Heir Apparent: Vice Presidents

  • Theresa Marchant-Shapiro
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


The goal of the Constitution in instituting the Electoral College was to assure that the presidency was conferred upon the most meritorious individual in the country. The runner up would be named as vice president in order to assure that in the event of death or disability of the president the next most meritorious individual would be in position to take over the leadership of the country. From this position of respect, if not of responsibility, the vice president became the heir apparent to the president. As Connecticut Representative Elizur Goodrich wrote, “By instituting the office of Vice-President, the Constitution contemplates a success; it means to provide a candidate on probation for the Presidency; it means to avoid the evils of hereditary succession and the turbulence of the public mind being entirely left afloat.”1 The public mind could be confident that a meritorious heir was prepared to be the next president. On his ascension to the presidency, Chester Arthur thought that the system was a success, “No higher or more assuring proof could exist of the strength and permanence of popular government than the fact that though the chosen of the people be struck down, her constitutional successor is peacefully installed, without shock or strain, except the sorrow which mourn the benevolent.”2 The Constitution is a success to the degree that it provides a formal mechanism for replacing the president.


Democratic Party Vice President Party Leader Presidential Candidate Electoral College 
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© Theresa Marchant-Shapiro 2015

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  • Theresa Marchant-Shapiro

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