The U.S. Constitution and the Vice President

John Adams, the nation’s first vice-president, said of the office: “I am vice president.  In this I am nothing but I may be everything” and it is “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived.”  Our nation’s second Vice President, Thomas Jefferson said “The second office of this government is honorable and easy; the first but a splendid misery.”  John Nance Garner, Franklin Roosevelt’s first Vice President said that being Vice President “was the worse thing that ever happened to me.’  In 1848, New Hampshire’s Daniel Webster was offered the nomination for Vice President by the Whig party.  He replied, “I do not propose to be buried until I am dead.”  I think that the most profound and humorous comment about the office belongs to Thomas Marshall, who served as Vice President under Woodrow Wilson.  He said that being Vice President is comparable to “a man in a cataleptic fit; he cannot speak; he cannot move; he suffers no pain; he is perfectly conscious of all that goes on but has no part in it.”


Vice President John Nance Garner

The first mention of the office of Vice President in the U.S. Constitution is found in Article 1, Section 3, Paragraph 4:  “The Vice President of the United States shall be President of the Senate but have no vote unless they be equally divided.”   In Article II, Section 1, Paragraph 3, we read that “The President of the Senate shall in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates (Electoral votes) and the votes shall then be counted.  Prior to the 12th Amendment, a Vice President was elected by having the second highest number of electoral votes for President.  With the adoption of the 12th Amendment in 1804, electoral voters had to cast a distinct ballot for Vice President.  In Article 2, Section 1, Paragraph Six, ”we read “In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President…”

There have been 49 vice presidents in our nation’s history.  Eight have assumed the presidency after the death of a President:  John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, Andrew Johnson, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, and Lyndon Johnson.  Six were elected president after serving as Vice President:  John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush, and Joe Biden. Two resigned-John Calhoun and Spiro Agnew.  Seven died in office:  George Clinton and Elbridge Gerry (where the word Gerrymander comes from) both who served under James Madison, William King, under Franklin Pierce, who was the only Vice President to take his oath of office in a foreign country-Cuba and died shortly thereafter. Henry Wilson, born in Farmington, NH, and has a stretch of Rt 11 named in his honor, served under U.S. Grant.  Garret Hobart who served under William McKinley and James Sherman who served under William Taft.


There was no constitutional provision to replace a Vice President until the 25th Amendment which was ratified in 1967.  In Section Two of the 25th, we read: “Whenever there is a vacancy in the office of the Vice President, the President shall nominate a Vice President who shall take office upon confirmation by a majority vote of both Houses of Congress.  Gerald Ford was nominated by Richard Nixon to replace Spiro Agnew who resigned in disgrace.  Ford has the distinction to be the only man who served as unelected Vice President and President.

Vice Presidents, while only having two constitutional duties, serve as advisors to the President, travel around the United State and the world on behalf of the president and the United States.  Some have served with dignity while other have been unmitigated disasters.   Our current Vice President’s job appears to be traveling around the world, and the United States embarrassing and humiliating the people of the United States while promoting division and hatred among its citizens.