Concocting the Most Insignificant Office Ever Contrived: The Vice Presidency During the Early Republic
Citation: 104 Geo L.J. 1029 (2016)
John Adams was exasperated. The United States was caught in the middle of escalating tensions between Great Britain and France, and Adams believed himself powerless to help. In a letter to his wife, Abigail, Adams blamed his sense of impotence on his position as the nation’s first vice president—a role he castigated as “the most insignificant Office that ever the Invention of Man contrived . . . and as I can do neither good nor Evil, I must be born away by Others.” Vice President Adams’s frustration stemmed from the constitutional ambiguity surrounding his office. Hurriedly discussed in the final weeks of the Constitutional Convention, the vice presidency was a bizarre creature, occupying responsibilities under both Article I and Article II of the U.S. Constitution. The debates at the state ratifying conventions added to the confusion as Federalists and Antifederalists squabbled over the vice presidency’s impact on separation of powers and whether the Vice President was a legislative official, an executive official, or an infusion of both. . . .