Skip to main content

Vice President

June 2024
1min read

Most Overrated Vice President:

Rating Vice Presidents is not exactly easy, given their general inactivity in that most bizarre of offices, where, in the words of its first holder, John Adams, one is nothing but at any moment may become everything. Therefore, one is forced to devise subjective standards, but I will try. It seems to me that at a minimum the Vice President should not try to undermine the President he is serving, and I therefore nominate as the worst (and therefore overrated) John C. Calhoun, who held the job under two Presidents—John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson—toward both of whom he showed his open jealousy and conviction that he was better qualified. (He quit as Jackson’s V.P.; and a good thing too.)

Most Underrated Vice President

is harder, but I will pick the very converse of the above, a Vice President infinitely smarter than the lucky nonentity under whom he served but who graciously kept his mouth shut about it. This is Charles G. Dawes, who among other things shared a Nobel Peace Prize in 1925 for the plan that bears his name to bail out the German economy. (No other Vice President can make this claim: Theodore Roosevelt won it, but he was already in the top job.) If ever a ticket should have been reversed— Dawes for President and Coolidge for V.P. instead of the other way around—that was it, but history isn’ always fair.

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.