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The Worst 10 1/2* Vice Presidents

In Issue:
Vice President Schuyler Colfax

Schuyler Colfax


Selected to run with Civil War hero Ulysses Grant in 1868, Colfax had previously served as Speaker of the House of Representatives. Grant, 46, and Colfax, 45, formed the youngest team ever to run for the two offices until Bill Clinton and Al Gore ran in 1992.

A native New Yorker and friend of editor Horace Greeley, Colfax took Greeley’s advice and moved west to South Bend, Indiana. He served as a U.S. Representative from his adopted state. During Grant’s first term, Colfax’s involvement in the Crédit Mobilier of America railroad scandal transpired. (Ironically, Colfax would later drop dead on a railroad station platform after walking three-quarters of a mile in subfreezing Minnesota weather.) He was not nominated for a second term.

He was the first of two vice presidents to preside over both houses of Congress, the other being John Nance Garner. Appropriately enough for a vice president, he was a member of the International Order of Odd Fellows.

Colfax is buried in South Bend, one of four vice presidents buried in Indiana. Keeping their distance, the others are buried at Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis.

Vice President Chester Arthur

Chester Arthur


Utopian religious nut Charles J. Guiteau shot President James Garfield on July 2, 1881, and announced “Arthur is president now!” He was wrong. It took Garfield until September 19 to die.

Arthur came to the vice presidency in a cloud of controversy. He’d been removed from his post as collector of the port of New York 10 years earlier amid charges of corruption. But once in the White House, Arthur is credited by most historians as a reformer. None other than Mark Twain praised his presidency. But the high-living, overweight gourmand would not serve a second term. After learning he was dying of kidney disease, Arthur made only a half-hearted attempt to secure his party’s nomination, and he left office in 1885.

Vice President Charles Dawes

Charles G. Dawes


Dawes could not get along with his boss Calvin Coolidge and refused even to attend cabinet meetings. The first time he addressed the Senate, he made a speech denouncing the way it conducted business. Later, he napped through a decisive vote, which resulted in a Coolidge appointee losing his job. Dawes is one of two V.P.s to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. (The other was Teddy Roosevelt.) Dawes received his accolade in 1925 for the Dawes Plan, aimed at restoring German economic equilibrium after World War I. It ultimately did not work, but he got to keep the prize.

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