Symposium article by: Edward J. Larson

44 PEPP. L. REV. 515 (2017)

At the origins of the office, even though the Vice President was, as its first occupant John Adams declared, “only one breath” away from the presidency, the Office of the Vice President was an afterthought of the Constitutional Convention.  Never discussed during the first three months of the four-month long Convention, the Committee of Eleven introduced the vice presidency as a byproduct of how it resolved to fix the presidential selection process.  Under this process, the Electoral College emerged, with each state assigned the same number of electors as its members in the House of Representatives and Senate.  Each elector would cast equal, undesignated votes for two candidates, only one of whom could be from the elector’s home state. Having a vice president gave an apparent (though sham) reason for each elector’s second vote.

Many Convention delegates viewed the vice presidency as unnecessary, some seeing the office as dangerous because the Vice President would be President of the Senate as well, thus mixing Legislative and Executive functions.  By 1804, most observers believed that electors were implementing the system of choosing the Vice President in a manner both different from what the framers intended and in a potentially antirepublican fashion.  Change was crucial.  Proponents introduced, passed, and ratified the Twelfth Amendment so that the majority party would choose both the President and the Vice President.  As a result, except for retaining its limited role in the Senate, the Office of the Vice President effectively moved from the Legislative to the Executive Branch, resulting in the modern political structure.

 

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