presidential power, presidential incapacity, presidential inability, vice president, powers and duties, constitution, inability clause, presidential succession


This Article examines the problems posed by the gaps and ambiguities in the U.S. Constitution’s original provisions for presidential inability and succession. It explores relevant developments prior to and during the Constitutional Convention of 1787, recounts significant historical instances of presidential inability, and examines the succession provisions of state and foreign constitutions. The Article concludes with a proposal for a constitutional amendment to improve the provisions for presidential succession and inability.

The Fordham Law Review published this Article in October 1963—a month before the assassination of President John F. Kennedy prompted efforts to improve the Constitution’s succession provisions. In the days after the assassination, this Article was mentioned in a New York Times opinion column on the need for reforming the succession system. The Article was included in the briefing materials for a special American Bar Association conference that advised members of Congress on their work developing what would become the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. The author was part of the ABA conference and assisted in drafting the amendment.

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