網頁圖片
PDF

The sixth decennial census was taken during the year, and the result, on the 1st of June, 1840, was as follows:— White males, 7,249,266; white females, 6,939,842 ; free colored males, 192,550; free colored females, 199,821; slaves, malsi 1,240,408; females, 1,240,805; making a grand total of the population of the United States, (including seamen in the national service), 1*7,069,453.

The presidential election, during the autumn of 1840, gave rise to unprecedented excitement, and more time and attention were bestowed upon politics, and the numerous questions at issue between the two parties, than probably had ever been the case at any previous time. There was hardly a definable limit to the conventions, the speeches, the political pamphlets, the newspaper engineering, on the thousand topics which were brought forward and debated at the time. The democratic party hoped to re-elect Mr. Van Buren; the whigs were enthusiastic in their efforts to secure the'election of their candidates. The result was, that General Harrison and John Tyler received, each,two hundred and thirty-four votes;

Martin Van Buren received sixty-six votes, and Richard M. Johnson fortyeight. Consequently, Harrison and Tyler were elected president and vicepresident of the United States.

Congress met on the 7th of December; but the session was not productive of any results of moment. Another issue of treasury notes was authorized; various appropriations were made; and many schemes, which had already been much talked of in Congress, were debated anew.. The matter of most interest, especially for the promise it gave of what might be done under the next administration, was a resolution proposed by Henry Clay, for the repeal of the subtreasury law. The Senate, however, rejected the resolution. On the 3d of March, 1841, the session closed, and with it the administration of Martin Van Buren. He came into office by a very large vote; the people denied him a re-election by an equally large vote against him. It remains to be seen whether the hopes of those who effected this change in the administration were to be gratified or not.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

General Harrison's inauguration — His cabinet — His death — John Tyler president — His address to the people — Extra session of the twenty-seventh Congress — Tyler's message — The secretary of the treasury recommends the establishment of a national bank — Action in Congress on the subject—The sub-treasury repealed — The fiscal bank established — The bill vetoed by Tyler—Further attempt — The president consulted and his approbation secured—Another veto—The cabinet send in their resignations, except Mr. Webster — Course of the whigs in Congress—Acts of the session — Congress meet in December — The longest session ever held—Large amount of legislation — Other banking schemes — The Washington treaty — Its provisions — Troubles in Rhode Island

— The Oregon question brought forward — Further proceedings with respect to it—The elections—Congress in session, December, 1843 — Position of affairs — Mr. Tyler's measures with reference to the annexation of Texas

— Action in Congress — The presidential candidates — Result of the contest—Polk and Dallas elected — Last session of Congress—Tyler's message — The joint resolutions for the annexation of Texas — Prospect of future trouble — Close of Tyler's administration.

During the month of February, General Harrison reached the city of Washington, and on the 4th of March was inaugurated as the ninth president of the United States. The ceremonies were imposing; unusual enthusiasm prevailed; and high hopes were entertained, that the new president would be able to discharge the duties of his office in such wise, as to meet the wishes and expectations of his countrymen. His Inaugural address was very long, but full of interest nevertheless; and, as became the position in which he was placed, he dwelt at length upon the topics which had been so fully discussed during the canvass, and respecting which he now renewed the pledges which were naturally looked for at his hands.

The cabinet chosen by General Har

rison was an able one, and promised well for the administration of affairs. Daniel Webster was appointed secretary of state; Thomas Ewing, secretary 'of the treasury; John Bell, secretary of war; George E. Badger, secretary of the navy; Francis Granger, postmaster-general; and John J. Crittenden, attorney-general; the Senate having at once confirmed all the nominations. Other vacancies were filled up without delay. And a proclamation was issued on the 17th of March, summoning Congress together for an extra session, on the 31st of the following May.

And this was all that Harrison was permitted to do. Though advanced in years, his physical ability seemed to give promise of energy and power of endurance; but the harassing toils of the government soon proved too much for his strength. He was beset with office seekers; he was anxious to gratify the numerous friends and supporters who flocked about him; he gave himself incessantly to public business; and at the close of the month, he was lying on a sick bed. On Sunday, the 4th of April, pneumonia having set in, his brief career as president was brought to its close. His last words, spoken after he had ceased to be conscious of immediately surrounding things, as if addressing a successor or associate, were these: "Sir, I wish you to understand the principles of the government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more."

This being the first instance of a president dying while in office, it produced a feeling akin to dismay, and wide-spread concern was felt as to what would result from so severe a dispensation of God's providence. To the party who had elected Harrison, it was a terrible blow; for with him at the head of affairs, they were sure of being able to carry on the government to general satisfaction. But, as respected the man who, by constitutional provision, now was to occupy the executive chair, the whig party had grave and not unnatural doubts and perplexities. John Tyler had been placed on the ticket without much thought or care as to his political principles and consistency, or his executive ability, since, in the post of vicepresident these were points of comparatively little moment. When, however, i by Harrison's death, he was suddenly i placed in the presidential chair, with I the whole term of four years before him, the dominant party experienced

all the pains of uncertainty, as to the course which Tyler would pursue cn the many and great questions wherein he would be called upon to take part.

John Tyler arrived at Washington, on the 6th of April, and at once assembling the heads of departments, requested them all to continue in the exercise of the functions they had been charged with by his predecessor. He then, for the sake of preventing all occasion of future trouble, took and subscribed a new oath of office before the chief judge of the circuit court of the District of Columbia, and assumed the presidency. On the 7th, the funeral of General Harrison took place; and was attended by a prodigious concourse of people from every quarter of the Union, who forgot party distinctions, and heartily joined in doing honor to the lamented dead. The 14th of May was recommended by the new president as a day of fasting and prayer, and it was universally observed throughout the country, giving an opportunity for the expression of sorrow for the deceased Harrison, and of the profound sense of the instability of human greatness inspired by his death.

Two days after this affecting solemnity, Mr. Tyler issued an address to the people of the Tjnited States, in which he briefly set forth his views, and gave utterance to sentiments, which, though not very unambiguously expressed, still proved generally satisfactory. It was hoped, by the prominent members of the whig party, that he would co-operate with the majority of Congress, in carrying out the views and desires of those by whom he had been elected.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]

1841.

The twenty-seventh Congress met for an extra session on the 31st of May, and Mr. Tyler's message was sent in the following day. Of the foreign relations of the Union, a very satisfactory account was given. A treaty with Portugal had been duly ratified. The claims upon Spain seemed in a fair way of being settled. The MLeod business was progressing to a conclusion.* Speaking of domestic affairs, Mr. Tyler said; "We hold out to the people of other countries an invitation to come and settle amongst us, as members of our rapidly growing family; and for the blessings which we offer them, we require them to look upon our country as their country, and to unite with us in the great task of preserving our institutions, and thereby perpetuating our liberties." The allusions to a national bank, and to the inexhaustible subject of internal improvements, contained in the message, were so ambiguous, that from them nothing of the president's real intentions could be divined. The whig party, however, believed him to be with them on those points; notwithstanding there were reasons to doubt, respecting Mr. Tyler's course on the questions at issue at the time. The report of the secretary of the

* In January, 1841, Alexander ITLeod, of Upper Canada, being in New York on business, was arrested by the authorities at Lockport, on the charge of having been a participator in the burning of the Caroline, (see p. 411.) Much excitement prevailed, and much trouble seemed likely to grow out of the matter. The grand jury found a bill against IFLeod for murder; and his trial took place in October. Fortunately for all concerned, an alibi was proved. M'Leod was allowed to return home, and this source of difficulty was removed.

Vol. III.—53

treasury, sent with the message, warmly recommended the establishment of a national bank, as likely to "produce the happiest results, and confer lasting and important benefits on the country." The president was understood to be friendly to the plan, and Mr. Ewing, on the invitation of both Houses, reported, about the middle of June, a draft of a bill for the establishment of "The Fiscal Bank of the United States." In its business details this scheme did not differ widely from the old plans; except in two features, which it was understood, were introduced by the president himself, and which were designed to obviate the constitutional objections. They were, the proposal to incorporate the bank in the District of Columbia, where Congress had the power of a state legislature; and to give the bank power to establish branches only in such states as should assent to it by their legislatures. There were, of course, inserted many provisions, by which it was hoped that the abuses and corruptions alleged or proved against the former banks would be prevented.

This draft was referred, in the Senate, to the select committee on the currency, of which Henry Clay was chairman; and at the end of a week a report was presented, concluding with a bill, agreeing with the secretary's in almost every part; differing from it chiefly on matters of detail, respecting the management of the bank, and its method of doing business; but differing also from it on the subject of the conditions of establishing branches in the several states.

Much debate was had on this point, and a compromise was at last effected, by which it was hoped the conflicting opinions might be harmonized, and the question be settled. The bill passed by twenty-six to twenty-three in the Senate, and by a hundred and twentyeight to ninety-seven in the House; and on the 6th of August was sent for the president's approval. From the 6th to the 16th of August, Mr. Tyler retained the bill, and the excitement through the country was prodigious. The White House was thronged with visitors, of all shades of political opinion, all anxious to know whether the approval would be withheld, all ready to give advice upon the matter. On the 9th of August, the law by which the subtreasury was established was repealed, by a vote of a hundred and thirty-four to eighty-seven; and the whigs warned and entreated the vacillating occupant of the presidential chair, not to disappoint the expections of the party and the country generally.

On the 16th of August, however, the bill was returned vetoed, for reasons set forth in his message. The whigs were furious; the opposition hoped to gain advantage from the result. The bank question was the main issue, and as it could not be carried without Mr. Tyler's aid, the whigs smothered their mortification, and set to work to arrange a bank on such a basis as the president would n >t veto it. Two prominent members of Congress, Messrs. Berrien and Sergeant, waited on Mr. Tyler, and ascertained his wishes, and a bill was prepared, on the 19th of August, which, to make all sure, was submitted to the president

through the secretary of state, approved by him, and returned. On the 20th, Mr. Sergeant introduced it into the House, as an amendment to some bill then pending in a committee of the whole; and after due debate, it passed on the 23d, without the alteration of a word, by a vote of a hundred and twenty-five to ninety-four. In proof of th*1 anxiety of Congress to meet the wishes of the president, it may be mentioned, that in this bill the institution was not entitled a bank at all; but "The Fiscal Corporation cf the United States." The Senate passed it without amendment, on the 3d of September, by twenty-seven to twenty-two.

John Tyler, having kept the bill six days, though as above stated, he had already approved it, made certain stinging words of Mr. Botts, respecting the "heading of Captain Tyler," and his currying favor with the locofocos, an excuse for changing his mind; and, strange to say, on the 9th of September, he vetoed this bill also. The strength of the party was not sufficient to carry it by a two-third's vote, and so, of course, it was lost.

Two days afterwards the cabinet resigned, with the exception of Mr. Webster,* and on the 13th of September, when the session closed, the whig members of Congress issued an address to the people, giving an account of their action, in terms far from complimentary to Mr. Tyler. Perhaps, for the inter

* In their places, Mr. Tyler chose Walter Forward, secretary of the treasury; John C. Spencer, secretary of war; Abel P. Upshur, secretary of the navy; C. A. Wickliffe, postmaster-general; and Hugh S. Legare. attorney-gencraL

« 上一頁繼續 »