GENERAL HARRISON was inaugurated President of the United States on the 4th of March, 1841. The city of Washington was thronged with people from different parts of the Union; and, perhaps, on no similar occasion was there so large an attendance of the people, and so marked a degree of popular enthusiasm. Chief Justice Taney administered the oath of office. The inaugural was pronounced with energy and clearness. It exceeded the ordinary length of similar communications from his predecessors. A general review of the Government was submitted, setting forth the errors of its administration, and the defects in the Constitution.

A danger, paramount to the absorption by the Government of powers reserved to the States, was that of centering the powers that belonged to its several departments

The President should not be re-elective. The veto power had been greatly subverted from its legitimate office, and rendered the instrument of one man setting at defiance the expressed will of the country; it did violence to the doctrine that the majority rule. The executive power of removal and appointment was discussed; the sub-treasury scheme disapproved; the agitation of slavery

in one.



deprecated, and a devout confidence expressed in the Christian religion.

Gen. Harrison nominated as his cabinet officers, Daniel Webster, of Massachusetts, Secretary of State; Thomas Ewing, of Ohio, Secretary of the Treasury ; John Bell, of Tennessee, Secretary of War; George E. Badger, of North Carolina, Secretary of the Navy; Francis Granger, of New York, Postmaster-General; and John J. Crittenden, of Kentucky, Attorney-General.




Great expectations were centred in the new Administration. None had ever possessed a larger share of the sympathy of the people, and commenced under more cheering and auspicious circumstances. No anticipations were more sadly disappointed. One short month after the inauguration, before a distinctive line of policy could be established, after a brief illness of only eight days, President Harrison died. He expired at Washington, on the 4th day of April. The people regarded this inysterious dispensation of Providence a great national calamity.

On the death of President Harrison, the Cabinet addressed a letter to Mr. Tyler informing him of that event. He immediately started for Washington, where he arrived on the 6th, and took the usual oath of office as the acting President. The Cabinet appointed by General Harrison was retained.

The inaugural address of Mr. Tyler was brief. He accorded with the call issued by Gen. Harrison, summoning a special session of Congresss. That body accordingly convened on the 31st of May, 1841.

John White, a Whig member from Kentucky, was


elected Speaker of the House. Mr. White received 121 votes; J. W. Jones, of Virginia, 84; scattering 16. The Whigs had a majority in the Senate.

The message was devoted mainly to the consideration of financial measures. It was cautiously worded on the subject of a National Bank, and not entirely free from ambiguity. It was believed, however, that the President would sanction any measure which might be enacted by Congress.

The message was accompanied by the report of the Secretary of the Treasury, which strongly recommended the establishment of a bank.


A bill for the repeal of the sub-treasury was introduced into the Senate and ordered to be engrossed; yeas 30, nays 16. It passed that body on the 9th of June, by a vote of 29 to 18. It was taken up in the House and passed August 9, 134 in favor, to 87 against it. It received the signature of the President and became a law. In order to prevent defalcations, of which a great many, and for large amounts, had occurred under the administration of Mr. Van Buren, this act made it a felony for any officer charged with the safe-keeping, transfer, or disbursement of the public revenue, to convert it to his own use; or to loan it with or without interest; or to make an investment of it in any manner.

The President having signified his desire that the Secretary of the Treasury should be called on by Congress for a plan of a bank, Congress complied with this wishthe House on the 3d of June, the Senate on the 7th. The Secretary's report was submitted on the 12th. It was to be designated, “ The fiscal Bank of the United States,"



and, to free it from constitutional objections, it was to be incorported in the District of Columbia, with power to establish branches only with the consent of the States.

A Select Committee, of which Mr. Clay was chairman, reported to the Senate a bill for a fiscal agent based on the report of Mr. Ewing, Secretary of the Treasury. This bill differed in some respects from the acts incorporating the former banks. It was more effectually surrounded by safeguards and restrictions.

The bill, with some amendments, passed the Senate on the 6th of August, by a vote of 26 to 23.

In the House it passed, 128 to 97. It was transmitted to the President, and the result awaited with great solicitude. The bill was finally returned, accompanied with a veto message. The Whigs in and out of Congress were astounded. Immediate steps were taken to prevent the disastrous consequences which it was foreseen this veto would bring upon the Whig party.

In his veto message, the President intimated the nature of a fiscal agent which would receive his approval. Senator Berrien, and Mr. Sargeant, of the House, were deputed to ascertain from the President what kind of a bill he would feel himself authorized to approve. During the interview they learned from the President that he favored a fiscal agent divested of discounting power, and limited to dealing in bills of exchange, other than those drawn by a citizen of one State upon another citizen of the same State. A bill was drawn in conformity with these ideas, and submitted to Mr. Webster, Secretary of State, and by him to the President. It was understood that the President assented to this bill. It was introduced into the House on the day following—August 20, as an amendment to the one then pending before the Committee of the Whole.

The bill was taken out of the Committee of the Whole, August 23d, and passed without the alteration of a word from the original report, ayes 125, nays 94. On the 3d of September it passed the Senate without amendment, 27 to 22. The bill was negatived by the Executive. Having been framed with special reference to his wishes, after due consultation with him, the second veto was inexplicable.


Its re

On the second day after the reception of the veto message by the House, all the cabinet officers, except Mr. Webster, resigned. Touching the propriety of this step, contrariety of opinions have prevailed. As a matter of policy it could not be regarded a wise measure. sults

upon the Whig party could be foreseen in its final prostration and overthrow.

Mr. Tyler was charged with wanton and gross violation of his pledges to the party, and a violation of the principles on which he was elected to office. It is not impossible that more was expected of him than his former course would warrant. The following historical sketch will aid in the formation of an opinion:

“Mr. Tyler had been identified with the Virginia school of politicians. In 1824, in common with his fellow-citizens of that State, he supported Mr. Crawford for President. Preferring, however, Mr. Adams to Gen. Jackson, he wrote a letter to Mr. Clay, approving his vote in the House of Representatives in favor of Mr. Adams. Soon after the election of Mr. Adams, he went over with the friends of Mr. Crawford, to the support of Gen. Jackson. He was in favor of a strict construction of the Constitution, and was therefore opposed to a tariff

« ForrigeFortsett »