The Worst Vice Presidents Of The United States
PG wrote a post yesterday. One of the topics was the “Siamese Twins”, James Buchanan and William Rufus King. While researching the feature, PG googled his way to a Time magazine article about the Worst Vice Presidents in American History. PG is well known for his negative attitude, and writing about the worst things in life always appeals to him. (To see the feature, you have to click through a popup ad for Amway. Good times.) This is a repost, with pictures from The Library of Congress
The first name on the list is Aaron Burr. He had a problem with Alexander Hamilton, and shot him dead in a duel. Elbridge Gerry (the namesake of Gerrymandering) served under James Madison for twenty months, and died. John C. Calhoun served under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson, and managed to get Mr. Jackson so upset that Mr. Calhoun was fired.
Richard M. Johnson served under Martin Van Buren, and was bad at PR. “Johnson scandalized his colleagues by taking one of his slaves as his common-law wife; as a result, he barely garnered enough support to serve in Martin van Buren’s administration. While in office, he proposed an expedition to the North Pole so Americans could drill to the center of the Earth, believing the planet was hollow (his resolution was defeated). Evidently van Buren’s experience with Johnson soured him on vice presidents altogether — when he ran for re-election he dropped Johnson from his ticket and didn’t bother replacing him. Instead, he ran alone.”
William Rufus King was VP under Franklin Pierce a mere six weeks before he died. There is no word on the status of his relationship with James Buchanan at the time. The Time magazine article has a picture of Fernando Wood , which was mistakenly thought to be of Mr. King. (Wikipedia uses the same picture to illustrate an article about Mr. King.)
The VP under James Buchanan (there is no word on who was top or bottom in the Buchanan-King household) was John Breckinridge. During the War Between the States, he left the Union to fight for the Confederacy. Mr. Breckinridge was charged with treason after the war. “The town of Breckenridge, Colorado is named in his honor — although it altered the spelling of its name after the Civil War, so as not to be associated with a traitor.”
Andrew Johnson did not make the list, but maybe should have. He was drunk at his inauguration, and made a fool of himself. Mr. Lincoln had nothing to do with him, until a meeting on April 14. This was Good Friday. Mr. Lincoln went to the theater that night.
Johnson had been marked for death by the conspiracy, but Wilkes Booth had little confidence in the man assigned to kill Mr. Johnson. The afternoon of the assassination, Mr. Booth was at the Kirkwood House, where Mr. Johnson stayed. Mr. Booth left a note for Mr. Johnson at the desk of the hotel… “Don’t wish to disturb you. Are you at home. J. Wilkes Booth”. The idea was for the police to find the note, and implicate Mr. Johnson in the killing of Mr. Lincoln. This mini plot was spoiled by the secretary for the Vice President, who collected the mail that afternoon. He took the card with him. The secretary had met Mr. Booth a few years earlier, and thought the note was for him.
The other three Vice Presidents who took office after the boss was murdered… Chester Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson… were not mentioned in the Time article. All three are mentioned in conspiracy theories about the killings that promoted them into office.
When Theodore Roosevelt was elected to a full term as President, his VP was Charles Fairbanks. “Teddy once ordered a noisy and distracting crystal chandelier removed from his office because it disturbed him. He ordered it to be installed in the office of the Vice President to keep him awake.”
Getting back to Time’s honor roll, Hannibal Hamlin was Lincoln’s first VP. Thomas A. Hendricks survived nine months under Grover Cleveland, before passing away. Thomas Marshall served two terms with Woodrow Wilson, and refused to take over the office when Mr. Wilson had a stroke. Calvin Coolidge did little while waiting for Warren Harding to die. Henry Wallace was, and will be, the only third term VP in our history. He acquired a few enemies, and was replaced by Harry Truman.
Richard Nixon was ok once he got elected, but almost managed to blow that. There were charges of financial shenanigans, and some thought he should be kicked off the ticket. After the Checkers Speech he was on his way to stardom. (After Mr. Nixon died, PG saw a large flag flying at half staff. The flag belonged to a hamburger chain called Checkers.) When Mr. Nixon became President, his VP was Spiro Agnew. Once again, there were charges of financial shenanigans, and much, much more. While the nation wallowed in Watergate, Mr. Nixon needed a diversion. It was suddenly discovered that Mr. Agnew had taken bribes. He was pressured into resigning.
Dan Quayle was VP for George H.W. Bush. He was widely regarded as an idiot, although his damage as VP was minimal. The last VPOTUS on the list is Dick Chaney. For some reason, he was regarded as having more power than the President, George W. Bush. Mr. Chaney was said to be one of the major promoters of the wars which have damaged America so much during the last ten years.