Nine angry presidents have ascended come the presidency complying with a president’s fatality or resignation. Discover out how presidential sequence and the evil president’s influence have unfolded due to the fact that Vice President john Tyler collection the criterion for orderly presidential succession.

You are watching: What does it mean that the vice president is “only a heartbeat away” from the presidency?

• A evil President liked for Convenience suddenly Rises to the Presidency• Tyler to adjust the criterion for Presidential Succession• The Constitution remains Silent on vice Presidential sequence Until 1967• politics Scandal Rocks the Nixon administration and Requires action Under 25th Amendment• modern Vice Presidents acquire Much much more Influence• Read an ext • conversation Questions for Young human being at Home and also in the Classroom• task Suggestions for Young people at Home and also in the Classroom• referral Sources

A evil President liked for Convenience unexpectedly Rises to the Presidency

Americans intended so little from your vice presidents in the mid-nineteenth century the newly elected Vice President man Tyler slipped far unnoticed quickly after the inauguration speeches and also went house to his plantation in Williamsburg, Virginia. Simply thirty-one job later, however, Tyler was resting soundly when Secretary the State Daniel Webster’s kid Fletcher galloped right into Tyler’s front garden at the cracked of dawn and also hammered at the front door to rest the many shocking the news—President wilhelm Henry Harrison to be dead. Since Tyler had been selected only as a method to assist balance the ticket, he had actually harbored no expectations because that serving actively in Harrison’s administration. However Tyler construed instantly the brand-new role thrust ~ above him result from Harrison’s death, and he hurried instantly to Washington.

Tyler sets the precedent for Presidential Succession

Harrison’s unexpected fatality forced the country to challenge the death of a president for the very an initial time. Article II the the Constitution states that in instances of the president’s death, resignation, or disability, the “Powers and also Duties the the . . . Chandelier devolve ~ above the vice President,” however many debated the an interpretation of “devolve” and also believed the the vice president was just to serve as one “acting” president. Tyler disagreed. He believed wholeheartedly that he was to assume the presidency in every its duties and power just as if he had actually been elected. Tyler consulted with the chef Justice, who concurred with his position, and so Tyler swore the oath that office immediately. His swift and decisive actions developed a monumental precedent for the quick and smooth move of power following a president’s fatality that enabled subsequent orderly transitions complying with the deaths the seven other presidents: Zachary Taylor, Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, wilhelm McKinley, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, and also John F. Kennedy. Congress opted to suppress any type of lingering doubts created by Tyler’s criterion when the passed the Twenty-fifth revised in 1967, which states, “In instance of the removed of the chairman from office or that his death or resignation, the Vice president shall end up being President.”

Just twenty years before congress passed the Twenty-fifth Amendment, president Harry Truman signed the Presidential sequence Act, which designates a complete line of sequence in instance the chairman dies, resigns, or becomes unable to satisfy the duties that the office. In first position to meet a vacant presidency, of course, is the vice president. If the vice president for some reason cannot change the president, then those in the adhering to offices—in this precise order—will change the president, assuming every meets the qualifications because that president established in the Constitution: speaker of the House, President pro tempore that the Senate, Secretary the State, Secretary the the Treasury, Secretary that Defense, lawyer General, Secretary that the Interior, Secretary the Agriculture, Secretary the Commerce, Secretary that Labor, Secretary that Health and also Human Services, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Secretary the Transportation, Secretary that Energy, Secretary of Education, Secretary that Veterans Affairs, and also Secretary of homeland Security.

The Constitution stays Silent on evil Presidential succession Until 1967

As tyler’s ascendency filled one vacancy, that left an additional vacancy in his wake—that the the vice presidency. Remarkably, the Constitution detailed no way for the succession of the angry president—the job just remained vacant. Tyler, in fact, served his entire term of 1841 v 1845 without a vice president, together did fourteen other presidents who assumed the office following a death or whose vice chairman resigned or passed away in office. As soon as Andrew Jackson to be president, his vice president man Calhoun resigned to take a chair in the Senate, i beg your pardon left the evil presidency vacant because that a little over 2 months. Once Abraham Lincoln died and Vice president Andrew Johnson assumed the presidency, the country was left without a vice president for nearly four years. The office that the angry president ongoing to be viewed as insignificant because that so long that evil presidential succession was no addressed by Congress till 1967. Adhering to the assassination of President john F. Kennedy and a renewed feeling of urgency in a people now overshadowed through the hazard of atom war, congress reconsidered the should ensure speedy transitions following both a presidential and also a vice presidential vacancy. With the passage of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, congress not just laid come rest any type of concerns regarding presidential succession, but likewise granted the chairman the strength to appoint a vice president if the office becomes vacant, subject to approval by a majority vote that both houses of Congress.

Political Scandal Rocks the Nixon management and Requires activity Under the 25th Amendment

Just six years after conference passed the Twenty-fifth Amendment, Vice chairman Spiro Agnew resigned amidst charges of bribery and income taxes evasion. He was the just vice chairman to resign adhering to criminal charges, and also only the second to resign the office—Vice President john Calhoun resigned in 1832 to end up being a senator. Through a legal procedure for angry presidential sequence now in place, chairman Richard Nixon ended up being the very first president empowered to replace a vice president. He decided the Congressman Gerald Ford as his evil president.

In the midst of Nixon’s second term, the country was stunned by a 2nd wave that scandal well-known as Watergate. Having involved in a series of illegal activities, ranging from political espionage come wiretapping, Nixon faced specific impeachment and also chose come resign. Nixon was the an initial and just president ever to take such a dramatic action, and also Ford—a male who had actually been appointed to the evil presidency—was catapulted come the presidency. Ford construed his extraordinary place as an unelected executive and also humbly proclaimed to the nation, “I am acutely conscious that you have not elected me together your chairman by her ballots, and so i ask friend to confirm me as your president v your prayers.” as soon as Ford to be sworn in, the vice presidency was again left vacant. For the second time in just over one year, the Twenty-fifth Amendment allowed the president to choose a vice president. Ford made decision former brand-new York governor Nelson Rockefeller. Upon Rockefeller’s check by Congress, our democracy came to be governed by two top executives who had been appointed, fairly than chosen by the people.

Modern angry Presidents obtain Much much more Influence

Today we regularly encapsulate the prestige of ours nation’s second highest executive in the popular aphorism the the vice president is only “a heartbeat away” from the presidency. A rapid look in ~ our history proves the the potential the the vice chairman to end up being president undoubtedly exists, necessitating a high regard for the human who hold the office. Yet, the Constitution sponsor precious small responsibility to the vice president. Post I designates the sole project responsibility that the angry president together serving together the president of the Senate and also voting just in the situation of a tie. Man Adams as soon as grumbled the his task as vice president was “the many insignificant office that ever the innovation of male contrived or his creative thinking conceived.” However, the ratification of the Twenty-fifth Amendment, through its procedure because that vice presidential succession, signaled the recognition of the raising importance attributed to the job. And although Adams thought about his task as vice president to be “insignificant,” modern vice presidents have proactively lobbied come transform their roles into jobs v significantly an ext influence.

Shortly adhering to the election of president Jimmy Carter in 1976, his running mate Walter Mondale created a memo title “The role of the Vice chairman in the Carter Administration.” The executive, management pair discussed and agreed top top a considerably an ext active role for Mondale together vice president than had ever been supported by any previous president. For the very first time, the evil president’s office was relocated to the West soup of the White House, and also from over there Mondale actively advised the president, operated to ensure the the president was listed with as plenty of varying perspectives as possible, and also assisted in developing policy. Mondale’s ground-breaking activist function was important in transforming the vice presidency. In fact, political scholar Paul C. Light writes in Vice-Presidential Power: Advice and also Influence in the White House, “After two century as errand-boys . . . And incidental White residence commissioners, evil Presidents can now lay insurance claim to regular access to the President and to the possibility to give advice on major decisions.” it is this road well paved by Mondale the Vice chairman Joseph Biden has actually followed, fairly than the controversial road plowed through previous evil President dick Cheney, who Biden has dubbed the “most dangerous” vice president in American history. Biden met through Mondale during the autonomous National Convention to comment on how he served under Carter. Regarding his function as angry president, Biden provided before his very first term started that that intended to offer as a close presidential advisor: “Every significant decision will certainly be making, okay be sitting in the room to offer my finest advice. He is president, not me.”

Read More

Discussion inquiries for Young people at Home and also in the Classroom

Do you believe that the vice president plays crucial role in government? execute you think that the Constitution have to be amended to broaden duties for the vice president past breaking ties in the Senate? Why or why not? What additional duties carry out you think should it is in assigned come the vice president?When Congress ratified the Twenty-fifth Amendment, castle did not foresee the potential because that both the president and also vice chairman to resign in the very same administration. What perform you think about what taken place in 1973 and also 1974 when both our president and also vice president ended up being appointed officials? carry out you believe that Congress have to rethink the procedure of appointing evil presidents? how do girlfriend think this have to work? would certainly it make feeling to host a unique election?How carry out you think presidential candidates should choose their to run mates? carry out you think presidential candidates should pick running mates with the character and qualifications crucial to offer as president?Do girlfriend think it would be much better for american to elect a new president following the death, resignation, or impairment of a president and also let the evil president to fill in together “acting” chairman in the interim? Why or why not?

Activity suggestions for Young human being at Home and also in the Classroom

Review the list of commonwealth officials who stand in heat to i think the presidency if the president dies, resigns, or becomes incapacitated. If the vice president is can not to offer as president, then the job falls upon the speaker of the House, followed by the President pro tempore that the Senate. Carry out you believe that the Speaker need to be 2nd in line, or does it make more sense for the President pro tempore of the Senate to be second in line? Why? If no the Speaker nor the President pro tempore can serve, the sequence line goes come the president’s cabinet, nobody of whom is elected. What carry out you think about that? need to Secretary the State be fourth in line to the presidency? Should one more cabinet secretary it is in considered?

Reference Sources


Angelo, Bonnie. First Families: The impact of the White house on their Lives. Brand-new York: HarperCollins, 2005.

Boller, Paul F., Jr. Presidential Anecdotes. Brand-new York: Oxford university Press, 1996.

Committee for financial Development. Presidential sequence and Inability: A explain of national Policy by the Research and also Policy Committee of the Committee for financial Development. New York: CED, 1965.

Durant, John and Alice. Pictorial background of American Presidents. New York: A. S. Barnes and also Company, 1955.

Kunhardt, Philip B. Jr., Philip B. III, and Peter W. The American President: The person Drama of ours Nation’s greatest Office. Brand-new York: Riverhead Books, 1999.

Light, Paul C. Vice-Presidential Power: Advice and also Influence in the White House. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins, 1984.

Sindler, Allan P. Unchosen Presidents: The vice President and also Other frustrations of Presidential Succession. Berkeley: college of California, 1976.

Young, Klyde and also Lamar Middleton. Heirs Apparent: The vice Presidents that the united States. New York: Prentice-Hall, 1948.

Online Resources

Editor’s Note: Website links listed in angle brackets are no longer available.

“Biden looks for advisory role as U.S. Angry president.” 14 November 2008..

See more: How Does Piggy Die In Lord Of The Flies (10/11) Movie Clip, Lord Of The Flies Chapter 11 Summary & Analysis

“Biden watch Mondale, no Cheney as Vice-Presidential function Model.” 14 November 2008..

“John Tyler.” 14 November 2008.

“John Tyler.” 14 November 2008.

“John Tyler, Tenth Vice chairman (1841).” 4 December

“July 18, 1947: Presidential sequence Act.” 25 November

“Vice president of the United says (President that the Senate).” 20 November

“Walter F. Mondale. 14 November 2008.