Talk:David Rice Atchison

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The Presidential term begins on time[edit]

Since the Presidential term begins on time. Atchison could never have been President. Not having taken the oath did not disqualify Taylor from becoming President on time. It just prevented him from entering upon the execution of that office. Not even Obama took the oath on time. He took it about fifteen minutes after becoming President. Gerard von Hebel (talk) 09:34, 4 July 2012 (UTC)

An excellent point, Gerard. An interesting question, however, is this one: if Taylor could not "enter upon the execution" of the office of the President of the United States on March 4-5 of 1849 (because he had not yet taken the oath) then could ANYONE act as President during those 24 hours from noon to noon? It seems that the answer must be either "no one" or "only David Rice Atchison," depending on whether the presidential oath is required for an "acting President" as it is for an actual President, certainly a murky question, especially in 1849. Precisely how empty was the Presidency for those 24 hours -- utterly empty, or with the possibility of someone stepping in and acting, temporarily, if necessary?
On this reasoning, Atchison (at most) could join the ranks of those who were "Acting President of the United States" but never spoke or acted in that capacity, instead remaining mute and passive. We could abbreviate the designation of this status as "APUS Null."
Thus we could say that David Atchison was APUS Null for 24 hours in March of 1849. Nancy Pelosi, as Speaker of the House, was APUS Null for 15 minutes on January 20, 2009. In the history of the republic, there must have been many others, most occupying this status for only a few minutes, like Pelosi. Paul (talk) 19:26, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
I don't think so. Atchinson was not even President pro tem at the time. His term had expired and there was no new one elected by the Senate at the time. Also I don't think that the concept of APUS existed back then as I think it was established by the 25th Amendment. And even if Nancy Pelosi was in office in those fifteen minutes you are talking about, the office of APUS does not kick in automatically just because the President has not yet begun actually executing the office of President. Gerard von Hebel (talk) 20:04, 22 November 2012 (UTC)
I don't think so either. The succession act in force at the time allowed for officers to act as president in the case of removal, death, resignation, or inability. No mention is made of failure to qualify, which is what not taking the oath is. Of course knowing the Senate rules about the PPT in force at the end of the 30th Congress would help. Under current rules, the PPT ceases to that office if he ceases to be a senator. Since there's no actual requirement in the Constitution that the PPT be a member, it is possible that the lapse of Atchison's term was irrelevant. Knowing that might put the matter to bed. -Rrius (talk) 00:54, 23 November 2012 (UTC)
Well ... Yes, Gerard, you are correct that the concept of APUS was not defined explicitly, as a phrase, until the 25th Amendment. However, the problem exists without regard to whether it has been explicated in law. And the issue of a possible "acting president" had actually been argued before 1849 -- when William Henry Harrison died in 1841, there was controversy over whether John Tyler thereby became President, or whether he was only to fulfill the duties of President without actually taking that office. The Tyler question was most certainly a controversy about an "acting president" even if that phrase was not used.
The main question remains pertinent, even if it is difficult to answer: During those 24 hours in 1849, was it possible for anyone to act as President, and if so, who? Although you do not explicitly say so, I surmise that your answer to this question is "no one." This seems a highly dangerous and unlikely state of affairs, although I suppose it is possible that no one cared in 1849.
As for the "lapse" of Atchison's term, Rrius, the infobox in this article says he was Senator from 4 December 1844 to 4 March 1855. The infobox also says he was President Pro Tempore of the Senate from 8 August 1846 to 2 December 1849 (and then later for an additional period that is irrelevant to this discussion). That being the case, Atchison's term did not lapse, not as a Senator and not as President Pro Tempore of the Senate -- either that, or the infobox needs correction.
Just to clarify what I am saying, it is obvious that Atchison was never President of the United States. What is not obvious, however, is what the legal status of the Presidency (actual or acting) might have been during those 24 hours in 1849. I freely admit to having invented the phrase "APUS null," which I cited as the maximum designation that might be applied to David Rice Atchison during those 24 hours. But perhaps Gerard is right, and the presidency was 100%, irretrievably, empty. Paul (talk) 18:35, 24 November 2012 (UTC)
I mistakenly relied on a source that was wrong. His term didn't lapse for either office, but the infobox is at best misleading. He did not serve continuously over that period; rather, he was elected 11 times. For the relevant period, he was elected on March 2 (in the old Congress) and again on March 5. But you are missing a rather crucial detail—the president was not in any sense empty. Taylor was the president from noon on March 4. The fact that he had yet to take the oath only meant he hadn't entered into the "execution of the office". That just means he couldn't exercise his powers. To create a vacancy, under the terms of the law in effect at the time, he would have had to resign or refuse the office in a letter to the Secretary of State. Nothing in the text of the Constitution or the statute on succession in effect at the time suggests that failure to qualify (as not taking the oath is considered) created the circumstances under which someone could "act as president". The statute in effect now does, IIRC, make that a situation where someone could step in. -Rrius (talk) 05:21, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
So, although neither you nor Gerard has explicitly said so, you both hold that "no one" could have acted as president during that 24-hour period from noon to noon, March 4-5, 1849 -- Taylor could not because he had not been sworn in as president, and no one else could do so because Taylor WAS president, even though precluded from acting owing to his delay in taking the oath. I guess those were simpler times, when a 24-hour gap could hardly do any harm. Nonetheless, this appears to be quite an anomaly. Paul (talk) 21:38, 25 November 2012 (UTC)
If you want to look at it that way, you are entitled to, but you are misusing the word "act". The president was the president. The law provided for four cases where a person could "act as president" (though that had already been interpreted at least for death as actually becoming president). A period between the end of the president's predecessor's term and the taking of the oath, whether it was a question of seconds or hours, was not such a case. But the president was the president and could have taken the oath at any point after his term started. It is not a question of no one caring about a 24-hour gap in the presidency, but one of there being nothing so pressing that the president needed to take the oath during that period. No powers needed to be used before noon on the 5th, so Taylor was able to have his delay. For example, if it suddenly became necessary at 6 pm on the 4th for the president to order something, Taylor would have taken the oath, but it didn't, so he didn't. I think a thing you are missing is that even now an acting president has to take the oath, so there would be no difference in a modern rehash of Taylor's circumstances between the president and any potential acting president who refrained from taking the oath of office. -Rrius (talk) 13:21, 26 November 2012 (UTC)

Hmmmm. Fifteen minutes elapsed after noon, before Obama (and Biden) took the required oath -- which was incorrectly administered; then, the oath had to be re-administered the next day, because Roberts had screwed up the wording of the oath on 1/20. Assuming Joe Biden's oath was correctly administered, he might have a better claim than Atchison's to being "President for a Day" (until the "redo" on 1/21). Otherwise (if Biden's oath was somehow invalid), Nancy Pelosi (who had been re-elected as Speaker when the House convened, earlier in January) was in a situation similar to Atchison's. Of course, I think none of this is sufficiently "notable" for encyclopedia coverage, but it's fun to contemplate.  ;^>

The bottom line in all this is that a Presidential term (with the exception of George Washington's delayed start) always begins at 12 noon, regardless of whether the oath is taken immediately, but the powers of the President cannot legally be exercised until the (correct) oath is taken. Since a re-elected President has already taken the oath, the powers begin (i.e. continue) immediately at noon, and the second inaugural oath is unnecessary. Tripodics (talk) 18:56, 15 June 2013 (UTC)

OR cleanup[edit]

AN IP editor cleaned up most of the original research problems with this article in March. There was only one paragraph left that was still OR, and I've removed it, along with the OR tag that was on the article.

Please let's not re-introduce it. Any commentary on the validity or lack thereof of the claim that Atchison was "President for One Day" should be accompanied by a cite to the published statement from which the commentary is drawn. I note that nearly all of the discussion in the topics "Line of Presidential Succession", "The Presidential term begins on time" an "Acting President" are OR and WP:SYNTH. TJRC (talk) 20:05, 17 June 2013 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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Quote from rulers.org[edit]

"On six occasions, a president took the oath of office one or (in Tyler's case) two days after the beginning of his term of office, either because the demise of the presidency was due to the death of the incumbent or because of religious scruples about swearing an oath on Sunday. These occasions are: Monroe 1821 (upon reelection), Tyler 1841, Taylor 1849, Fillmore 1850, Arthur 1881, Coolidge 1923. Although the oath is necessary for a president to "enter on the execution of the office," the presidential term itself begins on time. On several occasions the new president took the oath of office in public the day after the beginning of the term but, in view of the concerns voiced about earlier Sunday deferrals, had taken the oath in private (Hayes 1877 actually one day early). The beginnings of the terms are listed here, not the oath-taking dates. It may be noted in this context that there is no substance to the legend that David Rice Atchison was president 4-5 Mar 1849. (If not being sworn in as president is held against Zachary Taylor's being president already from noon on 4 Mar 1849, it cannot be argued that another person, however qualified otherwise, could have been acting president without being sworn in in that capacity.)" Gerard von Hebel (talk) 01:43, 26 August 2015 (UTC)