American Prince, American Pauper: The Contemporary Vice Presidency in Perspective

American Prince, American Pauper: The Contemporary Vice Presidency in Perspective

American Prince, American Pauper: The Contemporary Vice Presidency in Perspective

American Prince, American Pauper: The Contemporary Vice Presidency in Perspective

Excerpt

Our first Vice-Presidents were actually runners-up for the Presidency. From 1788 until the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, the Electors of each state cast two votes for the office of President and none for the office of Vice-President, since the Framers of the Constitution had provided that the second highest vote- getter would serve as Vice-President. A Vice-President was necessary, they felt, in the event of the President's death or disability.

In a sense, then, the Electors ignored the office of Vice-President--and the qualifications necessary to hold it. Each Elector voting for his candidates was unable to designate which he preferred to be President, although the method insured that a man of high calibre and reknown would be selected for the second office. But a negative outcome was also possible, and this occurred with the election of 1800, which marked a crucial turning point for the Vice-Presidency.

In that election, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both of the Republican party, received an equal number of electoral votes for the Presidency. This, according to the Constitution, sent the election to the House of Representatives. The Federalists attempted but failed to have Burr or a Federalist elected to the Presidency by soliciting a few Republican votes. Jefferson, however, was chosen President, and Burr, as provided by the Constitution, became his Vice-President.

Even though Jefferson and Burr had received the same number of electoral votes, members of the Republican party did not consider Burr a desirable choice for the Presidency; in fact, he was considered dangerous. Thus, what was perceived as a narrow escape revived interest in separate votes for each office, and by May 1802 an amendment had been passed in the House of Representatives.

By no means were opinions unanimous for either the necessity or the virtue of the change, and the opinions of the opponents contained a good deal of prophecy. The two major arguments in opposition were that, first, contrary to the intentions of the Framers of the Constitution that the Vice-Presidency go to someone qualified for the Presidency, the Twelfth Amendment did no such thing, but merely gave it to someone specifically chosen for the inferior spot. Clearly . . .

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