Essay on the American Vice Presidency

Published: 2022/01/11
Number of words: 1689


The American vice- presidency has been an important constitutional office for the American government. According to Witcover the position is perhaps among the most notable innovations. The position of the vice presidency is equated to that of an assistant to the presidency. Among the members of the executive the vice president enjoys higher power save to the president. He provides in-depth analysis of the vice-presidents of America. From Adams to Biden Witcover states that though vice presidents have a high office they act in obscurity (Witcover, 2014). The office of the presidency became relevant in the year 1789. It was during this year that upon taking office as the vice president John Adams acknowledges his role as the president’s standby.

Nevertheless, since the invention of this office vice presidents have been instrumental in public administration. Their contribution to the government includes making of international treaties. Vice presidents have been on the forefront in the creation of foreign as well as international policies. According to the writer, he outlines four American vice presidents that have worked beyond their norm territory (Witcover, 2014). In particular, Witcover puts emphasis on the tenure of Dick Cheney, Joe Biden, Walter Mondale and Al Gore. These individuals have transformed the office to a higher prominence. Although this has not come overnight, many adjustments have taken place in the office of the last hundred years.

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Founding the Vice Presidents Position

During the writing of constitution of the country in the year 1789, the vice presidency was seen as an afterthought. The position was treated with a lot of irrelevance. Vice presidents during the period performed their duties with obscurity (Witcover, 2014). A decision was that vice presidents needed to be runners up to the president. This would limit competition as well as rivalry. Later on the person holding the position needed to come from the same party as the president. The challenging aspect brought by the writer is that succession became silent. It was not clear if the vice president could be in a position to succeed the president. Witcover provides a narrative related to a possible succession of President Woodrow Wilson. It becomes apparent that Thomas. R is not able to succeed the president despite the possibility that the president in incapable of leading.

The books points out that it was not until the year 1907 that a proper procedure came into operation regarding president’s succession by the vice president. The Vice presidency function in the executive ensured that the president’s position was intact incase of disability, resignation or death (Witcover, 2014). The other important reason for creating the vice president’s is to have a figure to preside over senate. During the formation of the office, vice presidents had no governing power.

Delegates gathered in meeting to discuss the position of the vice president in the American government. America’s founding fathers had feared the power that the president could hold in case there is no system of checks. They became afraid that the power of the president could resemble that of the king of England (Witcover, 2014). On their agenda, succession was not a top priority. They were concerned on providing a system of checks and balance on the presidency. There was need to have a system of coordinating efforts of the Executive, Judiciary and the legislature.

Contribution of Aaron Burr

Aaron Burr took the vice president’s position in the year 1801. According to Witcover, (2014), being the third vice president of America under Thomas Jefferson Burr contributed a lot to the vice presidency. From the beginning of his election to office, Jefferson and Burr had limited cooperation. The period where Jefferson had to appoint five top officials to the cabinet Burr was not part of decision-making. Burr made a submission of the names Burr wanted appointed to the positions but Jefferson ignored his favorites. It was evident that Jefferson now could replace Burr as the vice president. Jefferson’s ignorance of Burr led to conflicts within their offices. At some instance, Burr made the deciding vote against the government to break tie in senate.

His significance is also felt when he decides not to rubberstamp Adams Judiciary Act of 1801. In an event, he voted against the government to show his partisan position. He further shows his partisan views when he enters a dinner arranged by the president and offers a toast. This illustration shows that Burr was an independent vice president and showed his availability (Witcover, 2014). He would dine with the president and at the same time discuss with ministers on the street. Understanding that he would not be the next vice president in Jefferson rule Burr sought for the top seat. His exploits in the government diminished the power of the president

Richard Johnson Contribution

Richard Johnson becomes the vice president of America in the year 1812. His appointment to the position came from a senate vote forcing Van Buren to have a contender from the west. Richard a former army colonel had contributed in the battlefield having fought the Indians. Van Buren was not enthusiastic with Richard’s position. He would have preferred to have his running mate as the vice president. Johnson was supposed to be the deciding factor between broken relations of the west and the south (Witcover, 2014). He was the tie between New York and Virginia. At the end of his tenure with Van Buren, he had political ambition of being the president. Although Johnson had no administrative experience, he fell in Van Buren government after failing to secure the presidential ticket.

John Tyler

John Tyler was the shortest to serve in the government of the United States of America. He served for only 33 days. John Tyler contribution was that he was the first president who qualified for the post of presidency. He had poor temperament and lacked effective political skills. His contribution was his inability to relinquish his power (Witcover, 2014). He refused various political compromises and his stubbornness and ambition for presidency baffled many.

Hannibal Hamlin

Hannibal Hamlin contribution includes his fight to ending slave trade. He was frustrated in his efforts to ending this goal. Abraham Lincoln then the president was working towards saving America Union. Just like other relationships between presidents and vice presidents, Lincoln refused to assist Hamlin meet his goal (Witcover, 2014). Six weeks into Lincoln assassination Hannibal was dropped as the vice president. Had he been in office during the fateful day of Lincoln assassination he would have been the president.

The most notable contributions of the politician were his urge to end trade. Through various delegations and debates, he made his point straight on ending slavery in America. The other ambition of the politician was to expand the American Union (Witcover, 2014). Ending of the death penalty was another notable goal of Hannibal. Lastly, he encouraged the embracing of the abolitionist militancy.

Garret Hobart

Garret was the twenty- fourth vice president of America. His contribution was in the creation of policies on administration. He nearly knew the president he was appointed to serve. Due to his independence and skill in administration, Hobart preferred working independently. In using his tie vote Hobart made a decision to retain Philippines after a brief war (Witcover, 2014). In the government realm, Hobart was instrumental in offering administration advice to the president. His cooperation with the president is the most notable aspect of the vice President.

Thomas Marshall Thomas Marshall served under Woodrow Wilson. His contribution was on women suffrage and more importantly on prohibitions. His interaction with the president was not smooth. President Woodrow was sick during his tenure and Marshall would have succeeded him, but he was in the dark of the development (Witcover, 2014).

Charles Curtis Charles Curtis contribution to America as the vice president includes his contributions in various committees. He had many contributions that relate to farming policies and on the rights of American Indian community. He had a hand on the formulation of the farm relief policy (Witcover, 2014).

Nelson Rockefeller

Rockefeller was the forty-first president of America. He became the vice president under President Gerald Ford. Named, as the richest man of his time Rockefeller fell short of become the president. His effort was to unite various communities in America. During his tenure, he presided over various policies on the economy and trade.

His contributions include signing of treaties with other trading blocks and advising the president on various aspects. The mere act of Rockefeller joining public service was a sacrifice in itself (Witcover, 2014). His role as the presiding officer in the senate shows that he had many adversaries. President Ford had promised Rockefeller control on domestic policy.

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This led to war with between Rockefeller and White house Chief of Staff. Rumsfeld ambition was to cut on the budget while Rockefeller’s goal was on spending. Eventually Rumsfeld goal became successful thus saving the taxpayer millions of dollars through budget cuts. When the period of election campaign came, again Rockefeller campaigned for president ford (Witcover, 2014). His final remark upon retiring from politics was his lack of ambition for the presidency. Rockefeller argued that he came into politics to assist solve problems. He retired from politics in 1976 three months after campaigning for Ford.

Presidential Succession

There are various ways of ensuring presidential succession depending on situations. If the president is removed from office in a form of a coup, there is need to have a military presidency that would hold the office till handed to civilian rule. In cases where the government loses both the vice president and the president, power goes to the speaker of congress. The speaker will hold power for some period before an election takes place. By a majority, vote from other legislature’s congress might vote the president out promoting succession claims. Changing power from the president to the Vice president is probably the best practice. This is because it represents the desires of ruling parties. It also ensures smooth continuation of policy fulfillment.


Witcover, J. (2014). The American Vice Presidency: From Irrelevance to Power. Smithsonian Books

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