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The Twenty-Fifth Amendment

Its Complete History and Application, Third Edition

John D. Feerick

Publication Year: 2013

This new edition of The Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Application updates John Feerick's indispensable study with the amendment's uses in the last twenty years and how those uses (along with new legal scholarship) have changed the amendment and perceptions of presidential disability in general. In its formulation, the Twenty-Fifth Amendment was criticized as vague and undemocratic, but it has made possible swift and orderly successions to the highest offices in the United States government during some of the most extraordinary events in American history. The extent of its authority has been tested over the years: During the Watergate crisis, it was proposed that the amendment might afford a means by which a President could transfer Presidential power during an impeachment proceeding, and it was also suggested that the amendment could authorize a vice president and cabinet to suspend a president during the period of impeachment trial before the Senate. Where once presidential disability was stigmatized, today, a president under general anaesthesia cedes presidential authority for the length of the procedure with little fanfare. The Twenty-Fifth Amendment is evolving rapidly, and this book is an invaluable guide for legal scholars studying the nation's highest offices.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. iii-iv


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Th e publication of the third edition of a book may attest to a degree of commercial success but is otherwise generally not a significant event. Th at usual rule does not apply to this new edition of John D. Feerick’s work Th e Twenty-Fifth Amendment: Its Complete History and Application. Originally published in 1976 and reissued in 1992 with a lengthy new Introduction to cover subsequent developments, The Twenty- ...

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Preface to the Third Edition

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pp. xiii-xv

It would not have been possible for me to complete this update without the enormous assistance of students at Fordham Law School. It is with great gratitude that I acknowledge the following students’ dedication and superlative research efforts, drafting, source checking, suggestions, and ideas: Elizabeth Bierut, Mary Kate Brennan, Ashley Feasley, Katelynn Gray, Caitlin Polus, Caroline Saucier, and ...

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Acknowledgments from the 1992 Edition

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p. xvii-xvii

I wish to acknowledge my appreciation to Paul C. Fonseca, a member of the New York and New Jersey bars, and to the following students of Fordham Law School for their invaluable assistance in connection with this edition: Marcy Hillman, ...

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Foreword to the 1976 Edition

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pp. xix-xx

As this nation celebrates the two- hundredth anniversary of its birth, we should take special note of one unique feature of our great constitutional experiment. Unlike almost any other Western democracy, the United States has never been faced with a serious crisis in the line of succession to offi ce of its chief executive and head of state. Our ability to avoid such a crisis throughout much of our earlier history was, ...

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Preface to the 1976 Edition

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pp. xxi-xxiii

This book is a sequel to my earlier book, From Failing Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession (Fordham, 1965). Therein, the development from 1607 to 1964 of our political and legal experiences with executive succession machinery was traced. From Failing Hands, among other things, constitutes a detailed account of presidential succession as reflected in the deaths and illnesses of Presidents and Vice Presidents, ...

I. The Problems

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1. Presidential Inability

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pp. 3-24

When the framers of the Constitution met in Philadelphia in 1787, they brought with them almost two hundred years of experience with executive succession machinery.2 Yet they did not spend much time discussing the subject at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Th ey seem to have thought they handled the matter adequately by providing for the office of Vice President and by inserting in the Constitution the ...

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2. Vice-Presidential Vacancy

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pp. 25-32

From May 29 through September 4, 1787, the framers of the Constitution spent a considerable amount of time on the executive article.2 A consensus on a single executive developed early in the Convention, but the method of selecting that executive was not so easily settled. Numerous proposals were advanced, including election by Congress, by the people, and by electors chosen either by the state legislatures ...

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3. Succession Beyond the Vice Presidency

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pp. 33-45

As the framers debated the executive article, they realized that a vacancy could occur in the presidency during the course of a term. Indeed, they remembered situations in America’s past involving the death, resignation, absence, and removal of colonial governors. Fortunately, there had been procedures to handle such contingencies.1 In the royal colonies there was an offi ce of lieutenant governor, and a ...

II. The Solution

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4. Early Steps to Solve the Inability Problem

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pp. 49-55

During and immediately after the inabilities of Presidents James Garfield and Woodrow Wilson, proposals were introduced in Congress to combat the inability problem. In the Garfield period, debate raged over the meaning of “inability,” the status of a Vice President who succeeded in the event of a presidential inability, and the question of who had the power to determine whether an inability existed.2 Professor ...

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5. Senate Passage of S. J. Res. 139

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pp. 56-78

Following President Kennedy’s death,* there descended on Congress a flurry of proposals dealing with the problem of presidential inability, most of which also sought to deal with the related problem of presidential succession. The presence of a seventy-two-year-old Speaker (John W. McCormack) and an eighty-six-year-old President pro tempore (Carl Hayden) at the top of the line of succession underscored ...

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6. Congress Acts

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pp. 79-104

The failure of the House of Representatives to take any action in 1964 is not surprising, since it was anxious not to do anything that might be interpreted as a slap at its Speaker. With the election of President Johnson and Vice President Humphrey, this possibility, for all practical purposes, no longer existed.* The momentum for a solution was quickly reinforced by Johnson himself in his State of the Union message of...

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7. Ratification

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pp. 105-107

The Amendment was ratified by the necessary thirty-eight state legislatures on February 10, 1967, and formally proclaimed the Twenty-Fifth Amendment to the Constitution at a White House ceremony held on February 23, 1967.2 During the ratification period no serious opposition to the proposed amendment developed.* By the end of 1965, thirteen states had ratified it, and by one year after its submission ...

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8. An Analysis of Sections 1, 2, 3,and 4 of the Amendment

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pp. 108-121

Section 1. In case of the removal of the President from office or of his death or resignation, the Vice President shall become President. This Section specifically confirms the Tyler precedent whereby a Vice President becomes President when there is a vacancy in the presidential office because of the President’s death.2 It also extends the precedent to cover vacancies in the presidency caused by resignation and removal after an impeachment.3 In any of these ...

III. Implementations of the Solution

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9. The Resignation of Spiro T. Agnew

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pp. 125-134

On November 7, 1972, Richard M. Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew received more popu lar votes for President and Vice President than any other candidates in American history. Less than two years later, both had resigned their offices, and Gerald R. Ford and Nelson A. Rockefeller had become President and Vice President by virtue of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. Although it is beyond the scope of this book ...

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10. The Substitution of Gerald R. Ford

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pp. 135-157

Speculation about a new Vice President to replace Agnew began weeks before his resignation. In September 1973, in anticipation of Agnew’s resignation, three major congressional committees began to study secretly the process by which a vice-presidential vacancy would be filled.2It is not surprising that, at about the same time, various names were mentioned in the press as possible replacements. Those ...

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11. The Resignation of Richard M. Nixon and Succession of Gerald R. Ford

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pp. 158-166

Th e confirmation of Gerald Ford as Vice President suggested to some the solution to the tangle of Watergate.2 While Agnew was next in line for the presidency it was difficult for many congressmen to consider removing Nixon. Moreover, during the period when the vice presidency was vacant after Agnew’s resignation, Nixon remained secure, since it was unlikely that a Democratic Congress would risk the ...

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12. The Installation of Nelson A. Rockefeller

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pp. 167-189

On August 6, three days before Nixon’s resignation, Melvin Laird, a close adviser to Ford, predicted flatly that Nelson Rockefeller would be Ford’s choice as Vice President.2 When questioned about Laird’s statement on August 7, Ford replied that it was premature to discuss a vice-presidential successor.3 This did not stop political commentators from speculating, however, and Rockefeller, George H.W. Bush, ...

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13. The Uses and Non-Uses of Section 3

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pp. 190-204

In the presidential administrations running from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, the inability provisions of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment were invoked, considered seriously, and discussed with the public. President Ronald Reagan’s Disabilities The Assassination Attempt On March 30, 1981, just seventy days into his tenure, President Ronald Reagan exited the Washington Hilton Hotel after delivering a speech to the Building and ...

IV. Continued Interest and Efforts to Change

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14. Congressional Action

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pp. 207-220

The terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, was unprecedented in its tragic impact on the lives of innocent Americans. It ushered in an era of threat to the security and well-being of the nation. Following the devastation on American soil, many eff orts were designed to anticipate and meet danger before it struck. Within a year a new Cabinet department was established, the Department ...

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15. Symposia, Scholarship, and Commissions

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pp. 221-253

The Twenty-Fifth Amendment has enjoyed tremendous popularity, if one is to judge by the media depictions of the Amendment with different subplots, and the books, articles, magazine features, and newspaper articles regarding it. Its presence in the Constitution as highlighted by the appointments of Gerald R. Ford and Nelson A. Rockefeller, and its relationship to the nation’s well-being and security have contributed ...

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16. Representation of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment in Popular Culture

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pp. 254-261

One way of ascertaining changes that might need to be addressed in the area of presidential succession is through exploring popular culture. Media, most particularly through theater and television, provide a lens on what populates the collective imagination of the public.2 As William Baker said in his fascinating article “Presidential Succession Scenarios in Popular Culture and History and the Need ...

V. An Evaluation

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17. Appraisal

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pp. 265-290

In any appraisal of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, one must start with the function it played in shaping the extraordinary events of 1973 and 1974. As Representative Peter W. Rodino stated at the 1975 review hearings on the Twenty-Fifth Amendment before the Senate Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments: Had there been no amendment, not only would the Nixon and Agnew ...

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18. Recommendations

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pp. 291-295

In early writings, first for the Fordham Law Review in 1963 and 1964, and then in From Failing Hands, this author took aim at laying out ideas on the subject of presidential inability and the vice presidency. Before arriving at these views, I considered political arrangements in colonial America, the succession provisions of the early state constitutions, the debates at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and in the ...


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pp. 297-349


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pp. 351-397


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pp. 399-414


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pp. 415-424

E-ISBN-13: 9780823252022
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823252008

Page Count: 224
Illustrations: 6 b/w
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth

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Subject Headings

  • United States. Constitution. 25th Amendment.
  • Presidents -- Succession -- United States.
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