Special Report

Here Are the 48 People Who Became Vice President

6. Daniel D. Tompkins
> Presidential administration(s): James Monroe
> Year(s) in office: 1817 – 1825
> Party affiliation: Democratic-Republican

Daniel D. Tompkins was one of 11 children born to a tenant farmer. He built his political connections through his father-in-law, a member of the Tammy Society, which challenged for control of New York’s Republican Party in the early 19th century. Tompkins’ leadership skills eventually led to his election as governor of New York. Tompkins helped pass legislation outlawing slavery in New York.

Tompkins was selected by the Democratic-Republican Party to run as a vice presidential candidate with James Monroe of Virginia in 1816 to gain support of the New York wing of the party, which believed Virginia was dominating the presidency. Tompkins’ tenure as VP was hampered by allegations over financial improprieties stemming from claims he misused public money for the defense of New York during the War of 1812. His health was also impaired because of injuries sustained from falling from a horse, and he had a drinking problem. Tompkins was absent much of his time as vice president, and when he was able to attend proceedings of the Senate, he was unable to control debate over contentious issues such as the admission of Missouri to the Union.

Source: statephotos / Flickr

7. John C. Calhoun
> Presidential administration(s): John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson
> Year(s) in office: 1825 – 1832
> Party affiliation: National Republican

John C. Calhoun served as vice president under two presidents. Originally, Calhoun himself sought the presidency, and while popular among many voters, he never garnered the support necessary and instead opted for the vice presidency, with broad support from his party. First, Calhoun served under John Quincy Adams, son of the second president, and a personal friend of Calhoun’s. He then served under Andew Jackson, a position he resigned from in 1832, citing political differences with the commander-in-chief and a desire to fill a Senate seat in his native South Carolina.

After the executive branch, Calhoun served out the rest of his political career as a South Carolina senator and a staunch supporter of slavery.

Source: Hulton Archive / Getty Images

8. Martin Van Buren
> Presidential administration(s): Andrew Jackson
> Year(s) in office: 1833 – 1837
> Party affiliation: Democratic

Though not formally educated like many politicians of his day, Martin Van Buren had a sharp political acumen developed in the rough and tumble New York politics of the early 19th century, earning him nicknames like “the American Talleyrand” and “the Red Fox of Kinderhook.”

Van Buren worked his way up through New York politics and eventually became governor. He realized early on the importance of party organization as well as patronage. Van Buren was instrumental in Andrew Jackson’s presidential triumph in 1828 and became his key adviser. Jackson appointed Van Buren secretary of state in 1829. In his second term, Jackson picked Van Buren as vice president, and as the president’s confidant, Van Buren navigated contentious issues such as the Jackson’s opposition to a national bank and slavery. Van Buren became president in 1837 — the first president of Dutch descent, and the first one to be born in the U.S. — and served one term.

Source: National Gallery of Art ID Q20187081 / Wikimedia Commons

9. Richard Mentor Johnson
> Presidential administration(s): Martin Van Buren
> Year(s) in office: 1837 – 1841
> Party affiliation: Democratic

In the early days of the United States, vice presidents were selected by the electoral college. When Martin Van Buren was elected president in 1836, the electoral college could not agree on one of the four vice presidential candidates. As a result, for the first time in history, the Senate made the decision and appointed Richard Mentor Johnson.

Johnson was not especially popular with his party during his term as vice president — partly because of his personal life, as he fathered two children with a slave to whom he was not married. Johnson was not supported by his party in Van Buren’s campaign for reelection, and the Democratic party lost control of the executive branch to the Whig Party.

Source: iip-photo-archive / Flickr

10. John Tyler
> Presidential administration(s): William H. Harrison
> Year(s) in office: 1841
> Party affiliation: Whig

John Tyler was the first vice president to become president after the death of his predecessor. Tyler, a slave-holding plantation owner from Virginia, was picked to run with William H. Harrison — a war hero who represented Ohio in the House of Representatives and the Senate — to provide geographic and ideological balance. Harrison died just 33 days into office, and this led to some confusion over succession, since the Constitution was unclear on that issue.

Tyler was considered to be an acting president, and his detractors called him “His Accidency.” Tyler refused to be called an acting president and he strengthened the vice president’s office by insisting that in the event of a presidential vacancy, the vice president would assume the chief executive’s full powers with the title of president.

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