Sunday, April 22, 2007

April 21, 1789:

John Adams Takes the Vice Presidential Oath

Interestingly, John Adams took the oath of office as the first Vice President of the United States under the new Constitution nine days ahead of the inauguration of George Washington as president. Since the only real job the vice president seemed to have was to preside over the US Senate, he and the newly formed chamber presumably wanted to get it up and running ahead of the big event on April 30.

Adams' subsequent and somewhat sour presidency is much more remembered than his vice presidency, an office he famously disparaged as worthless. And yet, as vice president, he was quite active in the Senate during an important time in the nation's formation.

The Senate's web site has this to say about its very first presiding officer: "On April 21, 1789, John Adams, the first vice president of the United States, began his duties as president of the Senate.  Adams' role in the administration of George Washington was sharply constrained by the constitutional limits on the vice-presidency and his own reluctance to encroach upon executive prerogative.  He enjoyed a cordial but distant relationship with President Washington, who sought his advice on occasion but relied primarily on the cabinet. Adams played a more active role in the Senate, however, particularly during his first term.

"As president of the Senate, Adams cast twenty-nine tie-breaking votes—a record that no successor has ever threatened. His votes protected the president's sole authority over the removal of appointees, influenced the location of the national capital, and prevented war with Great Britain. On at least one occasion he persuaded senators to vote against legislation that he opposed, and he frequently lectured the Senate on procedural and policy matters. Adams' political views and his active role in the Senate made him a natural target for critics of the Washington administration. Toward the end of his first term, he began to exercise more restraint in the hope of realizing the goal shared by many of his successors: election in his own right as president of the United States."

The full article is here.

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