Home US Election Skipping the Successor’s Inauguration: Donald Trump to Follow the Footprints of Six Former Presidents

Skipping the Successor’s Inauguration: Donald Trump to Follow the Footprints of Six Former Presidents

by Eli Mshomi
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After receiving criticism from all circles of US politics in the aftermath of the attack on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump announced that he would not attend the inauguration ceremony of President-elect Joe Biden. The presidential election of 2020 has already produced too much material for the history books, and now a president not attending his successor’s inauguration will be a new addition. 

Interestingly, President Donald Trump will not be the first president to do so, as the United States has already witnessed a few other presidents who chose not to attend this ceremony.

There have been six presidents who missed the inauguration ceremony in one form or another. Three of them skipped deliberately; two had their substantial reasons to do so, while history is silent on Martin Van Buren’s reasons. Following is the list of presidents who skipped the inauguration:

 

  1. John Adams, in 1801, skipped deliberately.
  2. John Quincy Adams, in 1829, skipped deliberately.
  3. Martin Van Buren, in 1841, history is silent on him. 
  4. Andrew Johnson, in 1869, skipped deliberately.
  5. Woodrow Wilson, in 1921, skipped due to health reasons. 
  6. Richard Nixon, in 1974, as he resigned from the presidency.

 

The inauguration day is a tradition that marks the peaceful transfer of power from the outgoing president to the incoming one. According to the United States Constitution, the term of the president expires at noon on January 20, and, after that time, the incoming president inherits all the powers granted to him by the Constitution. 

Every president has kept this tradition except for a few, but Trump skipping the Biden inauguration will be the first case of a refusal since 1869, when President Andrew Johnson refused to attend the inauguration day.

Let’s see how many outgoing presidents missed the inaugurations of their successors.

John Adams Leaving the White House Before Jefferson’s Inauguration Ceremony in 1801

The presidential elections of 1800 were one of the most controversial elections in US history. After the presidential election, the heat was high in the US capital, as the House of Representatives decided the election results. When the time came for the transfer of power to Thomas Jefferson, John Adams left the capital in the morning to calm down the prevailing heat.

Four years earlier, the first president of the United States, George Washington, stood with Adams to mark the peaceful transition of power, creating this tradition, but Adams refused to follow it.

Interestingly, just like President Donald Trump, Adams also lost re-election and was a one-term president. 

Adams and Jefferson had a good relationship; they were seen as friends, but the fight got personal during the presidential election. Astonishingly, Thomas Jefferson was the vice president of John Adams. 

Adams was blamed for the poverty, inflation, high taxes, passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts, and opposing a limited government. These were reasons enough to turn his vice president and the American public against him.

The election itself was complicated, as the country was still experimenting with its democratic processes. 

Thomas Jefferson and his vice president attained 73 Electoral College votes, compared to Adams’s 65. The decision was left to the Federalist-controlled House of Representatives, and they chose Jefferson.

This was a huge blow to the democracy-loving population of the country. People were disappointed to see an outgoing president shattering the democratic convention of a country that had attained democracy only a few years prior. 

It can be argued that the situation was a lot different from what we are going through now, as Adams neither spread baseless claims of election fraud nor did he plan an attack on the Capitol.

There is no clear explanation of why Adams did not attend the ceremony. Some historians believe that he was not even invited, while others argue that Adams worried that his presence might inflame the partisan conflict. 

Since then, the expectation that the outgoing president will attend the inauguration grew stronger, and, in only a few other instances, has it happened that a president was not present at the inauguration of his successor.

John Quincy Adams: Another President to Follow Suit in 1829

The son of John Adams followed his father’s tradition and did not attend the inauguration day of Andrew Jackson in 1829. John Adams’ son, John Quincy Adams, became president in 1825 but was replaced by Andrew Jackson after serving only one four-year term.  According to historians, it was a distinctly hostile takeover of the government.

Jackson had won the popular vote, but he did not have the required majority to become the president, and the decision was once again sent to the House of Representatives. Apart from this, Jackson had several other issues, including his marriage and ownership of slaves. Supporters of John Quincy Adams accused Jackson of being a military tyrant and unfit for the office.

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 Andrew Jackson walked into Capitol Hill with fifteen veteran soldiers of the Revolutionary War. According to CBS News, the subsequent inauguration party was so wild that Jackson had to escape through a window.

Van Buren Skipping William Henry Harrison’s Inauguration Ceremony in 1841: An Unsolved Mystery

It is still unclear why Martin Van Buren did not attend the swearing-in ceremony of William Henry Harrison. Both were very friendly, and there was no apparent rift between them that could have caused it. Harrison became the president of the United States in 1841, replacing van Buren, who also served only one term in office. 

According to the White House Historical Association, Van Buren and Harrison met at the White House twice during the day, leading to the inauguration.

Van Buren even hosted a dinner for Harrison and asked him to move earlier into the White House. Unfortunately, Harrison later died, only a month after the inauguration day. John Tyler became the first vice president to ascend to the presidency after the death or resignation of the previous president.

Andrew Johnson Skipping Ulysses S. Grant’s Inauguration in 1869

Andrew Johnson and Grant despised each other and had been on harsh terms even during Andrew Johnson’s presidency. Ulysses S. Grant became president in 1869; he resisted Johnson’s efforts to fire Secretary of War when he was serving as the 6th Commanding General of the US Army, and when Johnson was impeached for it, Grant was in favor of his conviction.

Inauguration officials tried to compromise by having Johnson and Grant ride in different carriages, but even that failed.

Andrew Johnson was attending a cabinet meeting while Grant was being inaugurated. According to the Washington Post, Johnson signed several new legislations during his last few minutes in the office.

Johnson and Trump share the fact that both presidents were impeached by the House of Representatives, but Trump became the first one to be impeached twice.

 

Not Deliberate but Accidental Skipping:

There have been other instances when outgoing presidents did not attend the inauguration of incoming ones. However, they were not intentional snubs. In 1921, President Woodrow Wilson did not participate in the inauguration ceremony of Warren G. Harding because of his poor health. However, Wilson traveled to the Capitol with Harding to signify the peaceful transition of power.

Moreover, President Richard Nixon was not present at President Gerald Ford’s inauguration ceremony because he had resigned from the office before Ford could be inaugurated.

It is essential to know that both Richard Nixon and Woodrow Wilson had substantial reasons to skip the inauguration; therefore, historians do not classify them among those three presidents who skipped their successors’ inauguration ceremony. 

Donald Trump: Revising History after 152 years

After 152 years, Donald Trump will make history once again by not attending his successor’s inauguration

Trump has violated every other tradition, including inviting the incoming president for dinner or a White House tour. President Barack Obama invited Trump despite the rift and attended his inauguration ceremony.

Trump promised a peaceful transition, but he made sure that he will not concede; however, these things carry little weight after the blunders that Trump has already made in recent days. 

President-elect Joe Biden said it was a good thing after Trump announced that he would not attend Biden’s inauguration. According to Politico, Vice President Mike Pence will attend the inauguration ceremony. President-elect Joe Biden has also said that he will be honored to have Pence attend his inauguration day.

Trump will leave the White House on the morning of January 20 and move to Florida without having an official goodbye to the White House staff. In recent days, these events have shown the faces of many fascists who put their interest above the interest of the United States and can go to any length to make a mockery out of the system.

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