Eisenhower, Constitutional Practice, and the Twenty-fifth Amendment
Gerard E. Giannattasio and Linda R. Giannattasio
A major feature that distinguished the United States among nations is the smoothness of its leadership transitions. 1The framers of the Constitution created a supple instrument that contains as one of its principal strongpoints provision for an amendatory process. In 1787, the Constitution was not viewed as a plan for all time--unchangeable--but one by which future generations as well as the one then present might live. 2 In Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution, provision is made for presidential succession as follows:
In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President, and the Congress may by law provide for the Case of Removal, Death, Resignation or Inability, both of the President and Vice President, declaring what Officer shall then act as President, and such Officer shall act accordingly, until the Disability be removed, or a President shall be elected.
This chapter investigates Dwight David Eisenhower's contribution to the implementation of this constitutional provision for the transition of presidential powers.
The constitutional Succession Clause was first used in 1841 when President William Henry Harrison died in office. At that time, the single sentence in the Constitution, quoted above, served as the only available guide. 3 The lack of a more detailed statement can be traced to the Convention of 1787 which had been conducted in secrecy. 4 James Madison Papers, published the year before, provided only a partial picture of the events, 5 and Max Farrand's definitive compilation of the proceedings did not appear until 1911. 6 These and other records have been the chief means by which modern scholarship has probed the