Throughout most of our history, the Vice President has been either ignored or ridiculed. Many Vice Presidents have themselves joined in the general downgrading. John Adams, who was George Washington's Vice President, said that "my country has, in its wisdom, contrived for me the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived; and as I can do neither good nor evil, I must be borne away by others and meet the common fate."
In 1848 some people thought Daniel Webster might accept his party's vice-presidential nomination. But Webstertold his daughter that he was allowed to be the first farmer in his area, "and I am content with this, unless I should be called to be first, elsewhere, where I can do more good."
Many years later Mr. Dooley wondered why "ivrybody runs away fr'm a nommynation f'r vice-prisidint as if it was an indictment be th' gran' jury."
Richard Nixon, after serving in the vice-presidency, called that office a "hollow shell -- the most ill-conceived, poorly defined position in the American political system."
How the office developed is not entirely clear. The Constitutional Convention left few notes behind to explain it, and Alexander Hamilton noted in The Federalist Papersthat the office "has been objected to as superfluous, if not mischievous."
In recent years, "giving new meaning to the vice-presidency" has become a popular slogan. In the Eisenhower administration it was said that Vice President Nixon would be given special assignments and responsibilities. The value of this was brought into question during a 1960 Eisenhower news conference. Someone asked for an example of a major Nixon idea that the President had adopted. Eiz