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Happy Vice Presidents' Day (?)

Yesterday was Presidents’ Day, so logically, today must be Vice Presidents’ Day, right?

Well, not officially, but with all of the hoopla yesterday in honor of Presidents of yore (and, of course, our current President), it makes sense to spend a little time to learn about our Vice Presidents. You may be surprised by what you can discover.

For instance, we all know that Franklin D. Roosevelt was our longest-serving President, winning four elections and serving over 12 years in office. You may also have known that Grover Cleveland’s election as our 22nd and 24th President marks the only time a president has served two non-consecutive terms.

But did you know that the longest-serving Vice President is none other than, well, “None.”

It wasn’t until the 25th Amendment was ratified in 1963 that the President became bound to appoint a new Vice President upon vacancy due to death, ascension, removal, or resignation. Often in our country’s history, presidents didn’t bother to appoint a new Vice President when the office became vacant, leaving the President Pro Tempore of the Senate to be the next in line to the presidency.

The first President to share the Executive Branch with None was James Madison when, on April 20, 1812, then Vice President George Clinton died in office (just a couple months short of the outset of the War of 1812). According to the Dictionary of American Biography, Clinton held Madison in contempt and was openly hostile to him. Given this experience with his own Vice President, it’s not surprising that Madison wouldn’t be eager to appoint another.

None served as Vice President for nearly a year, until the election of 1812 brought Elbridge Gerry, a Massachusetts statesman and an original Signer of the Declaration of Independence, to the office. Gerry is also important as the namesake of the English word “gerrymander” (“Gerry” + “salamander,” for the etymologically curious).

Of Gerry, the Dictionary of American Biography notes: “Although in his seventieth year and frail in health, [Gerry] entered into the social life of Washington with great zest.” This zest ended with his death 16 months after assuming office, calling upon None to fill the shoes of the Vice President of the United States once again.

None held the office of Vice President many other times in our history:

1832-1833, under Andrew Jackson
1841-1845, under John Tyler
1850-1853, under Franklin Pierce
1875-1877, under Ulysses S. Grant
1881-1885, under Chester Arthur
1885-1889, under Grover Cleveland
1901-1905, under Theodore Roosevelt
1912-1913, under William Howard Taft
1923-1925, under Calvin Coolidge
1945-1949, under Harry S. Truman
1963-1965, under Lyndon B. Johnson
1973, upon the resignation of Spiro Agnew, under Richard Nixon
1974, upon the resignation of Richard Nixon and the ascension of Gerald Ford to the presidency.

So please take some time today to know some of our other Vice Presidents. You might be surprised by what you find…or don’t find.

“Elbridge Gerry.” Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936.
“George Clinton.” Dictionary of American Biography Base Set. American Council of Learned Societies, 1928-1936.

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Posted on: February 17, 2009, 7:57 pm Category: Factoids Tagged with: , , , ,

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