Was there a President for only one day?

I seem to recall reading that there was a President who, in theory, only served one day in office. I believe he was called David Aitchison or some such name. Anybody verifiy for me please?

Not true. http://www.snopes.com/history/american/atchison.htm

The guy was David Rice Atchison. The preceeding President, James Polk, ended his term on Sunday, March 4, 1849. The new President, Zachary Taylor, did not want to be sworn in until the following day, because it was the sabbath. The Vice President’s term ended at the same time as Polk’s, so during that time, Atchison who was President Pro Tem of the Senate, was President. He didn’t do anything, though, and no one really cared.

No. Check out the above link to snopes. To me, the most convincing agrument there is

And, of course, there is the small fact that Atchison was NOT the President Pro Tem of the Senate anyway, so he wasn’t even the line of succession on 3/4/1849.

Zev Steinhardt

Australia had a Prime Minister for two or three days once IIRC.

Got no idea what his name was, though.

However, he consequently got all the lurks and perks of an


For Australian PMs, the shortest terms are:

Francis Michael Forde 6 July 1948 - 13 July 1948 (8 days)
Sir Earl Christmas Grafton Page - 7 April 1939 - 26 April 1939 (20 days)
John McEwen 19 December 1967 - 10 January 1968 (23 days)

Were any of these the ones you were thinking about?

Adolfo Rodriguez Saa was President of the Republica Argentina from 23 December to 31 December 2001, eight days. He was elected by the Senate after De la Rua’s fall. He abjured, too.

And now he’s running for President! :confused:

BTW, welcome to the SDMB!

There is a report that Polk resigned on SATURDAY, in order to get out of Washington early.

Atchison’s term ended legally when Polk’s would have, noon on that Sunday. But if the report that Polk resigned is correct, Atchison would have become President between the resignation of Polk and noon Sunday, when Atchison’s term ended and Taylor’s term officially began.

Taking the oath has to do with the ability to execute the duties, but becoming the officeholder is based upon the constitution.

Here is a pretty good link explaining it all

Also a small quto from the site-

"On Inauguration Day the first person to be sworn in was David Rice Atchison as President Pro Tem. So now he was definitely President (congratulations!). Atchison then ended this short stint as President with the swearing-in of the new Vice-President, Millard Fillmore (he would become President in just sixteen months following the natural death of Zachary Taylor). The entire Senate then proceeded to the east portico for the inauguration of the new President. "

According to the above quote that would make Atchison prez for a few minutes.I really like this guys web site because he gives sources for all his info.

What about Polk’s VP? There’s no report that he resigned on Saturday. He would have become president, not Atchison.

Zev Steinhardt

*Originally posted by aahala *
There is a report that Polk resigned on SATURDAY, in order to get out of Washington early.

Wrong. Polk did not resign.

Wrong. At that time the Speaker Pro Tem’s term ended with the recession of Congress; it was not a continuing office until later.

The U.S. constitution says that taking the presidential oath of office is necessary to execute the office (i.e., take some presidential action), not to become president. President-elect Zachary Taylor became president of the United States as soon as President Polk’s term ended, whether or not Taylor took the oath of office.

Further thoughts (one of these days, I’m going to collect all my thoughts at one time):

? Such “gaps” between the end of one term and the subsequent swearing in of a president-elect are not rare. Some others: March 4-5, 1821 (Monroe/Monroe); April 4-6, 1841 (Harrison/Tyler); July 9-10, 1850 (Taylor/Fillmore); September 19-20, 1881 (Garfield/Arthur); August 2-3, 1923 (Harding/Coolidge).

? George Washington’s first inauguration was scheduled for March 4, 1789, but because of delays in getting a Senate quorum to count electoral votes, it was postponed to April 30. Nonetheless, the Presidential Term and Succession Act of 1792 seems to establish retroactively that Washington’s first term began on March 4, 1789, further supporting the argument that the presidency is assumed automatically, and that the oath only gives the power of execution.

? Whether a presidential term ended at midnight or noon was not addressed by the law until the Twentieth Amendment in 1933 (which also moved the first day of a presidential term from March 4 to January 20). Outgoing Presidents Theodore Roosevelt (1909), William Taft (1913), Woodrow Wilson (1921), and Herbert Hoover (1933) all executed presidential acts on a March 4, the only examples I have found prior to the Twentieth Amendment.

The Master addresses this topic in a tangent to answering this question: What if prez and VP die before being sworn in?

Mm hm. Show me where it says this in the Constitution. In fact, the line of succession wasn’t actually put into the Constitution until after Kennedy’s assassination. Also explain why George Bush was called the “president elect” until he was (wait for it) sworn in.

How about the 12th Amendment? It provides (in part):

When you put that together with the language of Article II, s. 1, “before he enter into the execution of his office…”, it sounds to me like you become President on being declared so by the President of the Senate, upon the expiry of the predecessor’s term. The oath is the formality. The important thing is that a majority of the state electors have voted for you.

Maybe it was because Reagan was still President?

What happened to VP Dallas? He resigned/abdicated his SOLE duty, presiding officer of the Senate, apparently on Friday, that’s why Atchison was elected. So it can be argued at least, that for a brief period, there was no VP.

It was common(but not uniform) practice for the outgoing VP to do this. No vote of any kind could be taken, even to select a presiding officer, unless there WAS a presiding officer. So until a new VP has been sworn, someone must fill that role.
(VPs generally didn’t want to hang around until a new VP was sworn in.)

Apparently the Senate did not meet on Saturday, but they could have if the statutory term had not expired.

But it doesn’t say that, does it? If you’re argument is based on strict interpretation of the words, then he becomes president immediately upon the completion of the count of the electoral college votes.

I think that our procedure is fairly established by custom – you aren’t the president until you’re sworn in … . That’s also the point at which the previous president stops being president.