated by a principled yet desperately unpopular "do nothing" decision that had destroyed his own re-election prospects John Adams seized the opportunity to call for a Constitutional Amendment that would restrict the office of the US Presidency to just a single term.
American Hero 2
Ed, Eric Lipps, Robbie Taylor & Scott PalterThe occasion was Adams' finest moment of statesmanship, the signing of the Treaty of Mortefontaine which concluded a "quasi-war" waged by the United States and France primarily in the Caribbean.
Under huge pressure to seek a declaration of outright war from the Congress, Adams remained true to the principles of Washington's Farewell Address which called for his successors to avoid American involvement in conflicts with the European powers. Both the first and second Presidents shared the view that real patriots ignored popular opinion and resisted the influence of friendly nations to seek what was best for their own country
The address also warned of the broader dangers of sectionalism, a concept utterly alien to both Founding Fathers who believed that statesmen should act in the broader interests of the Republic rather than in accordance with the narrow agenda of party.
The Treaty signing might have come too late for Adams to win in 1800 yet with the full support of his predecessor, Adams took a bold step that might remove future Presidents from the short term pressures to act unwisely that either party or public opinion could bring to bear. So he crafted his own farewell address, drawing upon the experience of the quasi-war to justify a single term, six year term limit that would keep future Presidents honest. However he made a critical error by failing to address the issue of succession for a future President who died in office. Or how to avoid Congress pursuing a deselection policy with the blunt instrument of impeachment.
Worse was to follow. Because unfortunately for Washington and Adams, opposition forces (principally Jefferson and Madison) sought to take the proposal off the table by recommending even more comprehensive changes. Their counter-proposal was a Roman style political succession which would require politicans to progress from State Legislatures through to Capitol Hill prior to running for the highest office. The implication of such a change was obvious. A barbed weapon aimed at Adams himself, because such a proposal would rule out dynastic succession, almost certainly preventing his ambitious son John Quincy Adams from ever running for President in the future.