The Rise of the Vice Presidency

By Irving G. Williams; Edward R. Murrow | Go to book overview

Preface

The purpose of this book is to portray a changing and dynamic institution -- the American vice-presidency. It is the result of six years of study and research. It was written to close a serious gap in the literature of American politics and government for, strangely enough, there are only two other volumes which treat the vice-presidency as a whole. One of these books is a scholarly, but out-of-date work; the other is fairly contemporary but reportorial and careless as to facts.

Although the present work does not pretend to be definitive, I have tried to make it reasonably comprehensive, authoritative without being academic, and up-to-date. Particular attention is given to the historic forces that have brought the vice-presidential office to an unprecedented importance in recent years, to the hazards and consequences of succession by death and incapacity, and to the great constitutional issue of presidential inability. These matters are highlighted in the first chapter and followed by a discussion of what the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they created the vice-presidency. The remainder of the book deals with the men who have served as Vice-Presidents, with the problems that arose during their terms and with the ways in which they shaped their high office.

Chapters 3-5 inclusive deal with the vice-presidency from Washington's first term to the assassination of McKinley. This long time-span in the life of the American nation began with high hopes and great promise for the vice-presidency, but they were soon shattered, largely by the deadlock between Burr and Jefferson which resulted in the Twelfth Amendment.

The ensuing century, during which the vice-presidency was practically eclipsed, is treated relatively briefly. Of the 21 men who served out their terms during this period only one -- Theodore Roosevelt -- reached the presidency by the will of the electors. They were for the most part mediocre men preoccupied with small problems. Their chief formal function was to preside over the Senate. Some of them spent their incumbency seeking to slake their thirst for patronage, conniving against the Chief Executive or else leading an ornamental social life in Washington. The annals of the vice-presidency during this horse-and-buggy period are not particularly interesting nor do they cast any brilliant light on problems of the office in the modern age.

The main emphasis of the present book is on the period stretching from Theodore Roosevelt to Richard M. Nixon, a period roughly coterminous with the first half of the present century. Particular attention is given to the tendency manifest mainly in the last 20 years,

-vii-

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The Rise of the Vice Presidency
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Introduction v
  • Preface vii
  • Contents *
  • Vice-Presidents of the United States *
  • Chapter 1 - Forgotten Office 1
  • Chapter 2 - The Formative Period 14
  • Chapter 3 - The First Vice-Presidents 21
  • Chapter 4 - Politicians in the Saddle 32
  • Chapter 5 - Accession by Assassination 51
  • Chapter 6 - Rough Riding 71
  • Chapter 7 - Transition Years 81
  • Chapter 8 - Spokesman of Normalcy 116
  • Chapter 9 - Last of the Old Guard 128
  • Chapter 10 - Conservative Among Revolutionaries 149
  • Chapter 11 - Left Versus Right 177
  • Chapter 12 - Return to the Senate 210
  • Chapter 15 - Crisis at Md-Centur 235
  • Select Bibliography 259
  • Index 262
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