The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution deals with presidential succession and disability

Saturday, July 6th, 2024

The Twenty-fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution deals with presidential succession and disability:

In 1841, William Henry Harrison died in office. It had previously been suggested that the vice president would become acting president upon the death of the president, but Vice President John Tyler asserted that he had succeeded to the presidency, instead of merely assuming its powers and duties; he also declined to acknowledge documents referring to him as acting president. Although Tyler felt his vice presidential oath obviated any need for the presidential oath, he was persuaded that being formally sworn in would resolve any doubts. Accordingly, he took the oath and title of “President,” without any qualifiers, moved into the White House and assumed full presidential powers. Though Tyler was sometimes derided as “His Accidency”, both houses of Congress adopted a resolution confirming that he was president. The “Tyler precedent” of succession was thus established, and subsequently Millard Fillmore (1850), Andrew Johnson (1865), Chester A. Arthur (1881), Theodore Roosevelt (1901), Calvin Coolidge (1923), Harry Truman (1945), and Lyndon B. Johnson (1963) were all deemed to have become president on the death of incumbent presidents.

In 1893, Grover Cleveland secretly had cancer surgery, after which he was incapacitated for a time and kept from public view.

Following Woodrow Wilson’s stroke in 1919, no one officially assumed his powers and duties, in part because his condition was kept secret by his wife, Edith Wilson, and the White House physician, Cary T. Grayson. By the time Wilson’s condition became public knowledge, only a few months remained in his term and Congressional leaders were disinclined to press the issue.

Prior to 1967, the office of vice president had become vacant sixteen times when the vice president died, resigned, or succeeded to the presidency. The vacancy created when Andrew Johnson succeeded to the presidency upon Abraham Lincoln’s assassination was one of several that encompassed nearly the entire four-year term. In 1868, Johnson was impeached by the House of Representatives and came one vote short of being removed from office by the Senate in his impeachment trial. Had Johnson been removed, President pro tempore Benjamin Wade would have become acting president in accordance with the Presidential Succession Act of 1792.

After several periods of incapacity due to severe health problems, President Dwight D. Eisenhower attempted to clarify procedures through a signed agreement with Vice President Richard Nixon, drafted by Attorney General Herbert Brownell Jr. However, this agreement did not have legal authority. Eisenhower suffered a heart attack in September 1955 and intestinal problems requiring emergency surgery in July 1956. Each time, until Eisenhower was able to resume his duties, Nixon presided over Cabinet meetings and, along with Eisenhower aides, kept the executive branch functioning and assured the public the situation was under control. However, Nixon refused to use the president’s office in the White House or sit in the president’s chair at Cabinet meetings.

The 1951 novel The Caine Mutiny and its 1954 film version influenced the drafters of the amendment. John D. Feerick told The Washington Post in 2018 that the film was a “live depiction” of the type of crisis that could arise “if a president ever faced questions about physical or mental inabilities but disagreed completely with the judgment”, which was not dealt with in the Constitution. Lawmakers and lawyers drafting the amendment wanted no such “Article 184 situation” as depicted in the film, in which the Vice President of the U.S. or others could topple the President by merely saying that the President was “disabled”.


  1. Jim says:

    As we discovered thanks to the tireless efforts of the Orange Man, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are the true day-to-day ruling sovereign of the United State.

  2. Jim says:

    Presumably that is why the terrorists chose to hit the Budget Analyst Office at the Pentagon.

    G-d bless America.

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