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Portrait and biographical album of Jefferson and Van Buren counties, Iowa ... online

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and State.

His success and increasing ruputation led him
after six years of practice, to remove to Hudson, th<;
county seat of his county. Here he spent ^even years
constantly gaining strength by contending in tht.
courts with some of the ablest men who have adorned
the bar of his State.

Just before leaving Kinderhook for Hudson, Mi.
Van Buren married a lady alike distinguished for
beauty and accomplishments. After twelve short
years she sank into the grave, the victim of consump-
tion, leaving her husband and four sons to weep over
her loss. For twenty-five years, Mr. Van Buren was
an earnest, successful, assiduous lawyer. The record
of those years is barren in items of public interest.
In t8i 2, when thirty years of age, he was chosen to
the State Senate, and gave his strenuous support to
Mr. Madison's adminstration. In 18 15, he was ap-
pointed Attorney-General, and the next year moved
to Albany, the capital of the State.

While he was acknowledged as one of the most
piominent leaders of the Democratic party, be had



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the moral courage to ^vow that true democracy did
not require that " universal suffrage *' which admits
the vile, the degraded, the ignorant, to the right of
governing the State. In true consistency with his
democratic principles, he contended that, while the
path leading to the privilege of voting should be open
to every man without distinction, no one should be
invested with that sacred prerogative, unless he were
in some degree qualified for it by intelligence, virtue
and some property interests in the welfare of the
State.

In 182 1 he was elected a member of the United
States Senate; and in the same year, he took a seat
in the convention to revise the constitution of his
native State. His course in this convention secured
the approval of men of all parties. No one could
doubt the singleness of his endeavors to promote the
interests of all classes in the community. In the
Senate of the United States, he rose at once to a
conspicuous position as an active and useful legislator.

In 1827, John Quincy Adams being then in the
Presidential chair, Mr. Van Buren was re-elected to
the Senate. He had been from the beginning a de-
termined opposer of the Administration, adopting the
* State Rights" view in opposition to what was
deemed the Federal proclivities of Mr. Adams.

Soon after this, in 1828, he was chosen Governorof
the State of New York, and accordingly resigned his
seat in the Senate. Probably no one in the United
States contributed so much towards ejecting John Q.
Adams from the Presidential chair, and placing in it
Andrew Jackson, as did Martin Van Buren. Whether
entitled to the reputation or not, he certainly was re-
garded throughout the United States as one of the
most skillful, sagacious and cunning of politicians,
Zt was supposed that no one knew so well as he how
io touch the secret spiings of action; how to pull all
the wires to put his machinery in motion ; and how to
organize a ix>litical army which would, secredy and
Fte.-'lthily accomplish the most gigantic results. By
these powers it is said that he outv/itted Mr. Adams,
Mr. Clay, Mr. Webster, and secured results which
few thought then could be accomplished.

When Andrew Jackson was elected President he
appointed Mr. Van Buren Secretary of State. This
position he resigned in 1831, and was immediately
appointed Minister to England, where he went the
same autumn. The Senate, however, when it met,
refused to ratify the nomination, and he returned



home, apparently untroubled ; was nominated Vice
President in the place of Calhoun, at the re-election
of President Jackson ; and with smiles for all and
frowns for none, he took his place at the head of that
Senate which had refused to confirm his nomination
as ambassador.

His rejection by the Senate roused all the zeal of
President Jackson in behalf of his repudiated favor-
ite ; and this, probably more than any other cause,
secured his elevation to the chair of the Chief Execu
tive. On the 20th of May, 1836, Mr. Van Buren re-
ceived the Democratic nomination to succeed Gen.
Jackson as President of the United States. He was
elected by a handsome majority, to the delight of the
retiring President. " Leaving New York out of the
canvass," says Mr. Parton, "the election of Mr. Van
Buren to the Presidency was as much the act of Gen.
Jackson as though the Constitution had conferred
upon him the power to appoint a successor."

His administration was filled with exciting events-
The insurrection in Canada, which threatened to in
volve this country in war with England, the agitation
of the slavery question, and finally the great commer-
cial panic which spread over the country, all were
trials to his wisdom. The financial distress was at-
tributed to the management of the Democratic party,
and brought the President into such disfavor that lie
failed of re-election.

With the exception of being nominated for the
Presidency by the "Free Soil** Democrats, in 1848,
Mr. Van Buren lived quietly upon his estate until
his death.

He had ever been a prudent man, of frugal habits,
and living within his income, had now fortunately a
competence for his declining years. His unblemished
character, his commanding abilities, his unquestioned
j)atriotism, and the distinguished positions which he
had occupied in the government of our country, se-
cured to him not only the homage of his party, but
the respect ot the whole community. It was on the
4th of March, 1841, that Mr. Van Buren retired from
the presidency. From hi^ fine estate at Lindenwald,
he still exerted a powerful influence u^xdu the politics
of the country. From this time until his death, on
the 24th of July, 1862, at the age of eighty years, he
resided at Lindenwald, a gentleman of leisure, of
culture and of wealth; enjoying in a healthy old
age, probably far more happiness than he had before
experienced amid the stormy scenes of his active life-



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NINTH PRESIDENT.



J'





ILLIAM HENRY HARRI-
SON, the ninth President of
the United States, was born
at Berkeley, Va., Feb. 9, 1773.
His father, Benjamin Harri-
son, was in comparatively op-
ulent circumstances, and was
one of the most distinguished
men of his day. He was an
intimate friend of George
Washington, was early elected
a member of the Continental
Congress, and was conspicuous
among the patriots of Virginia in
resisting the encroachments of the
British crown. In the celebrated
Congress of 1775, Benjamin Har-
rison and John Hancock were
both candidates for the office of
si>eaker.

Mr Harrison was subsequently
chosen Governor of Virginia, and
was twice re-elected. His son,
William Henry, of course enjoyed
b childhood all the advantages which wealth and
intellectual and cultivated society could give. Hav-
ing received a thorough common-school education, he
entered Hampden Sidney College, where he graduated
with honor soon after the death of his father. He
then repaired to Philadelphia to study medicine under
thelnstructions of Dr. Rush and the guardianship of
lobert Morris, both of whom were, with his father,
ligners of the Declaration of Independence.

JlX)n the outbreak of the Indian troubles, and not-
withstanding the »emons«Tances of his friends, he
ai)andoned his medical studies and entered the army,
.laving obtained a commission of Ensign from Presi-



1



dent Washington. He was then but 19 years old.
From that time he passed gradually upward in rank
until he became aid to General Wayne, after whose
death he resigned his commission. He was then ap-
pointed Secretary of the North-western Territory. This
Territory was then entitled to but one member in
Congress and Capt. Harrison was chosen to fill that
lx)sition.

In the spring of 1800 the North-western Territory
was divided by Congress into two portions. The
eastern portion, comprising the region now. embraced
in the State of Ohio, was called ** The Territory
north-west of the Ohio." The western portion, which
included what is now called Indiana, Illinois and
Wisconsin, was called the "Indiana Territory." Wil .
liam Henry Harrison, then 27 years of age, was ap
ix)inted by John Adams, Governor of the Indiana
Territory, and immediately after, also Governor of
Upper Louisiana. He was thus ruler over almost as
extensive a realm as any sovereign upon the globe. He
was Superintendent of Indian Affairs, and was in-
vested with powers nearly dictatorial over the now
rapidly increasing white population. The ability and
fidelity with which he discharged these responsible
duties may be inferred from the fact that he was four
times appointed to this office — first by John Adams,
twice by Thomas Jefferson and afterwards by Presi-
dent Madison.

When he began his adminstration there were but
three white settlements in that almost boundless region,
now crowded with cities and resounding with all the
tumult of wealth and traffic. One of these settlements
was on the Ohio, nearly opposite Louisville; one at
Vincennes, on the Wabash, and the third a French
settlement.

The vast wilderness over which Gov. Harrison
reigned was filled with many tribes of Indians. Abou*



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52



WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON.



the year 1806, two extraordinary men, twin brothers,
of the Shawnese tribe, rose among them. One of
these was called Tecumseh, or " The Crouching
Panther;" the other, Olliwacheca, or "The Prophet."
Tecumseh was not only an Indian warrior, but a man
of great sagacity, far-reaching foresight and indomit-
able perseverance in any enterprise in which he might
engage. He was inspired with the highest enthusiasm,
and had long regarded with dread and with hatred
the encroachment of the whites upon the hunting-
grounds of his fathers. His brother, the Prophet, was
an orator, who could sway the feelings of the untutored
Indian as the gale tossed the tree-tops beneath which
they dwelt.

But the Prophet was not merely an orator : he was,
in the superstitious minds of the Indians, invested
with the superhuman dignity of a medicine-man or a
magician. With an enthusiasm unsurpassed by Peter
the Hermit rousing Europe to the crusades, he went
from tribe to tribe, assuming that he was specially sent
by the Great Spirit.

Gov. Harrison made many attempts to conciliate
the Indians, but at last the war came, and at Tippe-
canoe the Indians were routed with great slaughter.
October 28, 18 12, his army began its march. When
near the Prophet's town three Indians of rank made
their appearance and inquired why Gov. Harrison was
approaching them in so hostile an attitude. After a
short" conference, arrangements were made for a meet-
ing the next day, to agree upon terms of peace.

But Gov. Harrison was too well acquainted with
the Indian character to be deceived by such protes-
tations. Selecting a favorable spot for his night s en-
campment, he took every precaution against surprise.
His troops were posted in a hollow square, and slept
upon their arms.

The troops threw themselves upon the ground for
rest; but every man had his accourtrements on, his
loaded musket by his side, and his bayonet fixed. The
wakeful Governor, between three and four o'clock in
the morning, had risen, and was sitting in conversa-
tion with his aids by the embers of a waning fire. It
was a chill, cloudy morning with a drizzling rain. In
the darkness, the Indians had crept as near as possi-
ble, and just then, with a savage yell, rushed, with all
the desperation which superstition and passion most
highly inflamed could give, upon the left flank of the
little army. The savages had been amply provided
with guns and ammunition by the English. Their
war-whoop was accompained by a shower of bullets.

The camp-fires were instantly extinguished, as the
light aided the Indians in their aim. With hide-
ous yells, the Indian bands rushed on, not doubting a
speedy and an entire victory. But Gen. Harrison's
troops stood as immovable as the rocks around them
until day dawned : they then made a simultaneous
charge with the bayonet, and swept every thing be-
fore them, and completely routing the foe.



Gov. Harrison now had all his energies tasked
to the utmost. The British descending from theCan-
adas, were of themselves a very formidable force ; but
with their savage allies, rushing like wolves from the
forest, searching out every remote farm-house, burn-
ing, plundering, scalping, torturing, the wide frontier
was plunged into a state of consternation which even
the most vivid imagination can but faintly conceive.
The war-whoop was resounding everywhere in the
forest. The horizon was illuminated with the conflagra-
tion of the cabins of the settlers. Gen Hull had made
the ignominious surrender of his forces at Detroit.
Under these despairing circumstances, Gov. Harrison
was appointed by President Madison commander-in-
chief of the North-western army, with orders to retake
Detroit, and to protect the frontiers.

It would be difficult to place a man in a situation
demanding more energy, sagacity and courage; but
General Harrison was found equal to the position,
and nobly and triumphantly did he meet all the re
s^xinsibilities.

He won the love of his soldiers by always sharing
with them their fatigue. His whole baggage, while
pursuing the foe up the Thames, was carried in a
valise; and his bedding consisted of a single blanket
lashed over his saddle. Thirty-five British officers,
his prisoners of war, supped with him after the battle.
The only fare he could give them was beef roasted
before the fire, without bread or salt.

In 1 8 16, Gen. Harrison was chosen a member ol
the National House of Representatives, to represent
the District of Ohio. In Congress he proved an
active member; and whenever he spoke, it was with
force of reason and power of eloquence, which arrested
the attention of all the members.

In 1 8 19, Harrison was elected to the Senate of
Ohio; and in 1824, as one of the presidential electors
of that State, he gave his vote for Henry Clay. The
same year he was chosen to the United States*Senate.

In 1836, the friends of Gen. Harrison brought him
forward as a candidate for the Presidency against
Van Buren, but he was defeated. At the close of
Mr. Van Buren's term, he was re-nominated by his
party, and Mr. Harrison was unanimously nominated
by the Whigs, with John Tyler for the Vice Presidency.
The contest was very animated. Gen. Jackson gave
all his influence to prevent Harrison s election ; but
his triumph was signal.

The cabinet which he formed, with Daniel Webster
at its head as Secretary of State, was one of the most
brilliant with which any President had ever been
surrounded. Never were the prospects of an admin-
istration, more flattering, or the hopes of the country
more sanguine. In the midst of these bright and
joyous prospects. Gen. Harrison was seized by a
pleurisy-fever and after a few days of violent sick-
ness, died on the 4th of April ; just one month after
his mauguration as President of the United States,



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TENTH PRESIDENT



55





OHN TYLER, the tenth
Presidentof the United States.
He was born in Charles-city
Co., Va., March 29, 1790. He
was the favored child of af-
fluence and high social po-
sition. At the early age of
twelve, John entered William
and Mary College and grad-
uated with much honor when
but seventeen years old. After
graduating, he devoted him-
with great assiduity to the
ly of law, partly with his
er and partly with Edmund
dolph, one of the most distin-
hed lawyers of Virginia,
t nineteen years of age, ne
menced the practice of law.
success was rapid and aston-
ig. It is said that three
iths had not elapsed ere there
scarcely a case on the dock-
I et of the court in which he was

not retained. When but twenty-one years of age, he
was almost unanimously elected to a seat in the State
Legislature. He connected himself with the Demo-
cratic party, and warmly advocated the measures of
Jefferson and Madison. For five successive years he
was elected to the Legislature, receiving nearly the
unanimous vote or his county.

When but twenty-six years of age, he was elected
a member of Congress. Here he acted earnestly and
ably with the Democratic party, opposing a national
bank« internal improvements by the General ^vem-



ment, a protective tariff, and advocating a strict con-
struction of the Constitution, and the most careful
vigilance over State rights. His labors in Congress
were so arduous that before the close of his second
term he found it necessary to resign and retire to his
estate in Charles-city Co., to recruit his health. He,
however, soon after consented to take his seat in the
State Legislature, where his influence was powerful
in promoting public works of great utility. With a
reputation thus canstantly increasing, he was chosen
by a very large majority of votes. Governor of his
native State. His administration was signally a suc-
cessful one. His popularity secured his re-election.

John Randolph, a brilliant, erratic, half-crazed
man, then represented Virginia in the Senate of the
United States. A portion of the Democratic party
was displeased with Mr. Randolph s wayward course,
and brought forward John Tyler as his op[x>nent,
considering him the only man in Virginia of sufficient
popularity to succeed against the renowned orator of
Roanoke. Mr. Tyler was the victor.

In accordance with his professions, upon taking his
seat in the Senate, he joined the ranks of the opposi-
tion. He opposed the tariff; he spoke against and
voted against the bank as unconstitutional ; he stren-
uously opposed all restrictions upon slavery, resist-
ing all projects of internal improvements by the Gen-
eral Government, and avowed his sympathy with Mr.
Calhoun's view of nullification ; he declared that Gen.
Jackson, by his opposition to the nuUifiers, had
abandoned the principles of the Democratic party.
Such was Mr. Tyler's record in Congress, — a record
in perfect accordance with the principles which he
had always avowed.

Returning to Virginia, he resumed the practice of
bis profession. There was a cplit in the Democratic



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56



JOHN TYLER,



party. His friends still regarded him as a true Jef-
tersonian, gave him a dinner, and showered compli-
uients upon him. He had now attained the age of
forty-six. His career had been very brilliant. In con-
sequence of his devotion to public business, his pri-
vate aifairs had fallen into some disorder; and it was
not without satisfaction that he resumed the practice
of law, and devoted himself to the culture of his plan-
tation. Soon after this he removed to Williamsburg,
for the better education of his children ; and he again
took his seat in the Legislature of Virginia.

By the Southern Whigs, he was sent to the national
convention at Harrisburg to nominate a President in
7839. The majority of votes were given to Gen. Har-
rison, a genuine Whig, much to the disappointment of
the South, who wished for Henry Clay. To concili-
ate the Southern Whigs and to secure their vote, the
convention then nominated John Tyler for Vice Pres-
ident. It was well known that he was not in sympa-
thy with the Whig party in the Noith : but the Vice
President has but very little power in the Govern-
ment, his main and almost only duty being to pre-
side over the meetings of the Senate. Thus it hap-
pened that a Whig President, and, in reality, a
Democratic Vice President were chosen.

In 1 84 1, Mr. Tyler was inaugurated Vice Presi-
dent of the United States. In one short month frojii
that time. President Harrison died, and Mr. Tyler
thu3 -cund himself, to his own surprise and that of
the whole Nation, an occupant of the Presidential
chair. This was a new test of the stability of our
institutions, as it was the first time in the history of our
country that such an event had occured. Mr. Tyler
was at home in Williamsburg when he received the
unexpected tidings of the death of President Harri-
son. He hastened to Washington, and on the 6th of
April was inaugurated to the high and responsible
office. He was placed in a position of exceeding
delicacy and difficulty. All his long life he had been
opposed to the main principles of the party which had
brought him into power. He had ever been a con-
sistent, hone3t man, with an unblemished record.
Gen. Harrison had selected a Whig cabinet. Should
he retain them, and thus surround himself with coun-
sellors whose views were antagonistic to his own ? or,
on the other hand, should he turn against the party
which had elected him and select a cabinet in har-
mony with himself, and which would oppose all those
views which the Whigs deemed essential to the pub-
lic welfare? This was his fearful dilemma. He in-
vited the cabinet which President Harrison had
Felected to retain their seats. He reccomm ended a
day of fasting and prayer, that God would guide and
bless us.

The Whigs carried through Congress a bill for the
incorporation of a fiscal bank of the United States.
The President, after ten days' delay, returned it with
his veto. Hr tucgested, however, that he would



approve of a bill drawn up upon such a plan as he
proiX)sed. Such a bill was accordingly prepared, and
privately submitted to him. He gave it his approval.
It was passed without alteration, and. he sent it back
with his veto. Here commenced the open rupture.
It is said that Mr. Tyler was provoked to this meas-
ure by a published letter from the Hon. John M.
Botts, a distinguished Virginia Whig, who severely
touched the pride of the President.

The opposition now exultingly received the Presi-
dent into their. arms. The party which elected him
denounced him bitterly. AH the members of his
cabinet, excepting Mr. Webster, resigned. The Whigs
of Congress, both the Senate and the House, 'held a
meeting and issued an address to the people of the
United States, proclaiming that all political alliance
between the Whigs and President Tyler were at
an end.

Still the President attempted to conciliate. He
appointed a new cabinet of distinguished Whigs and
Conservatives, carefully leaving out all strong party
men. Mr. Webster soon found it necessary to resign,
forced out by the pressure of his Whig friends. Thus
the four years of Mr. Tyler's unfortunate administra-
tion passed sadly away. No one was satisfied. The
land was filled with murmurs and vituperation. W^higs
and Democrats alike assailed him. More and more,
however, he brought himself into sympathy with his
old friends, the Democrats, until at the close of his term,
he gave his whole influence to the support of Mr.
Polk, the Democratic candidate for his successor.

On the 4th of March, 1845, he retired from the
harassments of office, to the regret of neither party, and
probably to his own unspeakable relief. His first wife,
Miss Ledria Christian, died in Washington, in 1842;
and in June, 1844, President Tyler was again married,
at New York, to Miss Julia Gardiner, a young lady of
many personal and intellectual accomplishments.

The remainder of his days Mr. Tyler passed mainly
in retirement at his beautiful home, — Sherwood For-
est, Charles-city Co., Va. A polished gentleman in
his manners, richly furnished with information from
books and experience in the world, and possessing
brilliant powers of conversation, his family circle was
the scene of unusual attractions. With sufficient
means for the exercise of a generous hospitality, he
might have enjoyed a serene old age with the few
friends who gathered around him, were it not for the
storms of civil war which his own principles and
policy had helped to introduce.

When the great Rebellion rose, which the State-
rights and nullifying doctrines of Mr. John C. Cal-
houn had inaugurated, President Tyler renounced his
allegiance to the United States, and joined the Confed-
erates. He was chosen a member of their Congress ;
and while engaged in active measures to destroy, by
force of arms, the Government over which he had
once presided, he was taken sick and soon died*



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Online LibraryLake City Publishing CompanyPortrait and biographical album of Jefferson and Van Buren counties, Iowa ... → online text (page 4 of 89)