The Rise of the Vice Presidency

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

CHAPTER 7
Transition Years

The story is told that when Senator Tom Platt was asked if he was going to McKinley's second inaugural, he replied "I am going to Washington to see Theodore Roosevelt take the veil."

Roosevelt himself might not have seriously disagreed with this verdict. Even before taking office, he wrote "I do not see my way very clearly," and again "a Vice-President has mighty little power." He felt frustrated in contemplating his "shelf": "The Vice-President . . . is really a fifth wheel to the coach . . . it is not a stepping stone to anything except oblivion. I fear my bolt is shot." Because of these convictions the forty-two year old Vice-President toyed with a variety of plans to fill up the void of his vice-presidential years, plans which at the same time would be a preparation for the years thereafter, half- expected to be spent in private life. Thus he contemplated studying law, or becoming a graduate school history professor and doing "serious scholarly work."

Roosevelt had had no experience in presiding over a legislative body and seems not to have tried to prepare himself for his one certain duty beyond poring over "back files of the Congressional Record" for a few days. As a matter of fact, he was to preside only for five days, ( March 5 to 9, 1901), but to Senator Foraker the period was "long enough to show that his peculiar qualifications for the public service fitted him better for wider, broader and more useful fields." Roosevelt himself admitted he "was the poorest presiding officer the Senate ever had." He evinced little interest in this aspect of the vice-presidency -- which attitude contrasted with Jefferson's, who worked hard in preparation for his occupancy of the Chair of the Senate.

Most of Roosevelt's vice-presidential activity was devoted to setting political bonfires for himself. He vigorously tried to prevent Platt's hopes (and his own fears) from being fulfilled. Even before March 1901 was ended, he had been virtually endorsed by the Governor of California for the succession and had agreed with that official's suggestion to make a country-wide tour in 1902. McKinley himself was early forced to repudiate third term talk, so the Vice-President had, momentarily, a clear field to "follow his star."

-81-

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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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