17 January 2013

6 Inaugural Sundays in history: the 7th is coming this weekend

Richard E. Berg-Anderson of "The Green Papers" has done a very nice write-up of the Inauguration days that have fallen on a Sunday. Until this week, there have been 6 such Sundays. After the weekend, there will have been 7.

The History of American Presidential Terms of Office starting on a Sunday

(btw, his definition of how the problem got started is most excellent, it was an error in being clear on writing legislation)


Those Sundays were (are):

March 4, 1821, Sunday: James Monroe's re-election. Monroe took the oath on the 5th and didn't really worry all that much about the fourth. Technically, if you wanted to be a stickler about it all, we did not have a president on March 4th, 1821 for a day - but since Monroe was already in the White House and everyone knew he was handily re-elected, it really was no problem.

skip 28 years:

March 4, 1849, Sunday: Zachary Taylor (Whig) was elected President. He was an extremely religious man and REFUSED to take the oath on a Sunday. Former one-term president Polk (D) left the White House on March 3rd - so for a day, we truly did not have a president. Of course, the legend spread that that President Pro Tempore of the Senate, David Atchison, was technically President for a day, but his term as President Pro Tempore of the Senate had also just ended on March 3rd. Back then the line of succession in the case of the death or removal of the President was: Vice President, President Pro Tempore of the Senate. This was changed in 1945.

skip 28 years:

March 4, 1877, Sunday: Rutherford B. Hayes (R), who LOST in the popular vote to Democrat Tilden (D) by 3 complete percentage points, won in the electoral college by 1 vote (1!!), 185 to 184, after the electors from Florida, South Carolina, Louisiana and Oregon were disputed and a congressional panel of 15 (8 Republicans, 7 Democrats), voting strictly along party lines, awarded the electors from all four states to Hayes. For three months, the land was alive with screams of "Tilden or blood!" Actually, this election makes 2000 look like child's play. But Hayes was so paranoid that he might be upended somehow that he SECRETLY (and illegally, to note) took the oath on March 3rd, in the presence of outgoing President Grant, and then took the oath again on March 5th.

skip more than 28 years. skip 40 years. This is explained in the article.

March 4, 1917, Sunday: Wilson (D) had been re-elected. He first took the oath privately in a room close to the Senate Chambers called the "President's room", where he had signed all legislation that came before him. The oath was taken without the press being present. Because of the impending entrance into WWI, the former Congress actually stayed in session on March 3rd through the morning of March 4th, trying to get the "Armed Ships" bill through. Wilson then took the oath again on March 5th in the public ceremony.

skip 40 years, this time not because of the Gregorian Calendar, but rather, because of the 20th amendment, which moved Inauguration day to January 20th and went into effect in 1934.

January 20, 1957, Sunday: Eisenhower (R) (and VP Nixon) took private oaths without press on Sunday, and re-took the oaths on Monday January 21st.

skip 28 years:

January 20, 1985, Sunday: Reagan (R) (and VP Bush 41) both took the oath privately, without the press, on that Sunday and re-took them on Monday, January 21st. The weather on January 21st was so terribly cold that Inaugural ceremonies, including the parade, were cancelled, and Reagan took the oath "publicly" in the Rotunda. People often call this the Super-Bowl Inauguration, for Super Bowl XIX was also on January 20th, and Reagan even called the coin-toss that evening.


skip 28 years:

January 20th, 2013 will be on a Sunday. In the tradition of three predecessors (Wilson, Eisenhower and Reagan), President Obama (D) and Vice President Biden (D) will take the oath privately, without press, and then re-take the oath at the Inaugural ceremonies on Monday, January 21st.

There have already been some screams on the Right that the press is not allowed for the Sunday swearing in, but in reality, Obama is following a precedent that goes back almost 100 years.

If the current Inauguration day as proscribed by law holds and is not changed, then the next Inauguration Day that will fall on a Sunday will be January 20th, 2041.

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