Between 1841 and 1901, five presidents died in office. Assassins were responsible for three presidential deaths while two died from natural causes. Between 1881 and 1901, left wing terrorists murdered several world leaders including the Russian Czar and American President William McKinley. Despite the violence, the country failed to recognize the threat. Indeed, it seemed like the U.S. wished to believe that Antebellum norms continued into the twentieth century despite evidence to the contrary. As a result, the vice presidency remained as irrelevant as ever. In fact, the office remained vacant for an extended period of time as anarchists murdered with impunity, World War I raged, and the progressives ruled America. The following are the Progressive Era vice presidents.
Garret Hobart (1897-99)
Garret Hobart and William McKinley were friends before their 1896 election victory. The pair continued their friendship upon taking office and regularly visited one another. As a result, Hobart enjoyed more access and influence than most of his predecessors. On top of this, Hobart knew parliamentary procedure, so he eschewed usual senate procedure and ruled on points of order as opposed to opening issues up for votes. The vice president proved so adept at presiding over the body, that senators called him the “assistant president.” Hobart developed a heart ailment late in 1898 and died on November 21, 1899. The vice presidency remained vacant until 1901.
Theodore Roosevelt (1901)
The New York Republican party smelled opportunity with Vice President Hobart’s death. They could not control Governor and war hero Theodore Roosevelt. Party bosses hoped to kill Roosevelt’s political career by exiling him to the vice presidency. Roosevelt recognized their intent, but accepted the nomination to replace Hobart nonetheless. The Rough Rider threw himself into the campaign with zeal and helped McKinley win re-election in 1900. He served for six months before an assassin murdered McKinley. The party bosses effort to remove Roosevelt failed when he ascended to the presidency. The vice presidency remained open until 1905.
Charles Fairbanks (1905-09)
Theodore Roosevelt chose Senator Charles Fairbanks as his running mate for the 1904 election. Unlike every other accidental president, Roosevelt won election in his own right. As a senator, Fairbanks delivered the keynote address at the 1896 Republican National Convention, served as an adviser to President McKinley, and worked on a commission to settle a boundary dispute with Canada. Fairbanks left little mark on the vice presidency, but did serve out his entire term. The vice president campaigned for the 1908 Republican nomination for president, but was blocked by President Roosevelt. After leaving office, he supported President William Howard Taft when Roosevelt challenged the incumbent in 1912. Four years later, he served as Charles Evans Hughes running mate.
James Sherman (1909-12)
Much to Charles Fairbanks’ chagrin, William Howard Taft succeeded Theodore Roosevelt in 1909. Taft chose New York congressman James Sherman as his running mate. The conservative easterner served to balance the ticket. At the outset, Sherman and Taft clashed over policy. Over time, they moved closer to each other on an ideological level. In 1912, Sherman became the first vice president renominated since John C. Calhoun in 1828. He died less than a week before the election. Taft lost in a three-way contest with New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson and former President Roosevelt. The vice presidency remained vacant until the new Wilson Administration assumed power.
Thomas Marshall (1913-21)
Like the three previous vice presidents, Thomas Marshall proved a non-entity. In fact, it seemed like the office remained vacant for eight years following Sherman’s death. President Wilson rarely consulted his vice president, but Marshall did not mind. He preferred to preside over the senate. He proved such a non-entity that he received most of the news on World War I from newspapers as opposed to his own administration.
At war’s end, President Wilson overexerted himself attempting to sell the Treaty of Versailles to the public. He suffered a stroke in September 1919 and remained an invalid for the remainder of his term. Marshall refused to take over the presidency. Secretary of State Robert Lansing led a group of lawmakers and cabinet members effort to force Marshall assume the presidency, but the vice president refused. Eventually, he agreed to perform some ceremonial functions while First Lady Edith Wilson assumed her husband’s day-to-day duties. President Wilson remained in seclusion for the rest of his term. Marshall’s actions in the face of the president’s incapacitation were unconscionable.