For one hundred and forty years, today was inauguration day.
It made sense at first to give presidents plenty of time to get their affairs in order before making the difficult journey to Washington, but by 1861, the long delay – which included two months without a Congress – started to look inconvenient. For Lincoln, facing the secession of the southern states, four months of inactivity must have been worrying.
For FDR, with a depression to fix, it was probably just as maddening and it was his Congress in 1933 that finally passed the Twentieth Amendment and got it ratified in record time. Since FDR was the target of an assassination attempt on February 15 of that year, they were no doubt highly motivated – if Giuseppe Zangara had succeeded, Herbert Hoover would have been followed by John Nance Garner.
What the 20th doesn’t seem to address is what happened on March 4,1849 – a Sunday.
Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in on the sabbath and vp Millard Fillmore also refused. Both were sworn in the next day.
But for 24 hours, we actually had no president. Also no speaker of the house, because the Congress hadn’t been sworn in. By general agreement, presidents now take the oath privately if inauguration day falls on a Sunday, although it seems tradition rather than law.
Taylor’s predecessor James K. Polk, btw,was the only speaker of the house ever to be elected president.
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And a birthday we can all celebrate – Antonio Vivaldi! Born in 1678, he was red-haired, an attribute so remarkable that he was known later as il prete rosso – the red priest. Let’s pretend it’s summer: