John D. Feerick

Document Type



The Twenty-fifth Amendment’s development occurred over a period of ten years, from 1955 to 1965. This historic effort addressed questions raised but not answered at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 as to what constitutes “presidential inability” and who is authorized to determine its existence. This article is a response to the enormous interest in the amendment that has emerged between 2017 and 2019. Many accounts of what the amendment provided for and what was intended by its language appeared in the media and writings during this period. The article takes the reader through the step by step development of the words and language of the amendment. It highlights changes made along the way to deal with suggestions for clarifying the provisions and addressing a range of presidential succession scenarios. The amendment reflects contributions made by members of both political parties in each House of Congress. It also received the enthusiastic support of Presidents of both major political parties. The author of this article participated in the crafting and drafting process based on a major study of presidential inability that he conducted. His study resulted in an article that appeared in the Fordham Law Review in October 1963, shortly before the tragic death of President John F. Kennedy spurred reform of the Constitution’s presidential succession provisions.