[Puzzleblogger Kevan Choset, August 11, 2005 at 12:10pm] Trackbacks
Length of Presidential Term:
  • Each of the following Presidents served exactly one full term in office (i.e., they did not start in the middle of the term by replacing someone else; they did not leave in the middle of the term through death or resignation; and they did not seek or win reelection). However, one of them served a different number of days than the others. Who, and why?

    John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Martin Van Buren, James K. Polk, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, William Howard Taft, Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush

  • Each of the following Presidents served exactly two full terms in office. However, one of them served a different number of days than the others. Who, and why?

    George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland, Woodrow Wilson, Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton

(No google, no wikipedia, etc. These both can be figured out.)

Scott Scheule (mail) (www):
My guess is whoever it was got the short end of the stick when they moved Inaugaration Day.
8.11.2005 1:13pm
james b (mail) (www):
John Adams' one term was 1 day shorter than all the rest. There was no Feb 29, 1800. All the other persidents had a leap day occur during their term.

George Washington was not innaugurated until April of 1789 and his second term ended in Marchof 1797, so his time in office was approximately one month less than the rest of the the two term presidents.
8.11.2005 1:14pm
Obnoxious and Not Very Well Liked:
Many of those men certainly *sought* re-election :)
8.11.2005 1:22pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
Scott, while that's a good guess, unfortunately Truman was the first President inaugurated on the new day, and he didn't serve an exact number of terms anyway (since he took over for FDR).
8.11.2005 1:23pm
Robert Ayers (mail):
Grover Cleveland served on one more day than the other
two-term presidents since his terms were not consecutive
and so "last day of first term" and "first day of second term" were not the same day..
8.11.2005 1:25pm
Dales (mail) (www):
John Adams did not have a leap year. He's my guess for the first. I'll guess Washington for the second, but do not know why.
8.11.2005 1:26pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
Good job, james b.

Because presidential terms and leap years are both on four year schedules, every full-term President should serve exactly one leap day (and thus have a term of 365+365+365+366 days). However, century years are not leap years, so John Adams (who was President in February 1800) missed out on a day. McKinley was also short-changed by not getting a leap day in February 1900, but this is irrelevant since he was further short-changed by a bullet.

The exception to the above exception to the rule is that century years divisible by 400 are leap years. So 2000 was a leap year, and Bill Clinton did not lose out on a day. The next President to lose a day will be the one elected in November 2096.

As for the two term Presidents, the answer is indeed Washington, since he wasn't inaugurated on any particularly designated inauguration day.
8.11.2005 1:28pm
Kevan Choset (mail):
Robert, counting Grover Cleveland that way depends on how you want to count the number of days served and brings up a "fence-post" issue from computer science. I was counting the number of (approximately) 24 hour intervals between start and end of service as President. Thus, someone who was sworn in on January 1 and resigned on January 10 would have served nine days. But, you are correct that if we list all calendar dates on which, for any part of the day, the person was President, then Cleveland gets an extra day.
8.11.2005 1:30pm
Paul Zummo (mail) (www):
Not to nitpcick, and I guess it's irrelevant because McKinley wasn't a one-termer, but the assassination came in late 1901, thus his first-term was indeed short-changed by one day as was Adams' term.
8.11.2005 2:12pm
Chad K:
One quick correction: it was actually FDR that was the first to be inagurated on January 20th (his second time in 1937).
8.11.2005 2:14pm
David Spurlock (mail):
On the side question about Cleveland: As I understand it, the practice before the Twentieth Amendment was that a presidential term began at 12:01 a.m. on March 4, and ended at midnight on March 3, so that there was no "part of a day" included in a given term of office, with the hours prior to a new president's swearing in on March 4 just being ignored (or if March 4 was a Sunday, and the swearing in was postponed to the next day). If this is correct, then Cleveland would not have had an "extra day," as compared to any other two-term president, say, Jefferson:

Cleveland - March 4, 1885 - March 3, 1889
March 4, 1893 - March 3, 1897

Jefferson - March 4, 1801 - March 3, 1805
March 4, 1805 - March 3, 1809

On the main questions, Adams and Washington should be the correct answers for reasons given by others.
8.11.2005 3:33pm
DJ (mail):
This complicates matters a bit, but recall that Pres. Reagan formally transferred power to Vice President Bush for about nine hours in 1985. The transferral occurred while Reagan had cancer surgery and was made pursuant to the 25th Amendment. During this period, Bush was the "Acting President".

Does this mean that Reagan served fewer days as President than other two-term presidents? The answer, I think, is no, because the 25th Amendment simply grants the V.P. the authority to exercise the powers of the President during the President's incapacity (and, implicitly, divests the President of the authority to exercise those powers during that time); the V.P. does not become President during that time, and, it would seem, the President's tenure in office is uninterrupted.
8.11.2005 4:41pm
Garrett (mail) (www):
DJ, Reagan was my first thought as well. The question was worded "one of them served a different number of days than the others". Do we count those nine hours as time that Reagan "served" as president? I'd say probably yes, but even if it's no, 9 hours doesn't really change the number of days served.
8.12.2005 2:36pm