Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Happy Birthday William Wheeler!

Hey Vice-Precedence Blog Readers! First of all, big thanks to Paul Zaloom for his praise for "Vice-Precedence" we truly appreciate this incredible compliment from such a talented and accomplished man. Also, Thank You to all of you who have become Fans of "Vice-Precedence" on Facebook, we really appreciate it. If you haven't yet-what are you waiting for? Join the Race for Second Place! As we like to say.

Today, June 30th is the birthday of Vice-President William A. Wheeler, Vice-President under Rutherford B. Hayes from 1877-1881. Born June 30th, 1819 in Malone, NY.

Wheeler has been called "the most boring Republican Vice-President, of all the boring Republican Vice-Presidents in history." by "Bland Ambition" author and "Vice-Precedence" contributor Steve Tally. However, not to disagree with Steve-because Wheeler was not exactly a live-wire its true, I don't know how exciting or vibrant I would be if I were a widower who was given the Vice-Presidential nomination as a joke.

While Wheeler was undoubtedly boring, personally I prefer to think of Wheeler as one of the most honest and incorruptible men to ever serve in the Executive Branch. At this time in our nations history, political scandal ran wild with the spoils system, in the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War, and most notoriously in the Credit Mobilier scandal which ruined many politicians on both sides of the aisle. New York Republicans were ruled by the all-powerful Senator Roscoe Conkling and his "Stalwarts"-if you wanted to be a Republican politician in New York-you had to work with Conkling and do what he said. Period. Yet Wheeler was never tarnished by any hint of scandal and refused to simply go along with Conkling. His stubborn independence and scrupulous honesty was legendary among his fellow Congressmen.

The only thing Wheeler may be known for...oh he's not known for this either-but it interesting at least, is for the story told about him in a book by a little known Massachusetts senator about acts of courage in politics that went on to win the Pulitzer Prize and make Senator John F. Kennedy a national political figure-"Profiles in Courage". In the foreword by historian Allan Nevins, Nevins gives the most famous example of Wheelers commitment to honesty and political courage in this exchange between Wheeler and Senator Conkling:

Senator Conkling-Wheeler, if you act with us, there is nothing in the gift of the state of New York to which you may not reasonably aspire.

Congressman Wheeler-Mr. Conkling, there is nothing in the gift of the state of New York which will compensate me for the forfeiture of my self-respect.

Pretty impressive if you ask me.

So join us as we say Happy Birthday Vice-President Wheeler!

Matt Saxe

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