Succession to the Presidency

September 20, 1945

Report Outline
Call for Change in Law of Succession
Past and Present Plans of Succession
Tangle of Unsettled Questions

Call for Change in Law of Succession

When President Roosevelt died in office, April 12, 1945, and was succeeded by Vice President Truman, the man next in line of succession to the presidency was Edward R. Stettinius, Jr., then Secretary of State. Next after Stettinius came Henry Morgenthau, Jr., then Secretary of the Treasury. Neither had ever held an elective office; neither commanded any considerable following among the people. This was the situation when President Truman sent a special message to Congress, June 19, urging early revision of the Presidential Succession Act of 1886 “in the interest of orderly, democratic government.”

The President recommended two principal changes in the law which places the line of succession in the Cabinet: (1) that the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate be placed first and second after the Vice President in the line of succession; (2) that provision be made for election of a new President and Vice President should vacancies in both of those offices occur more than 90 days before the mid-term congressional elections. “The question is of great importance now,” the President said, “because there will be no elected Vice President for almost four years.”

The first of the changes recommended by the President was embodied in a bill passed by the House of Representatives, June 29—ten days after his message had been received at the Capitol. The House bill is now awaiting action by the Senate. Until a new succession law is placed on the statute books, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury will remain first and second in the line of succession. These offices are now held by men better qualified to discharge the duties of the presidency than their predecessors, but it is generally agreed that a new succession law still is needed “in the interest of orderly, democratic government.”

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Mar. 14, 1966  War Powers of the President
Nov. 23, 1960  Transfer of Executive Power
Apr. 04, 1956  Vice Presidency
Oct. 15, 1952  Change of Presidents
Jun. 09, 1950  President and Mid-Term Elections
Oct. 20, 1948  Federal Patronage
Mar. 24, 1948  The South and the Presidency
Dec. 05, 1947  Military Leaders and the Presidency
Apr. 16, 1947  Veto Power of the President
Sep. 20, 1945  Succession to the Presidency
Sep. 12, 1940  The War Powers of the President
Feb. 11, 1938  Emergency Powers of the President
Jan. 06, 1938  The Power to Declare War
Dec. 28, 1937  Extension of the Veto Power
Dec. 28, 1936  Limitation of the President's Tenure
Mar. 12, 1935  The President and the Congress
Dec. 16, 1932  The Veto Power of the President
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Oct. 23, 1928  Presidential Appointments and the Senate
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