For all you Presidential historians out there, the Smithsonian has a funny/sad/strange article about the history of the vice-presidency — a job that John Adams, the first vice-president, described as “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived” and John Nance Garner, the 32nd VP from 1933-1941, said “wasn’t worth a bucket of warm spit.” Read on. It may make you want to visit Huntington, Indiana and the Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center (yes THAT Quayle :-)).
Read more:The Vice Presidents That History Forgot: The U.S. vice presidency has been filled by a rogues gallery of mediocrities, criminals and even corpses. Tony Horwitz. Smithsonian magazine, July-August 2012
The Constitution also failed to specify the powers and status of vice presidents who assumed the top office. In fact, the second job was such an afterthought that no provision was made for replacing VPs who died or departed before finishing their terms. As a result, the office has been vacant for almost 38 years in the nation’s history.
Until recently, no one much cared. When William R.D. King died in 1853, just 25 days after his swearing-in (last words: “Take the pillow from under my head”), President Pierce gave a speech addressing other matters before concluding “with a brief allusion” to the vice president’s death. Other number-twos were alive but absentee, preferring their own homes or pursuits to an inconsequential role in Washington, where most VPs lived in boardinghouses (they had no official residence until the 1970s). Thomas Jefferson regarded his vice presidency as a “tranquil and unoffending station,” and spent much of it at Monticello. George Dallas (who called his wife “Mrs. Vice”) maintained a lucrative law practice, writing of his official post: “Where is he to go? What has he to do?—no where, nothing.” Daniel Tompkins, a drunken embezzler described as a “degraded sot,” paid so little heed to his duties that Congress docked his salary.
[HT to BoingBoing!]
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