Vice Presidential Vacancies


Questions for Reflection:

1) One of President Richard Nixon's criteria for a vice presidential replacement was for the nominee to share Nixon's foreign policy views. If you were president and tasked with selecting a vice president, which area of policy would you deem most important?

2) The two roles of the vice president, as listed in the Constitution, are as follows: 1) To be first in line of presidential succession 2) To be president of the Senate. John Adams, America's first vice president said about the role, “my Country has in its Wisdom contrived for me, the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived: ... I can do neither good nor Evil.” In the 20th century, the role evolved to become much more influential and involved working with the president to make decisions to govern the nation. Do you think it is a positive or negative development that vice presidents have more power and influence now than originally delineated in the Constitution? Why?

3) Under the U.S. Constitution, the candidate with the most electoral college votes becomes president, and the candidate with the next most votes becomes vice president. The president and vice president were therefore often from opposing political parties. The twelfth amendment, ratified in 1804, made the vice presidency a directly elected role. Presidential and vice presidential candidates began to run together on the same ticket as running mates. What are the pros and cons of vice presidents now being of the same political party as presidents?

4) Transfer of Power Theme Question: The United States has an impressive history of peaceful transfer of power that is rare in history and among the nations of the world. How has the twenty-fifth amendment contributed to America's tradition of peaceful transfer of power? 

 

Chart of Vice Presidential Vacancies Prior to Spiro Agnew's Resignation

Sixteen times between the United States' founding in 1789 and 1967, the vice presidency was vacant, roughly once per decade on average. Of these: 

  • Eight times the Vice President replaced a President who had died
  • Seven times Vice President died in office; and in one case
  • One time the incumbent Vice President resigned.

Vice President

Term Elected

Date of Vacancy

Reason

President

George Clinton (R)

1809-1813

4/20/1812

Death

James Madison

Elbridge Gerry (R)

1813-1817

11/23/1814

Death

James Madison

John C. Calhoun (D)

1829-1833

12/28/1832

Resignation

Andrew Jackson

John Tyler (Whig)

1841-1845

4/6/1841

Death of President Harrison

William Henry Harrison

Millard Fillmore (Whig)

1849-1853

7/10/1850

Death of President Taylor

Zachary Taylor

William King (D)

1853-1857

4/18/1853

Death

Franklin Pierce

Andrew Johnson (R)

1865-1869

4/15/1865

Assassination of Pres. Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Henry Wilson (R)

1873-1877

11/22/1875

Death

Ulysses S. Grant

Chester A. Arthur (R)

1881-1885

9/20/1881

Assassination of Pres. Garfield

James A. Garfield

Thomas Hendricks (D)

1885-1889

11/25/1885

Death

Grover Cleveland

Garrett A. Hobart (R)

1897-1901

11/21/1899

Death

William McKinley

Theodore Roosevelt

1901-1905

9/14/01

Assassination of Pres. McKinley

William McKinley

James S. Sherman (R)

1909-1913

10/30/12

Death

Willam Howard Taft

Calvin Coolidge (R)

1921-1925

8/3/23

Death of President Harding

Warren G. Harding

Harry S Truman (D)

1945-1949

4/12/45

Death of President Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Lyndon B. Johnson (D)

1961-1965

11/22/63

Assassination of Pres. Kennedy

John F. Kennedy