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Figure J. ADAM BEDE SUBJECT Our Nation; Its Problems and Progress A FEW PARAGRAPHS FROM Side-Stepping the Vice-Presidency By J. ADAM BEDE, Congressman from Minnesota Published in Leslie's Monthly, September, 1904 WHAT'S the matter with the Vice-Presidency? Everybody laughs at it, statesmen run from it, nobody seeks it. Even the constitutional convention almost overlooked it, and the provision for it was not inserted until the final draft of our Magna Charta just before the adjournment of that illustrious body in September, 1787. Earlier in the proceedings it had been provided that the president of the Senate should hold the second mortgage on the White House, and so when the vice-presidency was created as a sort of afterthought, the man-in-waiting who also ran—too honorable to hope and too dignified for hilarity—was quickly assigned the slumbersome duty of listening to the Senate, and the convention, weary of much wrangling, dissolved itself and the delegates hastened along the homeward trail. However, this disgrace has been removed by the succession of such men as Clinton, Gerry, Calhoun, Van Buren, Colfax, Wilson, Hendricks and Roosevelt. The election of Mr. Roosevelt to the Presidency will add dignity and distinction to the office which was originally forced upon him because certain New York politicians preferred that sort of burial to an attempt at cremation. But even such success might be looked upon as accidental rather than as establishing a precedent for preferment in either party. The vice-president is the only official nonentity in our system of government. He is elected for four years to loaf around the throne and wonder what is going to happen. Incidentally he presides over the Senate when in session, if he feels like it, but is not a member of that body and has no speaking acquaintance with any subject before it. The Senate makes its own rules and construes them, and the vice-president is presumed to commit this fact to memory. He has no patronage, no voice in public affairs, no seat at the council table—no push nor pull anywhere in the scheme of government—but is like a second husband agreed on in advance and held in suspense and suspicion, who as a matter of taste must not obtrude himself upon the marriage feast nor the bridal tour. His business is to keep still. He is the great American clam and is held in escrow pending conditions which it is hoped will never occur to make him shuck himself and come out in the open. Though he be a man of parts, his political position is a triumph of nonentity. While his joys are few, his sorrows are many, for how oppressive it must be to him in the light of recent events to look the Senators full and fair in the face and wonder as the roll is called whether they will answer present or not guilty. It can no longer be truthfully said that the Senate is a legislative body without convictions, and we may well inquire whether such environment would not prove actually hurtful to sensitive natures like those of Charles Warren Fairbanks and Henry Gassaway Davis, whose whole lives have been given up to dealing with civil codes and soft coal. To be sure, both of them have been in the Senate, and to be forewarned is to be forearmed, so that neither one if elected need be like the man who saw a prairie fire coming and was burned to death because he didn't have a match. Suppose the case of some innocent man unaccustomed to evil associations who has been ruthlessly thrust into the vice-presidency—and the uncertainties of politics make such a thing possible—what would be the effect of such associations upon him? As he looked quietly down from his splendid isolation upon the thirty or forty millionaires about him in the Senate chamber, could he help wondering to himself if they had paid their taxes for the last fiscal year? Once thinking along this line, would he not soon ask himself who did pay them if they did not? And when he had traced the burden down to the shiftless who cannot shift it, would not his sympathetic soul, touched as a harp that gives forth sweet but mournful melodies, cry out against the injustices of the times and yearn for the wings of the morning or the shades of evening to find relief? Must he not oft times in reminiscent mood be pained as he recalls the fact that five of his predecessors died in office rather than endure it, while Uncle Joe Cannon burrowed himself out of sight into the butt end of the English language and ate smokeless tobacco until the party leaders had kidnaped Fairbanks and placed him in cold storage to await the action of the recent Republican convention? Reflecting on these things, an innocent and sensitive vice-president, oppressed by his surroundings, must see with voiceless sorrow his certain finish. And as he beholds the honors showered upon the Speaker of the House, the big man of the legislative branch of our government, as potent as the President to promote or defeat legislation, he must feel like a negative quantity raised to the nth power and vaccinated with innocuous desuetude. Had he any influence with the government he would abolish the office and fine himself the extent of his salary for obtaining money under false pretenses. Old men are very often nominated for vice-president, as was done by the Democracy in 1888 and in 1904. The chief reason for this is that the office is the last thing anybody wants. And then, too, just to have and to hold and not to be a-doing is apt to drive a young man to treason, strategem or spoils—or all of them. If we must have a vice-president, why not make him superintendent of the botanical garden and distributor of bouquets, so that he could work his way up to the White House by button-holing the people? REDPATH-SLAYTON, Boston, New York, Chicago, Cedar Rapids, Kansas City.
|Title||J. Adam Bede|
|Topical Subject (LCSH)||Lecturers|
|Personal Name Subject||Bede, J. Adam|
|Digital Collection||Traveling Culture: Circuit Chautauqua in the Twentieth Century|
|Contributing Institution||University of Iowa. Libraries. Special Collections Dept.|
|Archival Collection||Redpath Chautauqua Collection|
|Rights Management||Educational use only, no other permissions given. U.S. and international copyright laws may protect this digital image. Commercial use or distribution of the image is not permitted without prior permission of the copyright holder.|
|Contact Information||Contact the Special Collections Dept. at The University of Iowa Libraries: http://www.lib.uiowa.edu/spec-coll/contact/index/|
|Number of Pages||4|
|Digitization Specifications||Scanned at 600 dpi, 32-bit color. Master image available in tiff format.|