Special Report

Here Are the 48 People Who Became Vice President

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

1. John Adams
> Presidential administration(s): George Washington
> Year(s) in office: 1789 – 1797
> Party affiliation: Federalist

John Adams was a Founding Father and one of several vice presidents who eventually ascended to the presidency. As a lawyer practicing in Massachusetts, Adams headed the legal defense for the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre — an unpopular decision at the time, but one that demonstrated his integrity and firm belief in justice for all.

Years later, Adams was one of the American diplomats who negotiated the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War. Following the war, Adams ran for president, losing to George Washington, and according to the rules at the time, he was designated as vice president. This happened again in the following election. At the end of Washington’s second term, Adams ran for president again, this time defeating Thomas Jefferson.

Source: National Archives / Getty Images

2. Thomas Jefferson
> Presidential administration(s): John Adams
> Year(s) in office: 1797 – 1801
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

Thomas Jefferson’s service as vice president to John Adams is overshadowed in the history books by his other influences on American politics and society. Before becoming the vice president after losing a bid for the presidency, Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence and founded the Democratic-Republican political party.

In his second bid for president in 1800, Jefferson defeated Adams and became the third U.S. president in 1801. As president, Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Territory, effectively doubling the size of the country. Jefferson also helped found the University of Virginia, and today, his likeness stands alongside three other U.S. presidents on Mount Rushmore.

Source: mullica / Flickr

3. Aaron Burr
> Presidential administration(s): Thomas Jefferson
> Year(s) in office: 1801 – 1805
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

Aaron Burr, the third vice president of the United States, has gone down in history as something of a villain. Years after serving in the Revolutionary War under George Washington, Burr ran for president against Thomas Jefferson, and though he received the same number of electoral votes, the House of Representatives decided to choose Jefferson as president, relegating Burr to the vice presidency.

Near the end of his term of service, Burr ran for governor of New York and lost. He blamed both losses on political rival Alexander Hamilton and challenged Hamilton to a duel, fatally shooting him in the fight. Burr faced outrage for killing Hamilton. Three years later, Burr was brought up on conspiracy charges for trying to separate territories from the United States. Though he was ultimately acquitted, Burr’s image never recovered.

Source: Portrait by Ezra Ames on http://www.nyhistory.org / Wikimedia Commons

4. George Clinton
> Presidential administration(s): Thomas Jefferson, James Madison
> Year(s) in office: 1805 – 1812
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

George Clinton was a staunch follower of Thomas Jefferson and served as vice president during Jefferson’s second term. Like every vice president who came before, Clinton also ran for president himself. Also like each of his vice presidential forerunners did at one point or another, he lost. Clinton ended up serving as vice president yet again under President James Madison. His health began declining, however, and he died in office before the end of Madison’s first term.

Unlike many of those who served in the executive branch before him, Clinton actually opposed the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. He had served 21 years as the governor of New York before going to Washington, and believed that granting the federal government too much power would undermine New York state’s economic advantages.


5. Elbridge Gerry
> Presidential administration(s): James Madison
> Year(s) in office: 1813 – 1814
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

Elbridge Gerry was the fifth vice president of the United States, serving under President James Madison following the death of George Clinton. Like Clinton, Gerry was a strong critic of the U.S. Constitution during the drafting. He fought for provisions he believed would better protect individual liberties. While Gerry did not succeed incorporating these measures and famously did not sign the Constitution, he supported the document after its ratification.

Before ascending to the vice presidency, Gerry served as governor of Massachusetts, and during his tenure became known for dividing voting districts for political advantage — a practice that has become to be known as gerrymandering in reference to the former vice president.

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