Presidential Succession Act

Etiquette of Social Life in Washington book cover

High Society Impacts of the Presidential Succession Act

Before 1886, presidential succession called for a special election if the President, the Vice President, the President pro tempore of the Senate, and the Speaker of the House all died. This left a lot of Washington hostesses high and dry. In the District, where official life totally overlaps with social life, knowing whether the Chief Justice took precedence over the Secretary of State is just as important to the President’s wife as it would be to the President. So, before the 1886 Act established a detailed list of who’s the who-est in Washington, how did the ladies do it? Usually with complicated treatises on political theory.