Document Type


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New York State Bar Journal



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President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, presidential inability, Senator Birch Bayh


On August 27, 1787, John Dickinson of Delaware asked the Constitutional Convention these vital questions: "What is the extent of the term 'disability' and who is to be the judge of it?" 'His questions regarding the provision on executive succession were never answered. Today, one hundred and seventy-six years later, they remain unanswered. They have been revived from time to time, usually when a President has died or become disabled. Hundreds of answers have been offered. None has been found acceptable. Although concern about the problem of presidential inability had been aroused by the Eisenhower illnesses in 1955, 1956 and 1957, interest had waned to such an extent by November 21, 1963 that the problem was 'all but forgotten by the Congress and the public. Since the death of President John F. Kennedy, there has been much discussion of the problem. The Subcommittee on Constitutional Amendments of the Senate Judiciary Committee, under the chairmanship of Senator Birch Bayh of Indiana, has been conducting extensive hearings on the subject. Again, various proposals have been offered. It remains to be seen whether one will, this time, be accepted.