The book "Raven Rock: The Story of the U.S. Government's Secret Plan to Save Itself--While the Rest of Us Die" by Garret M. Graff contains the following passage:

When Wilson left America for the Paris Peace Conference, an absence that would stretch for months, Senator Lawrence Yates Sherman introduced a resolution to declare Wilson “absent” from office and install Vice President Thomas Marshall as the “acting” president until Wilson returned to U.S. shores. “It is a palpable violation of the act of 1790, approved by George Washington, to attempt to exercise the constitutional sovereign powers of the President within the domain of another government,” Sherman had thundered, saying, “The President of the United States is not its President in France; he is an alien there, a mere citizen of the Republic, shorn of all his sovereign powers.”

I have found references to Senator Sherman opposing the Versailles Treaty, and to an attempt to install Thomas Marshall as acting president after Wilson's stroke but I cannot find the aforementioned resolution, an act passed in 1790 that seems relevant, or another source for that quote. In short, I find this story highly dubious. Could anyone confirm or debunk this story?

  • 1
    I agree, but I could only find records of accepted resolutions, which is one of the reasons I'm asking.
    – Michael
    May 31, 2017 at 17:41
  • It looks like the relevant act in 1790 is just the one establishing Washington D.C. as capital - so it seems the resolution uses that as a pretext for supposing that the President isn't allowed to leave Washington, let alone the country.
    – Random832
    Jun 5, 2017 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


This book, The Papers of Woodrow Wilson, vol 53 in a footnote on page 308 states that on Dec 3, the resolution (S Con Res. 26) was introduced by Senator Sherman to declare the office of President as vacant. So you have another source, with date and resolution number. All I find is a snippet view so can't give you much more.

  • I couldn't find the relevant resolution, but since it's a reputable source, I'll accept the answer
    – Michael
    May 31, 2017 at 20:47

Here is the Congressional Record, Volume 57, Pt 1, that includes the records for Dec 3 1918.

The resolution that you're looking for (S Con Res. 26) can be found on page 23.

For an explanation of "Over, under the rule", the US Government Publishing office has this to say. (Which, frankly, is about as clear as mud).

  • 1
    Likely I'm being dense, but could this use an explanation of what "Over, under the rule" has to do with that particular resolution? If it was killed by someone strategically invoking that rule, wouldn't it be simpler to say it was introduced, but killed by procedural means without being brought up for a vote.?
    – T.E.D.
    Jun 2, 2017 at 19:04
  • @T.E.D. The Congressional Record contains the phrase "Over, under the rule" in the Vice President's response to the resolution. I figure most people have never heard of the rule, so I included the link. Jun 2, 2017 at 19:08

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