Southern Historical Society. cn.

Southern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) online

. (page 40 of 61)
Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 40 of 61)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

with the ardor of a reformer."

The Legislature of Virginia passed a highly complimentary reso-
lution on Judge Tyler's character. An obituary written on his death,
by Judge Spencer Roane — who ranked with Pendleton and Marshall
as one of the first jurists of the nation — gives expression to a tone of
moral life that should pervade official station, and is worthy of record
in the philosophic literature of the age, and should be a national
motto for every period. He remarks in reference to Judge Tyler's
character : " It is less a tribute of justice to the memory of the de-
ceased than an act of utility to the public to hold up the mirror of
his virtues. The present and future generations have a deep interest
in the subject, and thousands of useful men and virtuous patriots yet
unborn may be formed upon the model of his example." The ex-
ample of incorruptible virtue in public men should ever be held up
as a mirror to the rising generation and the polar star for official duty
to every public officer.

The work continues with the times and biographical sketches and
political history of the State of Virginia and national politics, and
brings to the attention of the reader John Tyler, the son of the Judge
and future President of the United States.

John Tyler was born in 1790 ; graduated at William and Mary
College in 1807 ; in 1809 was admitted to the bar; two years later
was elected a member of the Legislature, and re-elected for five sue-

378 Southern Historical Society Papers.

cessive years. His career along- the pathway of an honorable dis-
tinction was rapid. In 1816 he was elected to Congress, and was
twice re-elected. Ill health induced him to resign before the expira-
tion of his term. In'i823 and the two following years he was elected
a member of the Legislature, and in 1825 was chosen Governor of
the State by the Legislature. The next session he was re-elected
unanimously, by the Legislature, Governor.

Tyler was a cultivated^man with a refined taste in literature. On
the death of Thomas Jefferson he was requested to deliver, in Rich-
mond, Virginia, a funeral oration, which he did on the nth of July,
1826. It is a beautiful eulogy, and will compare favorably, in literar)'
style and in pure sentiments and sound political philosophy, with any
of the very many pronounced on the life and services of the distin-
guished statesman, Thomas Jefferson.

His official life was almost continuous. In March, 1827, he suc-
ceeded John Randolph as United States Senator, having been elected
over Mr. Randolph by a decided vote. In 1833 Tyler was re elected.

The writer of the work now under consideration presents a very
accurate and interesting history of the rupture of the great Repub-
lican party of the Jeffersonian school, which, in 1824, had been split
in many factions, but which, at this period, was combining under
what was known as the Democratic and National Republicans. Tyler
was opposed to the United States Bank policy, to internal improve-
ment by the General Government, and to the protective tariff" policy.
In the Jeffersonian application of Democrat, Tyler was a Democrat;
but when the Whig party took its rise, Tyler co-operated with them,
and was never, in the Jackson sense, a Democrat, but a decided

The history of the'rise of the Whig party, occasioned by the vio-
lent Federal measures and principles of the Jackson Democratic
party, which was in no sense Democratic, is very fairly presented by
the writer of the " Letters and Times of the Two Tylers." It was
characterized by the exhibition of the talent of such men as Web-
ster, Clay, Calhoun, Tyler, Leigh, Archer, Badger, Berrien, Preston,
White, Prentice, Reverdy Johnson, and many others, determined to
resist the violent measures of Andrew Jackson as President of the
United States. We will not enter into a discussion of the many
points on which the Whig party acted. It is known, historically,
how P'ederal the so called Democratic party of the Jackson school
became, and, in truth, the Whigs were more Democratic than the
professed Democrats. It was under that influence that Mr. Webster

Letters and Times of the Tylers. 379

said the Whigs had, in England, been a party opposed to power, and
asked, in one of his speeches against the Jackson party, what shall
we call ourselves ? We are Whigs ; and it was on the floor of the
Senate that he gave the name Whi^ to what was truly the American
Democratic party. This is history, and it is well treated in bio-
graphical notices and on philosophic principles as history, free from
mere political bias, by the writer of the work under consideration.

Tyler had approved the choice of Adams in preference to Jackson,
by the House of Representatives, but perceiving in the very first
message of Adams "an almost total disregard of the federative prin-
ciple," he took steps in the Senate with the opposition to Adams,
which was composed of the followers of Jackson, Crawford, and
Calhoun. He made, during the debate on Clay's tariff resolutions in
i83i-'32, a three days' speech, of much force, against a tariff for pro-
tection, yet he advocated a tariff for revenue, with incidental pro-

" He voted against the tariff of 1832, and sympathized deeply with
the sufferings of South Carolina, but did not approve either the expe-
diency or the principle of nullification; condemning also, in even
severer terms, the principles enunciated in the celebrated proclama-
tion of President Jackson, which attacked, not alone nullification, but
also the right of secession and the sovereignty of the States. Mr.
Tyler's vote was the only one cast against the ' Force Bill ' on its
final passage, and he was mainly instrumental in securing the passage
of the Compromise Tariff of 1833, whose principle he suggested to
Mr. Clay, its patron."

In 1833 '34 he sustained Clay's resolutions of censure upon Presi-
dent Jackson for the removal of the deposits, which he thought
an unwarrantable exercise of power, though he considered the bank

In relation to the famous expunging resolution, introduced by Mr.
Benton into the Senate, to relieve President Jackson of a just censure,
passed on him some years before, Mr. Tyler— receiving instructions
from resolutions adopted by the Virginia Legislature, to vote for
those resolutions — resigned his seat and returned home. Mr. Tyler
may be considered a firm and decided Whig. In 1836, as a Whig
candidate for the Vice-Presidency, he obtained the votes of Mary-
land, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In 1838 he was a
member of the Legislature from James City county, and lully co-ope-
rated with the Whig party.

In relation to the Whig party, in its position to the second term of

380 Southern Historical Society Papers.

Jackson and the opposition to the election ol" Martin Van Buren, Cal-
houn truly remarked : " It is also true that a common party designa-
tion :Whig) was applied to the opposition in the aggregate. But it
is no less true that it was universally known that it consisted of two
distinct parties, dissimilar in principle and policy, except in relation
to the object for which they had united the National Republican
party and the portion of the State Rights' party, which had sepa-
rated from the Administration on the ground that it had departed
from the true principle of the original party." This reflects in sev-
eral instances the views expressed above in this sketch, and will sus-
tain us in views subsequently to be taken in relation to the elements
composing the Whig party in its organization and action during the
Van Buren administration.

In May, 1835, Van Buren was unanimously nominated by the
Democratic National Convention for President, and was inaugurated
March 4th, 1837. The country, for some years a prey to the most
violent pecuniary embarrassments, was now involved in a crisis of
unprecedented severity ; commerce and manufactures were prostrate.
The President called an extra session to meet in September, 1837.
This extra session " witnessed," to quote the language of our writer,
" the deduf in Van Buren' s message of the new system of finance,"
Vol. I, page 584. It also witnessed, as he observes, a split in the
ranks of the Democratic party. Thi's faction called themselves con-
servatives, among which were some men of great virtue and ability —
Rives, Tallmadge and Legree being of that party. But what is also
remarkable Calhoun, Tazewell, Gordon, Troup and many others of
the Whig party, who had been bitter opponents of the Jackson
measures, co-operated with the Democrats on the specie platform of
the sub-treasury. We will not trace out at this time the history of
the sub-treasury. It was a scheme used as a substitute for a national
bank, and its very existence depended upon and practiced daily all
of the essential features of banking, except lending money on good

In the Whig National Convention, on December 4th, 1839, Har-
rison was nominated for the Presidency and Tyler for Vice-President.
Van Buren, as the representative of the Democratic party, was nomi-
nated without opposition by a national convention of May 5th, 1840.

The contest between Harrison and Van Buren was conducted with
more absorbing interest and public excitement than ever before ex-
hibited in the United States in any political canvass. The financial
distress which had overshadowed the country during Van Buren's

Letters and Times of the Tylers. 381

administration, with charges of official corruption and defalcations of
public officers, were alleged with force and truth by the orators and
press of the Whig party — much glory and mere party excitement in
the log-cabin songs and processions which may, and doubtless did,
excite the illiterate and ignorant voter — yet there were sufficient valid
political reasons to sustain the citizens in the overwhelming triumph
that wafted Harrison and Tyler into office with a strong Congressional
delegation to sustain them. Van Buren received only sixty electoral
votes, while Harrison had two hundred and thirty-four.

The death of Harrison occurring one month after inauguration,
the administration devolved on Tyler, who became President. The
Administration was very much perplexed by a dissent in the party on
the bank question. The writer of the work under consideration does
not enter into the history of this administration with much fullness
or minutiae.* The details of it are sufficiently known, however, and
the work is devoted, in this particular, chiefly to the party quarrel
with the President on the bank question, and the true position he
occupied on it. The compiler of the Letters and Times of the
Tylers considers the Whig party guilty of great duplicity on the
bank question, and accuses Clay of apostacy. We think it clear that
President Tyler acted consistently with his uniform views on the
bank question, and did not violate any principle set forth in his
message of June I, 1841. It was, however, thought by the Whig
members that the President would sign a bank bill, drawn as it was
attempted in conformity to this message, in consequence of this be-
lief Ewing sent in a, bill for the incorporation of the " Fiscal Bank
of the United States." The bill of Ewing finally passed Congress
with a slight alteration concerning branch banks. f It was sent to
the President, by whom it was returned with a veto declaring the
act unconstitutional, and stated the points on which he so held.
This occasioned great excitement. It was, however, on this veto
message that another bill was prepared with a view and desire,

* I do not know what Judge Cocke means by lack of " details." I was
afraid I had gone too much into them. The Bank Question takes iSo
pages and the other questions — \he Exchequer, the. Loan Bill, Bankrupt Bill,
etc., are treated at much length in chapter V.— Author.

fThe bill that passed Congress, which Judge Cocke describes as ' slightly"
altered from that of Ewing, walked right over the co7istitutional difficul'ty.
If the difference was only ' slight," why did not Mr. Clay accept Ewing's
bill as it stood? The President implored him to do so. Volume II, page— .
The fight turned wholly on the branch banks and Mr. Archer's time.

382 Southern Historical Society Papers.

as alleged, to meet the objections of the first bill and to con-
form to the opinion of the President, It is said it was privately-
submitted to him and approved by hi)??, and his Cabi7iet, " but it is
clear from the evidenci that the President never at any time gave his
consent to any particular form of bill, and tried all in his power to
gel the bill, when introduced in the House, conformed to his view of
the subject. Yet every amendment looking to the consent of the
States was voted down by the Whigs."

Soon after this, the Cabinet, with the exception of Webster, re-
signed. The second veto message of the bank bill explained the
reasons actuating the President for the course taken, but it was
unsatisfactory to a large portion of the Whig party. The members
of the Cabinet resigning their seats were Ewing, Bell, Badger, Gran-
ger and Crittenden. They reflected severely on the President.
Granger's letter was not published, but it was understood that he
agreed with the other members who had resigned. Webster did not
sustain the President, yet he expressed no censure at his course, and
in his letter to the National Intelligencer said he saw no reason for a
dissolution of the Cabinet, and had confidence in the hope that the
President would co-operate with the Legislature in overcoming all
difficulties in obtaining a bank bill that would not be objectionable.
We refer to the letter of Webster in the National bitelligencer of
September 13, 1840. The President, in his second veto, was sus-
tained by some of the first statesmen of the day, among whom may
be mentioned Rives and Wise of Virginia.

The compiler of the work under consideration presents in the sec-
ond volume a full history of this question, with a statement from the
President of the reasons sustaining his course. We think the Presi-
dent not only acted in strict honor on this great occasion, but was
consistent ; and yet, while we do not agree with many leading states-
men of that day in denouncing the President, we also dififer from the
writer in attaching duplicity to the leading members of the Whig
party, or apostacy to Clay in his connection with the bank bills. The
men on each side of this excited contest were of an honor and integ-
rity that would never have stoo[)ed to anything reflective on their
character. The cordial union of Webster and the President, and the
Cabinet he appointed, consisting of Forward, McLean, Upshur,
Wicklifif, Legare, Gilmer. Calhoun and Mason, is strong proof of
his honor and integrity, and we are pleased to think that John Tyler,
President of the United .States, outlived every slander and abuse
uttered against his name and character, and that the voice of those

Letters and Times of the Tylers. 383

by whom he was well known to the day of his death, and the historic
page, ahke concur in one beHet of his untouched honor. The
statement of the President, pubHshed in the work before us, which
was, however, well known in the history of the bank question, is in
every respect satisfactory. Vol. II, pages 66, 98.

An excited contest arose on the tariff bills [the two first tariff bills
had the protective land distribution clause] sent to the President; two
had been vetoed on his known constitutional objections to protection
under such laws, yet a third bill was passed by Congress, which, not-
withstanding its protective features, was signed by the President.
The history of this bill is peculiar and interesting, to which reference
is made, Volume II, pages 180-1. The President signing it under the
conviction that protection was, under it, only incidental, it was, how-
ever, z. protective bill.*

The most brilliant event of Tyler's administration, it may be said,
of any event since the war of 18 12, was the annexation of Texas.
Tyler acted with great wisdom and skill, and deserves great credit
for the success that attended his efforts. The event belongs to Ameri-
can history, above and beyond the application or touch of politics, as
a gem in American statesmanship that will retain its brilliancy on the
historit: page as long as American history is read. The work we are
noticing gives due praise to Tyler, but does not go minutely^ into
the history of annexation ; indeed, it would take many pages to do it
justice, yet, as far as the writer goes, he is fair, just and accurate.
We cannot go into the history of the event, and the many interest-
ing circumstances attending annexation. It is part of our public
history, and should be read carefully by every one interested in
American statesmanship. Bitter war had existed between Mexico
and Texas. Negotiations were pending between Santa Anna and
General Houston for an armistice, when President Tyler made pro-
posals to the President of Texas for annexation to the United States.
The proposition was favorably received, a treaty was signed by the
Texan commissioners and Mr. Calhoun, Secretary of State, April
12th, 1844 ; i" June of the same year it was submitted to the Senate

*The title of the bill declared it for "revenue," and the President had no
authority to look behind the title and pass upon its protective features. That
power belonged exclusively to the Legislature. Hon. John Randolph Tucker
told me two years ago that the Democrats in Congress would gladly agree
to get back to the tariff of 1842. — The Author.

t My account is the longest, the fullest and most minute account that has
ever been given of this subject of annexation. — L. G. T.

384 Southern Historical Society Papers.

of the United States, and rejected. This proceeding occasioned the
ill will oi Mexico, and met with great disapproval from France and
England, they being opposed, without any right or reason, to the
United States extending its territory over Texas. Public opinion in
the United States was divided on the subject, some of our most
eminent men opposing annexation because it might involve us in
war with Mexico, and others because it was unconstitutional.

After much debate, and different plans were discussed in Congress
in relation to this important measure, involving many questions of
constitutional and national law, it was brought to a successful termi-
nation. Joint Resolutio7is — a most significant term, which, from
being a political phrase, became an expression of dignity in our con-
stitutional history — were introduced for the annexation of Texas
After much debate they passed the House of Representatives, Janu-
ary 25th, 1845, by a vote of 120 to 98. In the Senate, after a month's
delay and opposition, they passed by a vote of 27 to 25, with an
amendment, which was concurred in by the House the next day by
a vote of 132 to 76. It is due to histor}/-, and the statesmanship of
President Tyler, to observe. that the joint resolutions, on his sugges-
tion, were introduced into the House by J. L. IngersoU, of Pennsyl-
vania, and George McDuffie, of South Carolina, in the Senate.- Thus
it is shown, as appears also bv the vote in each House, that it was
based on a statesmanship above sectional or party considerations.

President Tyler approved these resolutions for annexation on
March i, 1845, three days before his term of office expired, thus
concluding his administration, in what Thomas Ritchie, editor of
the Enqtdrer, expresses as a " blaze of glory." In the entire history
of the annexation question, the proceedings present John C. Cal-
houn, whose fame requires no praise wherever his name is known, as
one of the most prominent statesmen connected with successful ter-
mination and triumphant progress amidst the opposition of able men
of both parties and different sections.

Among other great questions settled by the Tyler administration
may be mentioned the Northeastern boundary question by treaty
with Great Britain, Webster being Secretary of State, and while Mr.
Tyler did not secure the confidence of either party sufficient to ob-
tain a re-election, his administration was marked by honesty, ability,
and brilliant success, that will ever make it a model in American his-
tory. The foreign relations, alike with the home affairs, were con-
ducted with marked ability and success.

The work of Lyon G. Tyler very properly belongs to an elevated
branch of literature, embracing the science of government in its con-

Letters and Times of the Tylers. 385

stitutional, diplomatic and practical administration. Such subjects
address themselves to the highest order of our intelligent and culti-
vated citizens. The work also presents a very beautiful feature of
American literature in the elegant and eloquent addresses delivered
by President Tyler ; and also a very interesting feature, on which
our literature will ever smile and brighten, is the many very tender,
yet tastefully written family letters, which attract our attention as in
every respect delicately illustrating the social refinement in which a
cultivated literature may v^^ell delight.

The work continues its historical and biographic account of the
events occurring during the life of President Tyler, embracing his
connection with the action of the State of Virginia in her effort to
avoid the late war against the Federal government, " his course in
the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States, to which he was
unanimously elected," and his election to the permanent Congress,
of which he was a member, but in which he never occupied a seat ;
he died before it ever assembled. Though he had been the subject
of severe party temper during his Presidential term, it is due to his-
tory to say he outlived every unkind feeling ever expressed against
him, and when overtaken by death, the unanimous voice of praise
and affection from the press and public bodies, and distinguished
men with whom he had served, united in one brilliant stream of ad-
miration for nearly a lifetime of official service, and deep regret at
the loss of one so capable and so spotless in the discharge of every
duty. " Mr, Tyler was never a sectionalist. His views were broad
and far-reaching, and the State rights that he advocated meant the
equal rights of all the States. On the slavery question he occupied
the old Virginia position. Slavery was a great political evil, but it
was one that required time for its obliteration. When the agitation
ensued in Virgmia, on Nat. Turner's rebellion, he introduced a bill in
the United States Congress to abolish the slave trade in the District,
and in 1857, when the immediate abolition programme of the North
had driven many of the Southern people to advocating .slavery as a
blessing, he wrote a public letter denouncing the attempt of the
Southern Convention at Knoxville of Southern fire-eaters to re-
open the slave trade."

We differ with- the author of this work in his views of some men of
great distinction, to whom frequent allusion is made, as well as to
the spirit of the Whig party under which they acted, and also as to
the motives attributed to Henry Clay and some of his political asso
ciates and allies. It is a work of ability and refined literary taste,

386 Southern Historical Society Papers.

written in a high and pure sense of justice, and deserves a conspicu-
ous place in Southern and we also think in our national literature,
for manv of the leading events which distinguished the active career
of John Tyler w ere national, and have become entwined in the his-
toric literature of our people and age, and were above sectional or
party considerations or influence.

It is a very beautiful and excellent feature in the history of the
highest official stations in the United States — not excepting that of
President — that they have been graced by men, not only of exalted
talent, but of very extensive learning, scholarship and literary ac-
quirements and taste, manifested in writings that have become
embodied in the history of the country. This may be said of Adams,
father and son, each President of the United States ; of Jefferson,
Madison, and Monroe, distinguished for their writings, and also of
Buchanan and Tyler. The same is true of cabinet officers from
Hamilton, of Washington's administration, down through many
administrations, embracing such learned authors and men dis-
tinguished in literature and science as are rarely found connected
with official station. Among them may be found Rodney, Gallatin,
Wirt, Calhoun, Rush, Kendall, Woodbury, Poinsett, Paulding,

Online LibrarySouthern Historical Society. cnSouthern Historical Society papers (Volume 14) → online text (page 40 of 61)