Weird History: 5
David Who? The President Who Never Was
In a prior segment, it was mentioned Tyler was playing with marbles when informed he was about to be president.
What isn’t known or known by many, President-elect Zachary Taylor, in observance of the Christian Sabbath, preferred not to conduct his inauguration on Sunday, March 4th, and the ceremony was delayed until the next day. On Monday, March 5th, Taylor took the oath of office on the Capitol’s east front portico and the transition of power was complete.
To clarify, until the adoption of the Twentieth Amendment in 1933, presidential and congressional terms began and ended at noon on March 4th. In 1849, March 4th fell on a Sunday.
Under the Presidential Succession Act of 1792 the Senate president pro tempore immediately followed the vice president in the line of presidential succession. Which today would be the Speaker of the House of Rep;resentatives.
On that particular Sunday however, George M. Dallas took leave of the Senate for the remainder of the session, as he would have been next in line to step in for such an emergency, and the Senate voted and approved that David Rice Atchison would be the sitting president pro tempore.
Although Atchison had prior involvements in politics, of which one; the 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act that would have a significant comsequence leading toward the Civil War (which I will not go into further), on this single day, he was quoted as saying, “Not much happened. I think I slept most of the day.”
On a side note: Atchison joined other pro-slavery advocates and organized incursions into Kansas in 1854 to ensure that Kansas would become a slave state. He warned Senator Jefferson Davis of Mississippi that they would “be compelled to shoot, burn, and hang” to drive the “Abolitionists” out of Kansas. A group of pro-slavery settlers named their town Atchison in his honor.