BECK index

US Depression, Van Buren & Tyler 1837-44

by Sanderson Beck

Van Buren & the Panic of 1837
Van Buren & Depression 1838-39
Elections in 1840 & Harrison
Whig Government & Tyler in 1841
Tyler Administration in 1842
Tyler Administration 1843-44
Umited States Elections in 1844
De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

United States Democracy & Slavery 1801-1844 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

Van Buren & the Panic of 1837

Jacksonian Democracy 1829-37

      On 4 March 1837 Democrat Martin Van Buren was inaugurated as President of the United States with Richard M. Johnson as Vice President. The new Chief Justice Roger B. Taney administered the oath. Most of Van Buren’s inaugural address of about a half hour could be heard by the 20,000 people attending. He talked about the American government in the previous half century and its achievements and extension of territory. He explained that he opposed abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia against the wishes of the slaveholding states or to interfere with it in states where it exists because of the stability that persisted. He promised he would adhere strictly to the Constitution. He would cultivate the friendship of all nations but would decline alliances adverse to peace while preserving equal commercial relations and neutrality.
      In the past ten years an economic boom was promoted by much borrowing for land sales in the West and of former Indian land in the South. The conservative US Bank had been replaced by state banks, and then government land had to be paid for with hard money. The previous year the wheat crop had failed, and the price of cotton had fallen by 50%. Failing banks in England and Europe were calling in short-term American loans. The high price for flour caused riots in New York, and poorhouses tried to feed the hungry. The US annual trade deficit went from $7.9 million in 1830 to $62.2 million in 1836 while imports increased from $62.7 million to $180.1 million. With Americans owing $220.3 million in 1836 many were depending on credit from Britain. In 1834 and 1835 about $35 million in specie came into the United States with some $3 million in gold from England and $4.5 million from France. Most of the specie was silver from Mexico, and it had been used to pay for the trade deficit with China; but in the 1830s the Chinese began accepting bills of credit from British banks instead of silver that they could use for importing opium from India. Silver then accumulated in American banks which stimulated more issuing of paper money that made prices rise. In 1833 banknotes had the value of $10 million, but they increased to $149 million in 1837.
      The US money supply rose from $172 million in 1834 to $277 million in 1836 when imports reached $180.1 million which was $45.7 million more than US exports and carrying trade earnings. British investors increased credit to cotton factors (brokers) and bought American securities. A poor harvest in England caused the British to import food from the European continent, and early in 1837 the Bank of England reduced its credit to British businesses investing in the US. They then asked American debtors to pay them which strained the financial system of the United States.
      President Van Buren started out with the previous cabinet except that he sent the War Secretary Lewis Cass to France as minister, and to replace him he chose the capable South Carolinian Joel Poinsett who had opposed the nullifiers.
      On 12 February 1837 people met in New York City’s park to protest runaway inflation. Two Locofocos (radical New York Democrats) informed them that Eli Hart & Company had 53,000 barrels of flour in a warehouse. The hungry crowd of nearly a thousand people went there. A few police arrived, and people threw stones at the mayor who fled. They broke into the warehouse and removed barrels of flour. When more police and the national guard arrived, the crowd departed. By March the price of flour had doubled in the previous year, and the cost of coal had increased nearly as much in two years. Many farmers could not pay their bank debts because of declining exports. This and drastically falling cotton prices caused British banks and creditors to demand hard currency repayments from Americans. Daniel Webster gave a strong speech against accepting Texas as a state on March 15 in New York because it would extend slavery.
      On March 17 the financial panic began when the large domestic exchange, I. and L. Joseph in New York City, failed. This was caused by the collapse of the cotton market in New Orleans. The Josephs had so much business with banks, merchants, and jobbers on the East coast that it had large effects. The value of specie (coins) rose as British and French banks and merchants liquidated their American possessions.
      On April 13 Treasury Secretary Woodbury sent letters to a New York bank convention promising that the US Treasury would not keep specie beyond current needs, and he promised to accept notes from banks resuming specie payments. Four days later New York bankers declared that they would meet the May deadline on resumption of specie payments. Senator Clay proposed repeal of the Specie Circular, but the US Congress voted that down.
      For the next seven weeks failures occurred daily in New York City. Many bankruptcy sales were held, and the cost of food was high. Railroad and canal stocks lost half their value, and the price of city lots fell from $480 to $50. The abolitionist Arthur Tappan’s mercantile house owed $1,200,000 and failed. Coal mines were closed in Pennsylvania, putting thousands of miners out of work and in danger of starving.
      Jacksonian Democrats blamed the banks, but the Whigs criticized Jackson for his Specie Circular. In nine months from September to May 1 the specie reserves in New York City’s major banks had dropped from $7.2 million to $1.5 million. The President and his advisors discussed whether to maintain the Specie Circular, which Jackson had saved on his last day in office by vetoing its repeal. New York bankers and merchants met in late April and advised suspending it, postponing payment of bonds that merchants had given on customs duties, and calling a special session of the Congress. Van Buren accepted their suggestions in writing on May 4.
      Four days later the Dry Dock Bank in New York, which had $370,000 in government and state funds, shut down, provoking a run on the banks in the city, withdrawing millions in gold and silver. Already major merchants, cotton factors, and brokers with assets amounting to $60 million were bankrupt. Depositors in panic withdrew $2 million in coins on one day. On May 10 the banks and savings banks in New York City suspended specie payments, causing property values and prices to fall. Within a few days all but six of the 788 banks in the US did the same. The public turned to foreign coins such as the Spanish silver picayune. Economic activity, other than for food, declined. The US national debt returned and has not been paid off since then.
      Treasury Secretary Woodbury had been transferring funds to support the deposit system; but now he had to stop all payments except to the Treasury, and he required deposit banks to pay the government surplus installments in specie. On June 25 conservative Democrats and Whigs in the House of Representatives defeated the bill to divorce the bank from the state. Senate Democrats defeated Webster’s amendment to remove the small-note provision in the Deposit Act, but the Democratic administration managed to remove the provision so that the Treasury could receive notes from specie-paying banks, making the Treasury independent of the banks on deposits. Banks were able to resume, and England renewed credit to commercial houses for internal improvements of states. The War Department spent $4.5 million in June and $7 million in July on Indian removal. Van Buren declined to borrow, but he cashed two bonds that Biddle had issued in 1836.
      During the summer of 1837 the President, his respected Attorney General Benjamin Butler, Woodbury, Henry Gilpin, and William Gouge met and agreed on five recommendations to respond to the emergency. The most important policy was for an independent Treasury, the Sub-Treasury plan to pass uniform bankruptcy laws for all banks while using the Treasury to alleviate the lack of credit. To help the deposit banks to make their fourth distribution to the states Van Buren decided to issue treasury notes (soft money) in order to increase the money supply. The New York editor Thomas Allen started the conservative Democratic newspaper, the Madison, and he considered the independent treasury “undemocratic,” bolstering conservative factions led by William Rives and Nathaniel Talmadge. Van Buren visited Virginia in August to shore up their support for his administration. Yet he was much more aloof from the public than Jackson had been. After Washington Irving turned down the post to run the Navy Department, Van Buren appointed James K. Paulding who lacked a political constituency.
      Albert Gallatin headed a committee of New York bankers that sent circulars on August 18 urging banks to do their duty to resume with a general convention they recommended. Most cities approved, but not Philadelphia, Baltimore, or Boston. On August 25 Van Buren announced that he opposed the annexation of Texas. In a special session of Congress on September 5 he proposed the policy of divorcing the banks from the government.
      Woodbridge compiled a report with many statistics for the Congressional session, and Silas Wright arranged to transfer government printing from Blair’s Washington Globe to Allen’s Madison in order to help James Polk get the votes of conservatives to be retained as Speaker of the House; but he did not put conservatives on key committees. President Van Buren presented his message to the extra Congress describing emergency measures so that the government could meet its obligations. They would issue Treasury notes to protect the public credit and the independent treasury. They passed the first bill on September 11, but Senator Calhoun got a postponement for one week and then proposed an amendment to please the hard money Democrats and Jackson. The Senate passed the amended bill on October 3, but the House rejected it on the 14th and adjourned. In November the state election in New York reduced the Democrats to 27 seats in the lower house while the Whigs increased to 121 and won six of the eight senate seats. In 1837 Mexican silver helped hard money in the US increase by 20% while the total money supply decreased by 16%. Gold moved west for land sales and to Europe for English and other creditors.
      Radicals such as Frances Wright, William Leggett, Theophilus Fisk supported the independent treasury, and Henry Gilpin told Van Buren that such a demonstration had drawn 20,000 people in Philadelphia. Leaders of trade unions opposed paper money. The moderate John Brockenbrough, who was president of the Bank of Virginia, suggested an independent treasury that would liberate state banks from government regulation. This helped Van Buren’s policy of divorcing the government from banks gain support even though his system was intended to increase regulation of state banks. Van Buren went along with separating the fiscal operations of the Government from those of individuals and corporations.
      Radicals gained control of the Democratic party in Massachusetts, though the conservative David Henshaw argued that corporations should have the same rights as individuals. Henshaw gained power from patronage in two four-year terms as the Collector of the Port of Boston, but Van Buren replaced him in January 1838 with the historian George Bancroft, making him the Democratic boss of the state. He recruited the minister Orestes Brownson who preached in May that the contest was between the privileged and the underprivileged and then in August that it was between capital or money and labor. By 1838 many Democrats called themselves “Radicals,” “Agrarians,” and “Locofocos.”
      The US Congress convened in December, and in his first annual message President Van Buren said the financial crisis and the cholera epidemic were over, and he noted that 70 million acres of public land had been sold in nine states. He affirmed the states’ right to regulate their banks and the federal government’s obligation to safeguard public funds. In 1837 the federal revenues fell by 50%, and Woodbury reported that the deficit for the year was $12 million, bringing back the national debt. The circulation of money fell by two-thirds. Congress passed debt relief because the jails could not hold all the debtors.
      Elections in 1837 and early 1838 enabled the Whigs to take over the legislatures of New York, Connecticut, Mississippi, and three other states, but the Democrats would win them back in November 1838. When the Mississippi banks failed, the state did not honor its commitments, alienating foreign investors. Only two of Mississippi’s banks would be open in 1841. Anti-bank Democrats in Florida forced banks to close. Some debtors fled to the Texas Republic.
      On 1 July 1837 the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided in Hobbs v. Fogg that a “negro, or mulatto, is not entitled to exercise the right of suffrage.” On 14 March 1838 a mass protest met in Philadelphia, and they published the pamphlet “Appeal of Forty Thousand Negroes, Threatened with Disfranchisement.” They argued that all freemen had the right to vote because Albert Gallatin had persuaded the framers of the US Constitution to remove the word “white” before “freeman.” The city of Philadelphia prohibited employing workers for more than ten hours a day, but the financial panic ended the Mechanics’ Union.
      On July 29 the Chippewa (Ojibwe) nation ceded much land in northern Wisconsin territory to the United States for $100,000.
      On August 1 William Ellery Channing wrote a letter to Henry Clay in which he opposed the annexation of Texas which he argued arose from a “criminal revolt.” He wrote,

A country has no right to adopt a policy, however gainful,
which, as it may foresee, will determine it to a career of war.
A nation, like an individual, is bound to seek even by sacrifices
a position, which will favor peace, justice,
and the exercise of a beneficent influence on the world.
A nation, provoking war by cupidity, by encroachment,
and above all by efforts to propagate the curse of slavery,
is alike false to itself, to God, and to the human race.1

      In August a steamboat on the Missouri River brought smallpox that caused an epidemic in the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara tribes that were reduced from 2,000 people to less than a hundred. The survivors formed a single band.
      After John Quincy Adams’ filibuster for three weeks of the Texas annexation resolution it failed in the House, and the Senate rejected the request for statehood by Texas on August 25. On that day American settlers in New Mexico faced with higher taxes for the Mexican government revolted, but the rebellion was put down by September 12.
      On September 1 the Winnebago tribe ceded to the United States all its land east of the Mississippi River and agreed to move west within eight months, but the tribe complained that the treaty was fraudulent with forced signatures. Some left; but others remained in Wisconsin, and attempts to remove them in 1840, 1846, and 1850 failed.
      On September 4 the painter Samuel F. B. Morse using electricity and magnetism invented the telegraph for sending messages through wires with short and long signals. He would get his patent for it in June 1841.
      The United States Magazine and Democratic Review was founded in October 1837 and was supported by Benjamin Butler. John L. O’Sullivan wrote on democratic principles, which he believed are the cause of humanity, arguing that “the greatest number are more likely, at least as a general rule, to understand and follow their own greatest good than the minority.”2 He trusted the voluntary principle of freedom, and he considered it analogous to “the divine government of the Creator.” O’Sullivan in December criticized the dishonesty of the Sub-treasury’s adversaries because hard-money advocates were rewarded with federal jobs or party advancement.
      In October the half-breed Seminole chief Osceola led a group of warriors to peace talks at St. Augustine, but under a flag of truce General Thomas Jesup imprisoned them. On December 25 General Zachary Taylor forced about a thousand Seminoles to retreat from Lake Okeechobee; but his army had more than a hundred soldiers wounded while the Seminoles lost only 14 men.
      A charter convention for a state anti-slavery society met in Alton, Illinois on October 26-28. The Abolitionist editor Elijah Parish Lovejoy had fled from Missouri to Alton, Illinois, and had his printing press destroyed three times; but on November 7 a mob came again and shot into his warehouse. In the gun battle Lovejoy was shot dead. His friend, Edward Beecher described what happened to Lovejoy in his History of the Alton Riots in 1837, writing for the “rights of conscience” against the tyranny of the mob.
      On November 8 Mary Lyon founded the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary in Hadley, Massachusetts with 80 students. In 1837 Horace Mann became the secretary of the new Massachusetts Board of Education and was supported by Governor Edward Everett who provided taxes for facilities and textbooks in common schools with teachers educated in normal schools.
      Formed by black leaders in 1836 the American Moral Reform Society held its first convention in August 1837 at Philadelphia. On December 8 the abolitionist orator Wendell Phillips spoke to a crowd at Faneuil Hall in Boston and called for an end to slavery in America.
      Presbyterian missionaries Henry H. Spalding and his wife Elize arrived in Idaho in 1836 and worked with the Nez Perce tribe. In 1837 the first school in Idaho at Lapwai welcomed Indian children.
      Henry C. Carey was the son of Mathew Carey and began publishing his Principles of Political Economy and produced three volumes by 1840. The first part in 1837 was on “The Laws of the Production and Distribution of Wealth.” He was a capitalist and economic nationalist who would move from free trade to protection.
      Francis Grund was from Bohemia and went to the University of Vienna. He learned English and French and came to America in 1827 and worked as a journalist including for a newspaper in German in Pennsylvania. His book, The Americans in Their Moral, Social, and Political Relations, was published in Boston and in England in 1837. He was charmed by the republican character of all parts of the United States, and he observed that American workers were closer to the upper class than those in Europe. He described how many families had happy marriages and a better morality. He wrote,

The Western states of America are each a nursery of freedom;
every new settlement is already a republic in embryo.
They extend political life in every direction and establish
so many new fortified points that the principle of liberty
has nothing to dread from a partial invasion of its territory….
   The talent of a New Englander is universal.
He is a good farmer, an excellent schoolmaster,
a very respectable preacher, a capital lawyer,
a sagacious physician, an able editor, a thriving merchant,
a shrewd peddler, and a most industrious tradesmen.
Being thus able to fill all important posts of society,
only a few emigrants from New England are required
to imprint a lasting character on a new state.3

      The English writer Harriet Martineau visited the United States 1834-36 and published her Society in America in 1837 and A Retrospect of Western Travel in 1838. She provided a fresh perspective but was also sometimes deceived by false accounts. She supported abolitionists and gave a Whig perspective on Jacksonian democracy. She urged more education for females.

Van Buren & Depression 1838-39

      In 1838 the American economy began to recover, and in May the Whigs and the soft-money Democrats in Congress repealed the Specie Circular. Van Buren accepted that, but another panic would ensue in 1839. To prevent Biddle from manipulating the New York money market, Samuel Ward in the spring negotiated a loan from the Bank of England which then shipped gold bars worth $5 million to New York, and specie payments resumed in July. Also in the spring the US Congress repealed the law requiring that hard money be paid for public land. Whigs passed the New York Free Banking Act which required that banks have at least $100,000 in capital stock and that it be in state bonds and no more than half of real estate mortgages, and there was no ban on issuing notes for under $20. The radical Leggett did not consider this free because the $100,000 minimum continued monopolies by excluding the less wealthy. Radicals wanted banks divorced from state governments as well as from the federal government. They warned that this was a new credit system. The Democratic Review complained that this would make the current paper-money system worse. Albert Gallatin charged that speculators wrote the bill, and he was afraid that too much money would flow into banks. In the next two years about half of the 134 new banks would go out of business. He was concerned about the depositors who had panicked in May 1837.
      American public opinion in 1837 had supported two Canadian rebellions against British dominion, and on November 21 President Van Buren issued a proclamation advising Americans to be neutral. On December 4 about 500 people with rifles killed a gentleman on the highway, took several prisoners, and then at night approached the city of Toronto. Three days later the militia dispersed them without casualties and took many prisoners. Learning of the Canadian rebellion on the border of New York and Vermont, President Van Buren wrote those state governors to preserve neutrality. The Canadian rebels led by William Lyon Mackenzie, who was president of the “Republic of Canada” for one month, on the night of December 29 captured the Caroline ship carrying arms and set it on fire. They fought Americans at the Niagara River during the first 13 days of January 1838. On the 5th Van Buren proclaimed neutrality warning that Americans interfering with the British could be arrested and punished. He sent General Winfield Scott who gathered a US border force and resolved the crisis by arresting Mackenzie and Rensselaer Van Rensselaer on January 14.
      General Scott then went west to resolve another border dispute with Canadians on the Michigan-Ohio frontier. Congress supported the President by extending military service from three to six months, and they allowed him to summon up to 50,000 soldiers and spend $10 million; but Van Buren used diplomacy with the British ministers to resolve these situations.
      Most of the US Army was fighting the Seminoles in Florida. The removal of the Cherokees from Georgia and Alabama was supposed to be completed by May, but their leader John Ross opposed the move and traveled in the north gaining support for the Cherokees, many of whom were Methodists, Quakers, and other Christians.
      On 27 January 1838 Abraham Lincoln spoke to the Young Men’s Lyceum in Springfield, Illinois on “The Danger to our Liberty” posed by angry mobs like the one that recently murdered Lovejoy. He noted that outrages by mobs have become common occurrences. He argued that mob violence is never necessary, justifiable, or excusable. He appealed to reason instead of passion in order to enhance intelligence, morality, and respect for the Constitution and laws.
      On March 31 a successful silk mill was founded at South Manchester, Connecticut. In April the first steamer crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 16 days from England to New York.
      Also in April the publisher Abner Kneeland, who founded the First Society of Free Enquiry was sentenced by the Massachusetts Supreme Court to sixty days in jail for blasphemy. William Ellery Channing and his friends Emerson, Garrison, Parker, and Ripley petitioned for a pardon, but Kneeland served his time, arguing that “freedom of speech and the press is the chief instrument of the progress of truth and social improvements.”
      On May 7 advocates of slavery burned a new meeting house used by the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society. Robert Purvis in Philadelphia became president of the Underground Railroad that provided support for runaway slaves. Southern slave-owners complained they were losing more than $200,000 a year in lost slaves, and they offered large rewards for their capture and return. Race riots and lynchings continued for a third year.
      Attorney General Butler had been wanting to retire, and finally Van Buren replaced him on July 5 with the Tennessee Senator Felix Grundy.
      The US Government funded a scientific expedition that left Virginia on August 18 for the South Seas in the Pacific led by the Navy captain Charles Wilkes and would return to New York in June 1842. They explored political and economic conditions on 280 islands and brought back many plant and bird specimens.
      In March 1838 the Canadian Refugee Relief Association was formed in New York, and early on May 29 some 22 members disguised as Indians got revenge for the Canadian burning of the Caroline by setting fire to the Canadian ship Sir Robert Peel. In November and December two expeditions by about 1,400 filibustering patriots invaded Ontario, but the British soldiers and Canadian militia killed 25 and captured most of the others. They executed 17 prisoners and transported 78 to Van Dieman’s Land near Australia but released the others into the US.
      In the November elections the Whig Party gained three seats in the Senate and nine in the House, but the Democrats maintained control. Ohio Whigs elected Representative Joshua Giddings, an abolitionist who joined the efforts of John Q. Adams. The Whigs in New York defeated the Democratic Governor William Marcy by electing William Seward. Ironically, Van Buren, who was known for his political skills, as President let his cabinet officers handle their responsibilities. On the most important issue of slavery he was criticized for favoring the South, but he did not gain the confidence of the southerners while losing support in the north.
      Jesse Hoyt was appointed to succeed Samuel Swartwout as Collector for New York, and in November he discovered from the accounts that Swartwout, who fled the country, had committed widespread fraud. An investigation soon revealed that he had stolen $1,222,705 since his appointment in 1829, and the Federal District Attorney William M. Price had covered up and shared in the embezzlement. Those working for Swartwout were afraid they would lose their jobs if they accused him. Van Buren and Woodbury proposed reforms that Whigs in Congress supported. Although this also helped Van Buren’s arguments for his Sub-treasury policy, the Whigs refused to pass his fiscal system and adjourned.
      Also in 1838 Walter Hunt, who had invented the lockstitch sewing machine in 1833, did not patent his improved sewing machine because he did not want to reduce the employment of seamstresses. He would also invent the safety pin in 1849. John Deere began selling his steel plow that worked better than cast-iron plows.
      The British chemist James Smithson died in June 1829 without heirs and left his estate for a “Smithsonian Institution” in Washington DC to increase knowledge. In 1838 the gold sovereigns were delivered and reminted in Philadelphia, providing $508,318, but the Smithsonian Institution would not be founded until August 1846.
      Henry Barnard as a state legislator improved schools. In 1838 he became the secretary of Connecticut’s Commissioners of Common Schools, and he edited their journal for seven years. Boston was the first to add music to the curriculum of city schools.
      US Army engineers cleared the Red River for steamboats in the Indian Territory that later became Oklahoma. The United States created the Iowa Territory on 4 July 1838. The legislature met in the fall and excluded Negroes and mulattoes. In 1839 a commission selected a compromise site for the capital called “Iowa City.”

      Speculation in the southwest in land and agricultural commodities, notably cotton, expanded production. In 1839 too much cotton in Liverpool began to lower the price worldwide, and it did not stop until cotton’s price was half what it was in 1836. Land sales stopped as speculators found that what they had bought was worth only 10% of what they paid. The interstate traffic in slaves decreased as the price of enslaved field workers fell. Spreading panic in the economy caused many employees to lose their jobs as industries in the northeast laid off thousands of factory workers in shoes and textiles. The Deposit-Distribution Act had allowed new banks and spread out the government’s deposits. This made it hard to gather specie reserves. Without a national bank the Jacksonians could not bail out local banks that were hard pressed by English creditors. Many banks which had invested in cotton failed, including Biddle’s Bank of Pennsylvania in 1841. The depression would continue until 1843 and was the nation’s worst until the Great Depression of the 1930s.
      Some people began calling their president “Martin Van Ruin.” His administration believed that government could only help the wealthy, and they did not believe in doing that. Because his government had divorced the state banks, only the states could regulate them. In New York the Jacksonian politicians, who were called the “Albany Regency,” protected their favored banks. Eight states and the Florida Territory defaulted on their interest payments. Of these only Pennsylvania was not in the South or the West. Arkansas, Mississippi, and Florida after it became a state in 1845, eventually repudiated even the principal as well as the interest, and this would have a long-term effect on the credit rating of states in the South. The Whigs became the party of business, and Henry Clay recommended his American System of development as the way to recovery. Many conservative Democrats who believed in soft money became Whigs.
      The Democratic Party had relied on its alliance of slave-owners in the South and republicans in the North. Secretary of War Poinsett of South Carolina insisted on military training for white men in southern state militias in order to put down slave revolts. During antebellum politics the Democrats had 310 “doughfaces” in the North who voted with the South on slavery issues. The Whigs tolerated abolitionists in the North, but the Democrats did not. William Cullen Bryant fired the journalist William Leggett from the New York Evening Post. Leggett had caught yellow fever while in the Navy, which caused poor health, and he died at age 38 in May 1839.
      By the winter of 1838-39 the House of Representatives had received 1,496 anti-slavery petitions from 101,850 people but refused to discuss them because of the Gag Rule. Although only three postmasters had been removed in 1837 and 1838, the Van Buren administration removed 364 in 1839 and the first half of 1840. From 1839 to 1840 cotton prices fell in New York from 13 cents a pound to 7.85 and in New Orleans from 12.4 to 5.7 cents. Commodity prices in the US based on an index of 100 for 1831 increased to 125 in February 1839 but fell to 67 by 1843. In 1838 the United States had a favorable trade balance of $6.1 million, but in 1839 this plummeted to a $47.4 million trade deficit.
      Conflict over timber in the Aroostock Valley in northern Maine near the border of the British colony of New Brunswick led to Maine’s outgoing legislature of Whigs sending scouts on 14 December 1838. They reported that $100,000 in timber had been taken. On 23 January 1839 Maine’s Governor John Fairfield sent a posse of about 200 men, and they arrested trespassers. Then the posse leader was arrested, and New Brunswick Governor John Harvey claimed jurisdiction and expelled Maine’s posse. The legislature of Maine authorized $800,000 to raise 10,000 militia, and Fairfield sent them north at the end of February. Van Buren sent General Winfield Scott again, and he proposed a truce on March 21 that Harvey and Fairfield accepted so that Scott could publish the letters on March 26, ending the Aroostock War.
      On 7 February 1839 Henry Clay made a speech in the US Senate that criticized slavery but called the abolitionists “ultras.” He warned that abolishing slavery would lead to a race war or the ruin of both races, and he defended the “rights” of slaveholders. Before the speech Clay asked some friends to comment on his speech, and several agreed that offending the ultras would hurt his presidential hopes. Clay replied, “I had rather be right than be President.” The next month Senator William Preston of South Carolina mentioned this at a Whig rally in Philadelphia, and the quote was printed around the country. As he toured around the nation, Clay was often introduced or toasted as “The Great Pacificator.”
      On February 13 Giddings opposed an appropriation for the District of Columbia in order to criticize the slavery there. Shouting erupted because of the gag rule against discussing slavery, but Speaker James Polk upheld Giddings. On the 20th the US Congress outlawed dueling in the District of Columbia. One week later a Congressional committee that had investigated the finances in New York criticized Secretary Woodbury for divorcing the banks from the state. On March 3 the Congress appropriated $1,000 to the Patent Office for the distribution of seeds and to promote agricultural experimentation and statistics, and the congressional session ended the next day. Archibald Russell wrote The Principles of Statistical Inquiry, and the American Statistical Association formed in Boston.
      On April 30 John Quincy Adams gave a speech to the New York Historical Society explaining why he believed that the Constitution of the United States returned the nation to the principles of the Declaration of Independence and created a more perfect union to establish justice, peace, the general welfare, and the blessings of freedom.
      During the summer President Van Buren visited Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York and along with peace and prosperity he spoke about his sub-treasury bill to improve the economy and reduce speculation. He was the first US President to campaign for re-election, and another would not do so for a half century.
      In August the Spanish slave ship La Amistad was discovered near Long Island, and the 53 African Mendes who took over the ship near Cuba were detained in New Haven, Connecticut. The self-liberated slaves would be eventually freed by the US Supreme Court in March 1841.
      Biddle finally retired in March, and his Pennsylvania bank closed on October 9, bringing down most other banks except in New York and New England by December. Britain had another poor crop and spent £10 million buying wheat from Europe.
      On November 13 in New York the new abolitionist Liberty Party nominated James G. Birney for President and Thomas Earle for Vice President. They warned that the Slave Power was waging war against liberty in the free states. On December 4 at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania about 3,000 Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison again instead of Henry Clay. The Whig Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia was elected the House Speaker on December 16 in a compromise, and he appointed Democrats to key committees. The Whigs made more gains in the fall elections of 1839, taking control of New York’s state government, though in Massachusetts the Democrat Marcus Morton was elected Governor over the incumbent Edward Everett by only 759 votes out of more than 100,000 cast.
      Van Buren’s annual message at the end of 1839 expressed his political philosophy and economic policy. He asked for a divorce that would keep federal funds out of state banks so that they would not be controlled by foreign interests. He wanted the Treasury to accept payments only in specie. He requested a bankruptcy bill to facilitate the closure of state banks which had suspended specie payments, but it would be voted down. He promised to reduce the government’s annual expenditure by $5 million, and he urged the country to produce more and buy less. Calhoun, after not talking to Van Buren for eight years, swallowed his pride and went to the White House to tell him that he would support the President’s policies.
      After arrest of a Missouri tax collector by anti-slavery residents, a conflict over the border between the Missouri and Iowa militias erupted, and Missouri men cut down three bee trees in December.
      That month John W. Draper and Samuel F. B. Morse in New York began making the first photographs called “daguerreotypes” by using the invention of Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre.
      The financial panic of 1837 did not reach west of the Appalachian mountains until autumn of 1839, and then prices of wheat, flour, and corn fell to lows at the end of 1841. Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois each owed about $15 million and Michigan $5 million. In 1841 and 1842 nine states could not pay interest on their debts. In this depression British investors lost about $100 million.
      Also in 1839 wheat became a major cash crop by selling 84 million bushels. Mississippi was the first state to give women legal control over their property. The first business periodical, Hunt’s Merchants’ Magazine, was published in New York. Charles Goodyear discovered that treating rubber with sulfur kept it flexible and prevented it from melting when heated.
      Young Abner Doubleday began the adding of some rules to the game the English called “rounders,” but Americans called it “baseball.” Later as a military officer he provided bats and balls for his men.
      Jesse Buel published The Farmer’s Companion; or, Essays on the Principles and Practice of American Husbandry to promote agricultural improvements.
      France had sent Michel Chevalier to the United States in 1833 to learn railroad and canal construction. He returned to France in 1835 and published Lettres sur l’Amerique du Nord in 1836, and the English translation came out in 1839. Influenced by the socialism of Saint-Simon, Chevalier’s book included these general observations on American culture:

In general, the American is little disposed to be contented;
his idea of equality is to be inferior to none,
but he endeavors to rise in only one direction.
His only means, like his only thought,
is to subdue the material world; or, in other words,
his means is industry in its various branches—
business, speculation, work, action.
To this sole object everything is subordinate—
education, politics, private and public life.
Everything in American society, from religion and morals
to domestic usages and daily habits of life,
is bent in the direction of this aim
common to each and every one….
   Everyone is at liberty to work, to choose his profession,
and to change it twenty times….
   But American liberty is not mystical, undefined liberty;
it is a practical liberty, in harmony with the peculiar genius
of the people and its peculiar destiny;
it is a liberty of action and motion
which the American uses to expand over the vast territory
that Providence has given him and to subdue it to his uses.4

      In November 1839 the Democratic Review editor John O’Sullivan included the following:

The principle upon which a nation is organized fixes its destiny,
and that of equality is perfect, is universal.
It presides in all the operations of the physical world,
and it is also the conscious law of the soul—
the self-evident dictate of morality
which accurately defines the duty of man to man
and consequently man’s rights to man.
Besides, the truthful annals of any nation
furnish abundant evidence that its happiness,
its greatness, its duration were always proportionate
to the democratic equality in its system of government.5

      The Tennessee legislature wanted to put Attorney General Grundy back in the US Senate, and Van Buren nominated Henry Gilpin to replace him.

Elections in 1840 & Harrison

      Federal workers petitioned the President, and finally on 31 March 1840 Van Buren issued an executive order setting the 10-hour day for workers on all government projects.
      Senator Daniel Webster in April introduced a uniform bankruptcy bill, arguing,

The power of perpetuating debts against debtors,
for no substantial good to the creditor himself,
and the power of imprisonment for debt,
at least as it existed in this country ten years ago,
have imposed more restraint on personal liberty
than the law of debtor and creditor impose
in any other Christian and commercial country.6

      Postmaster General Amos Kendall resigned in May in order to edit the Extra Globe and help the Democrats in the election. He used over 30,000 postmasters to get subscribers and collected $60,000 for his work.
      On June 27 Henry Clay made a campaign speech in Virginia to promote the Whigs’ economic program. He opposed the Jacksonian Democrats and wanted to shift power from the President back to the Congress. He accused Jackson of seizing the Treasury in 1833 and Van Buren of keeping it in his control. Clay objected to the plan to create a standing army of 200,000 men which he considered unnecessary. He suggested that the US President be limited to one term, and he wanted to reduce his veto power and ability to dismiss officers. Clay proposed giving the Congress control over the Treasury. Finally he argued that “the right to slave property” was “guaranteed by the Constitution” and should stay that way.
      Van Buren signed his Independent Treasury bill on July 4. On that day Orestes Brownson spoke at Worcester and argued that the independent Treasury would keep the government free from control by a special class and open to the people.
      Brownson in July published his essay “The Laboring Classes” in the Boston Quarterly Review. The Whigs criticized the Democratic Party for his radical views. Although most Democrats did not agree with him, the party tolerated their publication and did not denounce them. Brownson noted that generally workers “are rewarded in an inverse ratio to the amount of actual service they perform.” The highest salaries go to offices that require the least labor while simple laborers are poor. He even considered northern wages worse than southern slavery because when unemployed, they became destitute. Rarely do those working for wages acquire skills that enable them to rise economically. Girls in factories often worked for only three years. Those paying wages may provide less than slave-owners without the “odium of being slaveholders.” He observed that the slave system was disappearing from Christendom, and it was being replaced by the system of wages for labor. He found that the condition of workers had become worse in the last fifty years. He warned that if the wages system was not replaced, half of humans would be virtual slaves. He said Channing’s “self-culture is a good thing, but it cannot abolish inequality, nor restore men to their rights.”7
      Brownson agreed with Jesus that a person cannot serve God and Mammon (money), and he recommended the Christianity of the Gospel of Jesus, not that of the Church. He believed the duty advised by Christ is to free captives, destroy oppression, and establish justice, the reign of equality. He wrote,

No man can be a Christian
who does not refrain from all practices
by which the rich grow richer and the poor poorer,
and who does not do all in his power
to elevate the laboring classes,
so that one man shall not be doomed to toil
while another enjoys the fruits.8

He suggested limiting the powers of government by repealing laws against workers, by freeing government from control by banks and employers, and by breaking up businesses that create monopolies. Then he recommended the radical idea of Saint-Simon to abolish hereditary property and let the state distribute it by an equitable law. He realized that the rich and businesses would not consent, but he believed that the time had come for its “free and full discussion.”
      Albert Brisbane was strongly influenced by the French socialist Charles Fourier and published Social Destiny of Man: or, Association and Reorganization of Industry in 1840. He suggested association can prevent industry from plunging the social world into indigence and want that cause “discord, depravity, and degradation.” He noted that in England industry had caused “a hideous contrast of poverty and wealth.” He criticized individual selfishness and neglecting any person, child, or servant. Poor tenements demoralize people. Millions strive for wealth, but so few succeed. Brisbane listed the following scourges of civilization: indigence, fraud, oppression, war, deranging of climate, diseases, vicious circle without opening, selfishness, and duplicity of social action. These are the benefits that could be attained: general riches, practical truth, liberty, constant peace, good climate, preventive medicine, opening to improvements, philanthropy, and unity of social action.
      Van Buren’s diplomats had negotiated with Mexico over its claims since 1837. In April 1838 Mexico proposed an arbitration commission, but it was not formed until 25 August 1840. By opposing Jackson’s desire to annex Mexico, Van Buren had kept the peace with that nation.
      In the Massachusetts Senate its president Horace Mann signed the Education Bill in 1837 that founded the board of education. He resigned his senate seat and led the board for the next twelve years filing annual reports. In the fourth report in 1840 Mann discussed the art of teaching which included having knowledge of common-school studies, having teaching ability with judgment, discretion in organizing lessons adjusted to students, and instilling good behavior.
      In New York City the Public School Society since 1825 had been directing most of its funds to Protestant schools. In September 1840 the Catholic Petition for Common School Funds was presented with support from Jews and was denied, but in 1842 New York City made the public school system nonsectarian.
      In 1840 the Democrats tried to pass anti-banking and hard-money legislation in many states, but in the fall elections the Whig Party was victorious in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Alabama, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Maryland, and Delaware while the Democrats’ banking systems were maintained in Georgia, Tennessee, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. Controversial economic and political issues brought out many new votes in the elections leading up to the popular presidential election. Daniel Webster had spoken to 6,000 people in New York City in March and promised to resist any extension of African slavery in America, and he did so again in the US Senate in October.
      General Winfield Scott gave the Cherokee contracts to Ross even though he asked for twice what had been appropriated for their removal. By 1840 the cost of the removal and the Seminole War would reach $50 million.
      In September 1840 young Richard Henry Dana, Jr. published Two Years Before the Mast, his account of his voyage from Boston in August 1834 to California and return by September 1836. Sometimes called a novel, it is more of a travel narrative by a common sailor that described life on an American ship with its toil, trials, and tribulations. In the first chapter he expressed hope that his account would call attention to the welfare of seamen by showing “their real condition.” Dana would return to Harvard University and become a successful lawyer who aided fugitive slaves. In October 1841 he published The Seaman’s Friend: Containing a Treatise on Practical Seamanship, with Plates; a Dictionary of Sea Terms; Customs and Usages on the Merchant Service; Laws Relating to the Practical Duties of Master and Mariners. The books was also published in London as The Seaman’s Manual.

      Ohio had nominated William Henry Harrison for President again in July 1837. John Calhoun rejoined the Democratic Party in the fall, and he introduced resolutions defending southern rights in the US Senate on December 27. In February 1838 Henry Clay denounced Calhoun as a nullifier, and Clay gained support in the South by defending slavery and became the most prominent Whig candidate. Pennsylvania’s Whig Governor Joseph Ritner and Thaddeus Stevens persuaded the state convention in March to endorse Harrison. Clay in June asked Webster to withdraw, but instead he stayed in to defeat Clay. A small gathering of Anti-Masons in Philadelphia nominated Harrison for President and Webster for Vice President in November. Whigs in the Virginia legislature nominated Clay in December. In February 1839 Clay in the US Senate attacked abolitionists and defended slavery. During the summer Clay toured New York, but the Whig defeats in Indiana, Tennessee, and North Carolina in August persuaded New York politicians such as Thurlow Weed that Clay was unelectable. Whigs lost congressional and legislative elections in Indiana in August. General Winfield Scott’s military victories made him popular, and Weed offered him as a compromise candidate and got him 30 of New York’s 42 delegates.
      At the Whig Party national convention in Harrisburg that started on December 4 on the first ballot Clay got 103 votes, Harrison 91, and Scott 57. Weed urged most of the Scott delegates to vote for Harrison who won the nomination 148-90-16. Clay rejected offers to run for Vice President. In the spring of 1838 the Albany Evening Journal editor Thurlow Weed had asked Daniel Webster if he would accept New York’s support for the vice-presidency if General Harrison was nominated; but the Massachusetts Whig replied that he would not take second place to an inferior. They nominated the former Virginia Senator John Tyler as Harrison‘s running mate and adopted the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” which became immensely popular in their hard-cider campaign. At a banquet of southern supporters of Clay he called for party unity behind the principles. Whigs promised prosperity and criticized the Democrats for their tariff and sub-treasury policies that caused unemployment and the depression. They advocated soft money, government support for the economy and internal improvements, and a restrained executive.
      On May 4 the Democrats met at Baltimore and had more states represented than in 1836, though South Carolina and Virginia did not send delegates. They unanimously nominated Van Buren for re-election but allowed the states to decide about the controversial Vice President Richard M. Johnson. Kendall and Jackson had urged Van Buren to replace Johnson, but the President liked Johnson’s influence in New York and Pennsylvania and kept him. This Democratic convention created the first party platform which renounced federal power, supported separation of state and bank, and promised a “rigid economy.”
      In 1840 the influential presidential elector Abraham Lincoln from Illinois campaigned for Harrison promising a new bank to give credit to the common man. Although Harrison opposed a national bank, he said he would not veto it if a Whig Congress passed the bill. Whigs in New Jersey and Pennsylvania campaigned for “Tip, Tyler, and the Tariff.” Whigs portrayed Harrison as a drinker of hard cider from a log cabin and Van Buren as a wealthy aristocrat who had made the government monarchical even though both the Democrats and Whigs promised republican government. Thomas Ritchie’s Richmond Enquirer warned southerners that Northern, middle, and Northwestern Whigs are Federalists and abolitionists while Democrats said that Whigs represented wealthy Federalist aristocrats and bankers. Van Buren wrote out his thoughts on the election in 75 pages. He believed the main difference between the parties was that the Whigs favored the few while the Democrats guarded the rights of the people. In elections between March and October 1840 the Whigs won in most states except for New Hampshire, Arkansas, Illinois, Missouri, and Maine. On September 6 the astrologer William Haworth wrote in a letter to Van Buren, “Neither of the candidates for the president … will fill that office during the next four years.”9
      On September 10 Daniel Webster presided over the General Convention of the Whigs of New England on Bunker Hill. He prepared, and they adopted the 16-page “Whig Principles and Purposes” that affirmed the Constitution, self-government, free speech and press, then discussed the lessons of the Jackson and Van Buren presidencies, and agreed in their support for William Henry Harrison.
      In the Presidential election that November voter participation increased from 58% in 1836 to 80%, and in the fifteen states that had a popular vote, it was even higher. The total vote increased by more than 900,000. Harrison won in the Electoral College 234-60 with 53% of the popular vote to Van Buren’s 47% while the aboltionist Liberty Party got only 0.3%. Van Buren won in Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia, and New Hampshire. Yet his 1,128,854 votes were much more than the 764,176 he got in 1836. Harrison had only 550,816 votes in 1836, but he won with 1,275,390 in 1840. The Whigs gained 31 seats in the House and seven Senators, giving them 133-102 and 28-22 advantages to control Congress.
      The 1840 census found that the United States population had increased by 32.7% in ten years to 17,069,543 including 2,487,355 slaves with about 600,000 immigrants arriving since 1830. The most populated state of New York gained 500,000 people to 2,428,921. New York City had 312,710 followed by Baltimore and New Orleans with about 102,000 each and Philadelphia and Boston with 93,000. Agriculture accounted for 69% of the workers. Canals extended 3,326 miles and railroads 2,818 miles.
      The Baltimore College of Dental Surgery was the first dental school in the US. Abraham Rice was the first rabbi, also in Baltimore, where the Washington Temperance Society was founded. Cotton farming expanded so much in Mississippi that black slaves outnumbered whites. In the North only 7% of the free Negroes could vote.
      Matthew Sorin published The Domestic Circle; or, Moral and Social Duties Explained and Enforced. In the chapter “Nature and Obligations of the Marriage Compact” he advised mutual affection, confidence, attention and respect, and assistance to maintain order in the education and government of children as well as assistance in promoting each other’s spiritual welfare.
      During the campaign Horace Greeley had backed the Whigs with his Log Cabin periodical, and in February 1841 he founded the daily New York Tribune and worked as its editor. On February 8 southerners brought up support for the Seminole War in Florida, and Giddings argued that the war was involving the federal government in hunting down escaped slaves who had joined the Indians. This violated the southerners’ doctrine that the federal government should not have anything to do with slavery.
      On February 24 the Supreme Court Justice Philip Barbour died, and Van Buren nominated Peter V. Daniel of Virginia whom the US Senate confirmed on March 2. Two days later at the end of his term Van Buren’s cabinet officers resigned.
      Henry Clay invited President-elect Harrison to his plantation for a week. Harrison asked Clay to be Secretary of State, but Clay wanted to stay in the US Senate where Whigs believed most power should reside. Harrison then offered the ambitious Senator Webster his choice of positions, and he chose Secretary of State. Both Clay and Webster wanted to work on economic recovery. Harrison had wanted Webster for Treasury Secretary; but he accepted Webster’s choice of Thomas Ewing from Ohio, and Clay was upset that his choice of John Clayton of Delaware was rejected. Harrison reminded Clay that he was the President. He chose John Bell of Tennessee as Secretary of War. Harrison, who lived in a mansion and never in a log cabin, went to his childhood plantation in Virginia to work on his inaugural address, which was edited by Webster.
      Harrison’s wife stayed home as he arrived in Washington on February 9, his 68th birthday. He visited the Senate, and Calhoun noticed that he did not look well. Harrison was busy with assemblies, dinners, and receptions and was constantly beset by office-seekers.

Whig Government & Tyler in 1841

      On chilly and windy 4 March 1841 William Henry Harrison rode on horseback without an overcoat to the Capitol where in the Senate he and Vice President Tyler took the oath and where Harrison made a short speech warning against factionalism. Then he went outside to address the crowd of 50,000 people for over an hour and a half. He promised that he would definitely not accept a second term. He said he would let the Congress decide on public revenue. He opposed relying on hard currency and having the federal government assume state debts. That night he attended three inaugural balls. The US Senate met that day and confirmed the new cabinet officers before adjourning on the 15th.
      On March 10 the US Supreme Court decided 5-2 in Groves v. Slaughter that a contract was valid implying that slaves were property, though Justice McLean argued that the state has a right, which is higher than the Constitution, “to protect itself against the avarice and intrusion of a slave dealer.” Yet Chief Justice Taney and Justice Baldwin responded with a pro-slavery position.
      Senator Clay demanded that Harrison quickly call a special session of Congress which was not scheduled to meet until December, but on March 11 his cabinet voted 3-3, and the President voted no. On the 17th Harrison called for a special session of Congress on May 31 for important financial issues. Harrison was besieged by office-seekers. He opposed removing Democrats without cause, but many were replaced for political reasons. Postmaster General Francis Granger served only for six months but dismissed 1,700 postmasters. Attorney General John Crittenden of Kentucky believed that the cabinet should direct presidential decisions by majority vote with the President having one vote; but Harrison objected to their choice of James Wilson to govern the Iowa Territory, and he named his former aide-de-camp and secretary John Chambers instead.
      President Harrison liked to walk around town and even do his own marketing, but one day he was drenched by rain. This made the cold he caught during his inauguration worse. On March 27 he was diagnosed with pneumonia, pleurisy, and intestinal inflammation, and he died on April 4.
      Vice President John Tyler of Virginia became acting President. At the age of 51 he was the youngest President up to that time. The constitutional succession was debated, and he asked the Senate to declare him President which they did 38 to 8 on April 9. He fathered eight children by his wife Letitia who died in September 1842 and seven by his second wife Julia Gardiner whom he married in June 1844. He was also accused of having two sons by his slaves. Tyler had been in the House of Representatives 1816-21, was Governor 1825-27, and US Senator 1827-36.
      On April 24 Secretary of State Webster, in a letter to the British minister Henry Fox in regard to the British attack on the Caroline, wrote concerning “a necessity of self-defence, instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.” This doctrine of self-defense would influence international law and the Nuremberg Tribunals in 1945-46.
      Senator Clay visited President Tyler in May. They had been personal friends and allies for twenty years since the Missouri issue. Clay wanted a national bank; but Tyler told him to work the Capitol while he took care of the White House. Tyler was a slaveholder and backed southern rights. Clay pushed through repeal of the independent treasury, and Tyler signed the bill; but Tyler blocked a national bank. After that, Clay made sure that Tyler was isolated from the Whigs. This turned the dislike that Tyler and Webster had for Clay to hatred.
      Whigs did well in the Congressional elections that were rescheduled before the special session on May 31. On June 1 President Tyler sent a message to the US Congress in which he wrote,

We hold out to the people of other countries
an invitation to come and settle among us
as members of our rapidly growing family,
and for the blessings which we offer them
we require of 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.
No motive exists for foreign conquest;
we desire but to reclaim our almost illimitable wildernesses
and to introduce into their depths the lights of civilization.
While we shall at all times be prepared
to vindicate our national honor,
our most earnest desire will be
to maintain an unbroken peace.10

      Senator John C. Calhoun consulted Treasury Secretary Ewing and introduced a Bank bill with branch offices. Clay modified it to let states disallow branches, though the bank could overrule them. Both houses of Congress passed it by August 6, but President Tyler waited ten days before vetoing it on constitutional grounds, explaining he had opposed a national bank for 25 years. Yet everyone in the Harrison cabinet he inherited opposed his veto. About thirty noisy people marched on the White House. They cheered Clay and jeered Tyler, burning his effigy. The respected North Carolina Supreme Court Justice William Gaston urged reconciliation because Tyler was honest. Clay wanted reforms with a national bank, increased tariffs, and distribution of public land sales to the states. Tyler said he would accept the Fiscal Corporation bill that was a compromise. Congress passed it by September 3, but without consulting his cabinet he vetoed that one too on the 9th.
      In the next two days the cabinet officers Bell, Badger, Crittenden, and Ewing resigned, and Granger quit on the 18th; but Webster stayed on until May 1843. Tyler quickly nominated five Whigs, giving the cabinet three northerners and three southerners—Walter Forward of Pennsylvania at the Treasury, Hugh Legaré of South Carolina as Attorney General, John Spencer of New York as War Secretary, Abel Upshur of Virginia for the Navy, and as Postmaster General Charles Wickliffe of Kentucky who hated Clay.
      Congress adjourned on September 13, and in Capitol Square at least fifty agreed on a Whig manifesto which declared that Tyler had separated himself from the Whigs. They had 20,000 copies distributed, essentially expelling him from the party. North Carolinian Edward Stanly and Henry Wise of Virginia had a fist fight in the House and barely avoided a duel. After the second veto hundreds of letters threatened to kill President Tyler.
      Tennessee’s Democratic Governor James K. Polk lost his first election when he was narrowly not re-elected in August. The Whigs did badly in the state elections held after mid-August 1841. Tyler reacted by replacing many Whig appointees with state rights men who were mostly Democrats. At the end of September the Washington Madisonian newspaper became the advocate for the Tyler administration when his supporters gained a controlling interest. He worked on the Exchequer Plan to provide a good currency.
      In his first annual message the President explained how his financial plan would be run by a governmental board in Washington with agencies in other financial centers set by Congress. The Exchequer could receive limited gold and silver deposits to back notes. States would regulate the agencies which could not compete with loans against state banks. Treasury Secretary Forward reported on December 20 that the federal deficit for 1842 would be more than $14 million. Webster drafted a bill with a letter and sent them to Congress the next day. However, in 1842 Democrats and Whigs backing Clay voted to table the bill, and it was finally voted down in January 1843.
      Tyler had signed Webster’s Bankruptcy Act in August 1841, making it voluntary as well as involuntary and extending it to individuals. During its year of operation before it was repealed in 1843 about 41,000 people applied for bankruptcy.
      Charles Wilkes led a naval expedition that explored the San Francisco bay and the Sacramento River in August.
      Settlers who squatted on public land and improved it complained when it was sold at auction. So they formed Claims Associations that agreed not to bid above a certain price. Senator Benton of Missouri introduced legislation in December 1840, and Congress passed the Preemption Act on September 4 that allowed settlers to buy 160-acre homesteads for $1.25 an acre rather than by auction unless they owned more than 320 acres of other land. Democrats voted against it because it distributed the proceeds to the states; but the law suspended that distribution if tariffs exceeded 20%. Sugar growers in Louisiana and hemp manufacturers in Kentucky wanted higher duties.
      In April the transcendentalist George Ripley with twenty others including Ralph Waldo Emerson, Orestes Brownson, Margaret Fuller, J. S. Dwight, Charles A. Dana, and Nathaniel Hawthorne founded the Brook Farm Institute of Agriculture and Education at West Roxbury nine miles from Boston. The joint-stock company was an agricultural association that provided employment adapted to capacities and tastes which guaranteed housing, fuel, food, clothing, and other necessities.
      On June 15 New York Governor William Seward wrote a letter to the six nations of the Iroquois admitting that previous treaties made with the Senecas were unfair because of “fraud, corruption, and violence.” He hoped that they could remedy them, and in 1842 a new treaty allowed the Senecas to stay on their reservations in New York.
      In the fall of 1841 President Tyler sent the pro-slavery journalist Duff Green as a secret agent to England and France to try to secure loans to the US. Tyler then appointed former Massachusetts’ Governor Edward Everett as ambassador to Britain in December, though Navy Secretary Abel Upshur was upset that he had appointed an abolitionist. In 1842 Green sent several letters to Tyler, Upshur, and Calhoun warning that the British were plotting against the US. John Quincy Adams called Green the “ambassador of slavery,” and he suspected that the government had hired him.
      On September 4 the Congress authorized $2,226,401 for seaboard and frontier defense. British Alexander McLeod was put on trial in New York for arson and the murder of Amos Durfee during the burning of the Caroline in 1837, but the jury acquitted him on October 12, averting a possible war if he had been executed. The Tyler administration persuaded the Congress to pass the Remedial Justice Act which allowed federal jurisdiction in such cases.
      On November 7 the Creole carrying tobacco from Virginia to New Orleans was taken over when 19 of the 135 slaves led by Madison Washington mutinied and killed the slave-owner John Hewell. They took the ship to Nassau in the Bahamas. The British had abolished slavery in 1838. Secretary of State Webster got Francis O. J. Smith to publish editorials in Portland’s Christian Mirror on November 18, December 2, and February 3 1842 to endorse a compromise boundary settlement in order to avert war, and several newspapers reprinted them. Webster had the US minister Edward Everett in London protest on January 29 the British action. They detained the 19 mutineers for five months but freed the other slaves. Calhoun asked President Tyler to defend the property rights of the slave-owners, and the legislatures of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Virginia denounced the British for violating American sovereignty. The slave-owners were eventually compensated in 1853.
      Liberty Party candidates prevented the Democrats or the Whigs from gaining a majority in the Massachusetts legislature.
      Also in 1841 John Bidwell led 69 people in a covered-wagon train that left Sapling Grove, Kansas in the spring and crossed the Rocky Mountains on the Oregon trail. From Fort Hall one group went northwest to Oregon, and the others through Walker Pass and across the Sierra Nevadas, The latter group after abandoning their wagons and eating their animals reached Sacramento, California in November. Tyler and Webster secretly paid Alfred Benson to ship American settlers to Oregon with a “line of transport ships, taking fifty people on each voyage free of charge if they would transport government supplies at $3 per barrel.
      The pastor Gustaf Unonius led the first Swedish colony that settled at Pine Lake, Wisconsin. Artist George Catlin published The Manners, Customs and Condition of the North American Indians in two volumes after spending eight years with many tribes.
      Natural gas was first used as industrial fuel in West Virginia, and industrial coke was produced in Connellsville, Pennsylvania.
      Gilbert Vale’s article “Happiness for All Through Diffusion of Wealth” was reprinted in The Diamond. He asserted that “Wealth is the produce of labor.” He discussed the effects of machinery on national wealth, arguing that machines reduce wages, make men unemployed, and bury children in factories. He also objected that machines “produce too much of everything,” that expensive machines require much capital, making it hard for those with less capital to compete. He suggested that this evil could be cured by improving and simplifying machinery. Political organizations can associate for mutual protection of natural rights, but he warned that the majority governing the minority can lead to miserable legislation. He recommended the community system that combines common property, equal rights, directed by elected officers with rules agreed to by the whole community. This can offer moderate labor, care in sickness, liberal education, equality, and remove anxiety. He believed that a good government by equal laws and distributing wealth will promote industry with judicious laws that could destroy the harassing credit system.

Tyler Administration in 1842

      Daniel Webster learned that the financial sector wanted a higher tariff that required repealing distribution of the funds to the states. The federal government needed a loan and revenue from land sales to pay the interest. On 15 February 1842 Senator Clay presented eleven resolutions that included higher tariff rates but with continued distribution of the funds to the states. Congress passed the loan bill, and Tyler signed it in April.
      On March 3 Massachusetts passed a law limiting the work of children under the age of 12 in factories to ten hours per day. In most states common law held that any organization of workers to regulate employment or raise wages was a conspiracy; but in March the Massachusetts Supreme Court and Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw decided in Commonwealth v. Hunt that labor organizations could use legal means to organize unions and strikes.
      On March 30 Dr. Crawford Long in Jefferson, Georgia was the first to use ether as an anesthetic to stop pain during a medical operation.
      President Tyler appealed to Congress to provide funding for a $3 million deficit and to pay for the War and Navy departments. Henry Clay resigned from the Senate and left on March 31 to go home and prepare for another presidential run. On April 12 the Mutual Life Insurance Company of New York received a charter.
      Ohio Representative Joshua Giddings on March 11 opposed a claim for slaves to the British lost during the War of 1812. On the 21st he proposed nine resolutions drafted by Theodore Weld asserting that slave laws did not apply outside the slave states and that the Creole rebels were justified. After he was censured 125-69 without a debate, Giddings resigned; but in a special election in April he won with 7,469 votes to 393 for the Democrat. Giddings also supported Clay’s economic policies. On June 3 Giddings spoke again about the Florida War and the Creole incident. He said the US and Britain should not be in conflict because Negroes were exercising their right to freedom, and the House Speaker allowed his speech over slaveholders’ objections.
      Congressman Henry Wise spoke against an attempt by two anti-slavery members to cancel funding for Tyler’s new minister to Mexico, Waddy Thompson because he was trying to annex Texas. Wise noted that President J. Q. Adams and Secretary of State Clay had tried to buy Texas from Mexico when slavery still existed there. He believed that Texas would boost trade in the US, and he even argued that annexing Texas would lead to the freeing of slaves because of the diffusion theory that John Tyler had explained during the Missouri debate. Because of noisy reactions his speech was not printed in the Congressional Globe, but two days later it was published in the National Intelligencer.
      John Charles Fremont was born 21 January 1813 and in 1841 married Jessie, the daughter of Missouri Senator Thomas Hart Benton. Lt. Fremont in May 1842 led the Army Topographical Corps on a scientific expedition to the Rocky Mountains that reached St. Vrain’s Fort between Laramie and Santa Fe on July 10. His guide was the 32-year-old mountain-man and Indian agent, Kit Carson. Jessie helped edit Fremont’s Report on an Exploration of the Country Lying between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains on the Line of the Kansas and Great Platte Rivers which was presented in March 1843 to the US Senate which ordered a thousand copies printed. Many newspapers published excerpts. In 1842 only 125 people traveled on the Oregon Trail, but Fremont’s report helped stimulate 875 to go in 1843 and 1,475 in 1844.
      On June 13 a convention of Whigs in Georgia nominated Clay for president. On the 25th the US Congress passed the Reapportionment Act that required House members to be elected by districts.
      The Tariff Act of 1833 was due to reduce duties to 20% or less by July 1. Millard Fillmore and the House Ways and Means Committee introduced a “Little” tariff bill that kept rates over 20% and suspended state distribution for one month to August 1. The bill passed on June 26, but Tyler vetoed it on the 29th. Congressman John Minor Botts of Virginia on July 18 called for the first impeachment investigation of a US President. Webster urged him to sign the Permanent Tariff passed on August 5; but Tyler vetoed it on August 9 because it included state distribution. Tyler had written to his supporters, “Each branch of the government is independent of every other, and heaven forbid that day should ever come when either can dictate to the other.”11 John Quincy Adams led a House committee that complained the “acting president” should not defy majorities in Congress. Tyler on August 30 signed the next compromise tariff that passed each house by only one vote. This “Black Tariff” raised duties from 20% to nearly 40% to protect American iron industries mostly and reduced US imports by nearly half in 1843, but it provided revenue to help balance the national budget.
      Secretary of State Webster negotiated a treaty with British Foreign Minister Ashburton, who came to the US in April, to settle the border disputes between the US and Canada that was signed on August 9 and ratified by the Senate 39-9. Of the 12,000 square miles of disputed territory, 5,000 went to New Brunswick in Canada and 7,000 to Maine. They also agreed to share the Great Lakes and end the slave trade on the high seas.
      In the fall of 1842 John C. Calhoun also resigned from the Senate to prepare for a presidential campaign. Whigs lost congressional, gubernatorial, and legislative elections in New Hampshire, Connecticut Virginia, Louisiana, Alabama, Illinois, Missouri, and North Carolina while winning in only Rhode Island and Kentucky where they also lost seats in the legislature. The Whigs in the House dropped from 133 to 79, and their majority in the US Senate shrunk to 28-25. The major gains Democrats made in state governments enabled them to draw new districts based on the 1840 census.
      At state conventions in the summer and fall Maine, Kentucky, Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana, Indiana, Vermont, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts endorsed Henry Clay for the presidency. Whig newspapers such as the New York Tribune turned against President Tyler. The US Senate rejected Tyler’s nominees, and he replaced many Whigs not needing confirmation with Democrats. Tyler also tried to get allies against the Whigs in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and other places.
      When Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones received a message from the US consul John Parrott at Mazatlán that war with Mexico was probable, his squadron forced the Mexicans to surrender their capital of California at Monterey, but two days later Jones apologized for his mistake.
      Only after the army leaders said the Second Seminole War, which began in December 1835, could not be won did the government end the fighting in August 1842 as about 600 Seminoles remained in Florida. Black Seminoles were promised that they would not be enslaved in the Indian Territory (Oklahoma), but about 400 were after they got there. This war cost the US Government about $35 million, and in the US Army 1,535 men died, mostly from disease.
      President Tyler sent his annual message to Congress on December 30 that extended the Monroe Doctrine to include the Sandwich (Hawaiian) islands because of their value to American ships, and this has been called the “Tyler Doctrine.” Navy Secretary Upshur wanted a stronger Navy with bases on the west coasts of North and South America as well as in Hawaii. His naval reforms included new sailing and steam warships and an Observatory and Hydrographic Office. He and Tyler wanted to be prepared for slave revolts. Tyler also asked Congress to approve funding to send a commissioner to China to negotiate a commercial treaty.
      The American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions had sent the Reverend Hiram Bingham to Hawaii as early as 1819. Bingham wrote to Secretary of State Webster in the summer of 1841 that Hawaii’s sovereignty was threatened. Peter Brinsmade had a sugar plantation in the Hawaiian islands, and he became the American consul at Honolulu in 1839. Hawaii’s King Kamehameha III sent Brinsmade to Washington in March 1842 with a letter to President Tyler asking the United States with Britain and France to guarantee the independence of the Hawaiian islands. Tyler appointed George Brown as the first commissioner to the Hawaiian islands in March 1843.
      Also in 1842 the first grain elevator was built in Buffalo, New York. Morse laid a telegraph cable under water between Governor Island and Castle Garden.
      The free black Allen Jones told an anti-slavery convention in New York that he had been tarred and feathered. After he returned to his home in Raleigh, North Carolina, he was abducted and whipped.
      Rhode Island was still being governed by a 1663 charter that only allowed those who had $134 in land or paid $7 rent to vote, and by 1840 less than half the adult men could vote. Thomas Dorr was in the Rhode Island Assembly, and in 1834 he started a suffragist movement by a constitution that would allow all white men to vote. In 1841 his Suffrage Association organized a convention and produced the People’s Constitution for Rhode Island, and a referendum by town meetings ratified the plan. The legislature planned a convention that drafted a Freemen’s Constitution with few concessions, and town meetings rejected it in March 1842. In April during a state election the suffragists claimed that 6,000 voters had elected Dorr as governor, and on May 3 they inaugurated him and a People’s Legislature in a deserted factory. The eighty legislators met for only two days and then left. On the night of May 17 Dorr led 234 armed men against the state arsenal at Providence, but at dawn their two cannons failed. They went home, and Dorr fled to New York. In November a Rhode Island referendum created the Law and Order Constitution that enfranchised all white men and black tax-payers. Dorr returned to Providence in October 1843 and was arrested, convicted of treason, and sentenced to life in prison. After a year the Democrats in Rhode Island’s legislature passed the General Amnesty Act that released him in June 1845. Dorr’s Rebellion had stimulated election reform.

Tyler Administration 1843-44

      On 10 January 1843 the US House of Representatives rejected 127-83 the Botts motion to appoint a committee to investigate President Tyler. On January 23 the Virginia Congressman Thomas Gilmer wrote a letter to the Baltimore Republican and Argus in favor of admitting Texas into the Union, and it was soon reprinted in the Madisonian. He believed that each state must decide about slavery, or the Union could dissolve. He suggested that the United States was capable of “indefinite extension.” He warned that if the US did not take Texas, then Britain would bring it into its empire and would abolish slavery there. Congressman Aaron Brown of Tennessee sent a copy of the letter to Andrew Jackson. His reply on February 12 was published a year later without his consent in order to get his support for Democrats not nominating Van Buren for President again because he opposed annexation.
      Tyler and Secretary of State Webster worked well together but disagreed on Texas. After Webster resigned on May 8, President Tyler nominated Caleb Cushing three times; but the US Senate rejected him 27-19, 27-10, and 29-2. Tyler then transferred War Secretary John Spencer to the Treasury and sent Cushing on a mission to China in August. After Congress adjourned, Tyler named the Democrat James Porter of Pennsylvania to be Secretary of War and persuaded Upshur to move from the Navy post to State in June. Tyler chose the Massachusetts Democrat David Henshaw to run the Navy and another Democrat John Nelson of Maryland to be Attorney General. Postmaster Charles Wickliffe and Upshur were unsteady Whigs. Tyler wanted to replace federal officials with those more loyal to him and Texas annexation, and in a few months Spencer purged more than a hundred postmasters, customs collectors, and diplomats.
      To help his campaign for re-election Tyler hired journalist Alexander Abell to write a complimentary biography of him, and he sent out his son John Tyler, Jr. to persuade postmasters and other federal officials to distribute many copies of Abell’s Life of John Tyler.
      Tyler and Daniel Webster were to speak at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Monument on June 17, and on the way there the President visited Baltimore, Philadelphia, Princeton, and New York City where about 150,000 people came out to see him. Tyler refused to meet with the abolitionist leader Wendell Phillips in Boston, but he toured the mill town of Lowell with the businessman Abbott Lawrence. Then Tyler learned that his Attorney General Hugh Legaré died suddenly at the age of 46 on June 20. Tyler cancelled the rest of his trip that would have taken him to Albany, Buffalo, and the West.
      Duff Green acted as a secret agent in Europe, and he learned that the British Foreign Secretary Aberdeen was working to abolish slavery in Texas, but later Aberdeen officially denied this. Juan Almonte, the Mexican minister to the US, learned about American efforts in Texas. He warned that if Tyler and Congress approved Texas annexation, Mexico would break diplomatic relations and declare war.
      Dr. Peter Parker had urged Webster to establish diplomatic relations with China so that they could mediate an end to the Opium War. Cushing with translation help by Parker negotiated the first American treaty with China.
      The free black Sojourner Truth, who had most of her 13 children sold into slavery, in June began a speaking tour of camps to spread the Gospel and oppose slavery. That month nativists opposed to Roman Catholic immigrants started the American Republican Party in New York and Pennsylvania.
      On August 22 the abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet at the National Convention of Colored Men in Buffalo, New York, called for a slave rebellion.
      President Tyler in his annual message to Congress on December 5 repeated the US claim to Pacific territory between 42° and 54° 40' of north latitude, and he hoped to negotiate a settlement with Britain about this. He pleaded for an end to border conflicts between Texas and Mexico because they made both vulnerable to foreign intervention. Congress in 1842 changed the fiscal year to begin on July 1. He affirmed that currency backed by precious metals has reduced speculation, and war expenditures had decreased in the previous two years.
      In May 1843 Captain John C. Fremont with Carson began another expedition that mapped the trail all the way to Oregon. Then he went south through the central valley of California, and returned on the Santa Fe trail across the desert through Utah to Jedidah Smith’s trail to the Arkansas River and reaching St. Louis in August 1844.
      In September 1843 the Unitarian minister William Henry Channing published in The Present his creed on the Christian destiny of America. He hoped Americans would fulfill the law of love but found hypocrisy and wrote,

We deserve the retributions, losses, disgraces
which our savage robberies of the Indians,
our cruel and wanton oppressions of the Africans,
our unjust habits of white serfdom,
our grasping national ambition, our eagerness for wealth,
our deceitful modes of external and internal trade,
our jealous competitions between different professions
and callings, our aping of aristocratic distinctions,
our licentiousness and sensuality,
our profligate expenditures, public and private,
have brought, and will continue to bring upon us.12

     Dorothea Dix visited a jail in East Cambridge in March 1841 and found the insane neglected in cold rooms. She began studying how the state of Massachusetts treated the poor who were mentally ill, and in January 1843 she published her Memorial to the Legislature of Massachusetts, complaining that she found people “in cages, closets, cellars, stalls, pens! chained, naked, beaten with rods, and lashed into obedience.”13 She was influenced by Quakers who applied faculty psychology and the Unitarian William Ellery Channing who sought to perfect human nature. She suggested that states should treat the insane in peaceful asylums. She traveled widely in the United States and Canada discovering that most states were even worse. By avoiding the slavery issue she even persuaded southern states to institute reforms.
      Also in 1843 about a thousand pioneers with 5,000 cattle left Independence, Missouri in 120 covered wagons drawn by teams with six oxen, and they reached the Willamette Valley in the Oregon Territory in November. A yellow fever epidemic killed 13,000 people in the Mississippi Valley.
      The United States agreed to help the British intercept slave ships off the coast of West Africa. The US Congress appropriated $30,000 for a telegraph line from Washington to Baltimore. Elias invented a working sewing machine, but it would take him nine more years to get financing.
      Theodore Sedgwick III published as letters to the New York Evening Post his Thoughts on the Proposed Annexation of Texas calling it “the perpetuity of slavery” that would threaten northern labor and democracy. Silas Wright also opposed the annexation of Texas. William Prescott published his History of the Conquest of Mexico.

      In January 1844 Secretary of State Upshur promised that the US would send military forces to help Texas against the Mexicans. British minister Richard Pakenham arrived in Washington on February 12 and first met with Upshur on the 24th. Three days later Upshur and Texas minister Isaac Van Zandt had drafted a treaty. However, on February 28 President Tyler and about 300 others were invited on a cruise on the new USS Princeton that had the largest naval cannon called “The Peacemaker” which exploded in a salute as they passed Mount Vernon, killing, Upshur, Navy Secretary Thomas Gilmer, David Gardiner, Virgil Maxcey, Commodore Kennon, and three others while injuring nine including its commander Commodore Robert Stockton and Senator Benton. President Tyler was courting the beautiful Julia Gardiner on that cruise, and he consoled her for the loss of her father and married her on June 26.
      Tyler made six nominations for the Supreme Court in his last months, but only Treasury Secretary Spencer of New York accepted. Tyler nominated him in January and in June, but each time the Senate refused to confirm him. This left only War Secretary Wilkins, a Democrat from Pennsylvania, as the only cabinet official who was not from the South. When another justice died, Tyler named James Buchanan of Pennsylvania; but he declined. He named Alabama’s Democratic Senator William D. King as his minister to France because he favored Texas annexation. In February the American Chargé to Texas William Murphy on his own ordered the USS Flirt to Vera Cruz and other ships to sail between there and Galveston to spy on Mexico’s forces. Tyler had Attorney General Nelson send him a letter of reprimand.
      On March 20 Tennessee Democrat Aaron Brown published in Blair’s Globe a letter he got a year earlier from Andrew Jackson recommending the annexation of Texas, and two days later Ritchie reprinted it in the Richmond Enquirer. Jackson was worried that if the British intervened in Texas, they might use that territory to join with Canada to stop US expansion west. John C. Calhoun in December had withdrawn from the presidential race against Tyler who then appointed him Secretary of State on April 1. On the 11th Calhoun wrote to the Texas ministers Van Zandt and J. Pinckney Henderson that the US had moved a naval force to the Gulf of Mexico and soldiers to the Southwestern frontier in order “to protect Texas from all foreign invasion.”
      On April 12 Calhoun signed the Texas annexation treaty. Texas ceded land to the US which assumed the $10 million Texan national debt. The boundaries of Texas were to worked out with Mexico. US forces were deployed at Fort Jessup, Fort Towson, and near the Texas border. Calhoun sent conciliatory letters to Mexico. On April 18 Calhoun’s letter to Pakenham revealed that the US wanted Texas to protect slavery there from British emancipation, and he described slaves as much better off than free blacks. He argued that annexing Texas would protect the slave states. Senator Benton called Calhoun’s letter a “bombshell.” Tyler sent the treaty and related documents secretly to the Senate on April 22, but five days later Ohio Senator Benjamin Tappan leaked them, and they were printed in the New York Evening Post in early May. Tyler appointed the merchant Thomas Larkin, and he opened a consulate in Monterey, California. On April 24 Albert Gallatin at the age of 83 gave a passionate speech to the Anti-Annexation meeting at the Tabernacle on Broadway in New York.
      President Tyler ordered the Treasury Secretary Spencer to move $100,000 of secret service funds to New York for a naval force in the Gulf of Mexico; but Spencer refused to do so and resigned on May 2, and he replaced him with George Bibb of Kentucky. On May 10 the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee reported out the Texas annexation treaty, and on the 13th Benton began a three-day speech against annexation. Both Virginia senators, Rives and Archer, opposed the treaty. Those senators arguing for the treaty included Levi Woodbury, James Buchanan, George McDuffie, and Robert Walker. On May 31 President Tyler had printed 20,000 copies of his message which admitted that military support had been offered to Texas. Democrats and Whigs from the North and East blocked ratification of the Texas treaty 35-16 in the US Senate on June 8. Two days later Tyler sent the treaty and correspondence to the House of Representatives.
      In April the nativist American Republican Party elected their candidate James Harper the Mayor of New York City with 24,570 votes. On May 6 in Philadelphia a nativist rally of that party turned violent and attacked immigrant Catholics. The state militia was called out on the 7th to end the violence which erupted again on the 8th. Fourteen or more people were killed with about fifty injured as 200 people fled from their homes. Two Catholic churches were burned down, and the damage was estimated at $50,000. “Know-Nothings” had begun secretly denying they knew anything. They formed the Native American Party which paraded on July 4, and attempts to arm the Catholic Church of St. Philip Neri drew a crowd of nativists on July 6. When they did not disperse, the sheriff brought a posse of 150 that cleared the street that night. On July 7 the mob used the threat of cannons against the church to free former U.S. Congressman Charles Naylor. On July 11 Philadelphia established a small army to protect the peace.
      Ohio judge Timothy Walker edited the Western Law Journal, and in May he wrote about the right of eminent domain, arguing,

First, the private right of an individual
must yield to the eminent domain of government,
whenever the public good requires it.
And this is well, for otherwise it would be in the power
of one obstinate owner to prevent the execution
of any of those great public improvements which contribute
so much to the general convenience and happiness.
Second, to equalize the burden and avoid all hardship,
the owner of the property so taken is to receive
a compensation, which shall be full and just.14

On May 20 Daniel Webster wrote a letter to Anthony Colby that included these views on slavery:

All wise men & good men regret the existence of Slavery.
They think its existence with us, a great blot, in our system,
and they hope that the prevalence of humanity, religion,
moral improvement, & better notions
of what the good of society actually requires,
will hasten on the day, without bloodshed or violence,
when the whole system shall be abolished.
Reason, Religion, Humanity,
& a sincere love of Universal Liberty, are the true agents
to produce this great & so desirable result.15

      On May 24 Samuel Morse sent the message “What hath God wrought” by telegraph from Washington to Baltimore. His telegraph was then used to send messages from the Democratic convention in Baltimore to Washington, enabling Silas Wright to decline the VP spot and allow the party to choose doughface Pennsylvanian George Dallas. Because Polk opposed government funding of internal improvements, the telegraph became a private enterprise.
      General Zachary Taylor had been sent to Fort Jesup, Louisiana in April, and on June 17 he sent a message to President Sam Houston that the US would protect Texas.
      On June 24 free Negroes in Boston protested with resolutions and a petition the recent decision by the public school committee not to desegregate the Massachusetts public school system which would remain segregated until 1855.
      Mormon leader Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were arrested by militia at Carthage, Illinois for destroying the press of the Expositor newspaper that opposed polygamy. When people learned that they would be released, on June 27 a mob gathered and overcame the guards to kill the brothers and wounded two of their friends. On August 8 the Mormons chose Brigham Young to lead their church.
      William A. Burt in September with a compass discovered iron in the Marquette range of mountains in Michigan, and mining began in 1847.
      George Henry Evans founded the National Reform Association and on November 30 published in his Workingman’s Advocate “A New Homestead Policy” to promote agrarianism. He proposed that the government lay out public land in lots for the use of citizens who own no other land. He concluded,

The principle of an equal right to the soil,
once established, would be the recognition of a truth
that has been lost sight of by civilization, and which,
in our opinion, would tend powerfully to realize
the glorious aspirations of philanthropists—
universal peace and universal freedom.16

      On December 3 in his last annual address President Tyler asked the Congress to annex Texas. He said, “Mexico has threatened to renew the war, and has either made or proposes to make formidable preparations for invading Texas.”17 On that day John Quincy Adams renewed his effort to repeal the Gag Rule against debating slavery, and this time additional Democrats helped the Whigs approve the measure 108-80.
      On December 30 Dr. John Griscom spoke to the Repository of the American Institute on “The Sanitary Condition of the Laboring Population of New York” in order to alleviate the condition of poor immigrants and others living in slums that were called “fever nests.” He found that there was much sickness, physical disability, and premature mortality among the poor, that these are unnecessary because their causes can be removed, and that physical problems produce moral evils which should arouse the people and government to prevent them. He criticized the tenant system and advised cleaning, ventilation, and more space.
      After the Baptist Foreign Mission Board in the North ruled that no slaveholder could be a missionary, in December the Southern Baptists met in Montgomery, Alabama to form their own association.
      Also in 1844 Mathew Brady set up his daguerreotype studio in New York City to practice photography.
      The Baptist preacher William Miller had predicted that the second coming of the Christ would occur in the year ending on 21 March 1844. Then he said it would be on April 18, and finally he set October 22. On that day many believers in the US gathered in various places, but they were disappointed. Miller continued to believe in the second coming up to his death in December 1849. These prophecies were called Millerism, and about 61,000 of his followers would form the Advent Christian Church in 1860.

Umited States Elections in 1844

      On 16 August 1843 the National Convention of Colored Men met at Buffalo, New York. In that city on August 30 the Liberty Party nominated James Birney again for president, but this time they chose the former Jacksonian Thomas Morris of Ohio as his running mate. Birney published the abolitionist newspaper, The Philanthropist, in Cincinnati. Their party wanted to end slavery and restore equal rights for all men. They suggested that the federal government could abolish slave labor in its public works, military facilities, and in Washington. The Liberty Party challenged discriminatory voting laws, opposed colonization to Africa as racist, and the National Convention of Colored Men endorsed the Liberty Party.
      Martin Van Buren had visited Henry Clay at Ashland near Lexington, Kentucky in the spring of 1842, and they agreed to oppose the annexation of Texas in order to remove the issue from the campaign. On 17 April 1844 Henry Clay warned that annexing Texas would cause a war with Mexico and divide the United States. On that day Van Buren’s letter stating that he opposed annexing Texas and the expansion of slavery was printed in the Washington Globe while Clay’s similar position appeared in the National Intelligencer. They both wanted annexation postponed, but James K. Polk, who hoped to be the Democrats’ VP candidate, wanted immediate annexation.
      The Whig Party convention began on May 1 in Baltimore and unanimously nominated Henry Clay for president. For Vice President he let them choose New Jersey Senator Theodore Frelinghuysen who was called the “Christian statesman.” Their unity platform favored Clay’s American System and did not even mention Texas. The success of the 1842 Tariff was the Whigs best campaign issue. The higher rates increased government revenues so much that the federal deficit was ended by June. The US balance of trade shifted from a shortfall to a surplus, and the money in the US increased by 14%.
      The day after the Whig convention the Young Men’s Ratifying Convention was attended by about 10,000 people, and Daniel Webster acknowledged his differences with Clay but supported him and Frelinghuysen to preserve the Constitution. Webster made many speeches in the East including one for three hours on August 31 at Albany, New York to about 50,000 people.
      On May 5 Thomas Ritchie had New York Senator Silas Wright deliver a package of protests from Democrats to Van Buren. When the Democrats in the House tried to lower the tariff rates, their tariff bill in May was removed by tabling it 105-87 with 28 Democrats helping the Whigs win that vote. Even the South found that cotton prices went up.
      On May 13 James Polk met with Andrew Jackson at his Hermitage. Polk was hoping to be nominated for Vice President to balance the ticket with Van Buren or another northern nominee, and Jackson wished him well.
      The Democratic convention also met in Baltimore on May 27. Van Buren had a majority of the delegates, but Senator Robert Walker persuaded enough of those delegates to support the two-thirds rule for nomination. Lewis Cass of Michigan advocated Texas annexation and was getting about as many votes as Van Buren in eight ballots. Calhoun and his supporters considered crossing the street to the much smaller Tyler convention but instead decided to back James K. Polk of Tennessee who was supported by Andrew Jackson. George Bancroft, Benjamin Butler, and Gideon Pillow persuaded others to support Polk, and on the ninth ballot Van Buren’s name was withdrawn. On May 29 the Democrats unanimously nominated Polk for President.
      After most delegates left, the Democrats added a plank to their platform declaring,

That our title to the whole of the Territory of Oregon
is clear and unquestionable;
that no portion of the same ought to be ceded
to England or any other power,
and that the re-occupation of Oregon
and the re-annexation of Texas
at the earliest practicable period
are great American measures.18

      Polk had been in the House of Representatives 1825-39 and was Speaker 1835-39. Then he was Governor of Tennessee for two years. He supported President Jackson’s policies, and he became known as “Young Hickory.” Southerners liked Polk because he was a large slaveholder and was for free trade and states’ rights, and he promised to serve only one term which gave Calhoun hope. Polk also backed Van Buren’s policy of restoring the independent treasury, and he advocated expansion to provide more land for independent farmers. Tyler organized a convention for a third party which met at the same time as the Democrats across the street, and they nominated him for re-election by acclamation.
      Early in 1844 Mississippi Senator Robert J. Walker, who was from Pennsylvania but had become a plantation slave-owner, had published his article “TheTexas Question” which became the pamphlet Letter Relative to the Annexation of Texas designed to win votes in the north. He argued that the annexation of Texas would increase commerce and would attract slaves west to the rich soil of Texas instead of to the North, releasing pressure for a slave revolt in the South. Then after soil in the southwest was exhausted, freed blacks would migrate south and diffuse into multiracial Mexico and Central and South America. The Polk campaign distributed thousands of copies. Walker owned Texas land and bonds as did Gilmer, Mason, and Duff Green in the Tyler administration. Walker defended the Tyler administration in the Senate, and his uncle William Wilkins was Tyler’s Secretary of War.
      On June 3 Senator Benton of Missouri urged emigrants to go to Oregon with 30,000 rifles to “annihilate the Hudson’s Bay Company, drive them off our continent, quiet their Indians, and protect the American interests.”19
      On July 1 Clay wrote a letter to the Independent Monitor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama stating he opposed abolitionists, and on the 27th he wrote to another Alabama newspaper that he would accept the annexation of Texas. These letters were reprinted in northern states by Niles’ Register on August 31 and September 2.
      Senator Walker wrote to Polk and Andrew Jackson urging them to ask Tyler to end his campaign and support Polk. Ritchie’s editorials in the Richmond Enquirer in June and July also urged Tyler to support Polk. Jackson advised Polk not to make a bargain with Tyler, but the ex-President did write to Tyler asking him to withdraw from the campaign. Tyler did so on August 20 and endorsed Polk. His third party had appealed to immigrants in the northeast, and their votes helped the Democrats win key states. Tyler was concerned whether the Democrats would welcome him and other former Jacksonian Democrats who had become Whigs. He affirmed that he wanted to preserve the Union, and he hoped that Polk would continue the successful policies of his administration. His brother-in-law Alexander Gardiner and others were working to replace Whigs. If Tyler had not dropped out, Clay probably would have won.
      In the election for the Illinois legislature in August the Democrats defeated the Whigs. On September 2 Democrats in Pennsylvania nominated the popular Francis Shrunk for governor, and on the 8th New York Democrats named Silas Wright for governor, helping the voter turnout. On September 23 Clay wrote a letter to the Washington National Intelligencer claiming that he was always opposed to immediate Texas annexation, and it was reprinted in Niles’ Register on October 5.
      Polk told workers in Pennsylvania that he did not object to protective tariffs, but he told southerners secretly that he would lower tariff rates back to 20%. Yet Democrats accused Clay of doing the same thing.
      Whigs with Frelinghuysen on the ticket appealed to Protestants, and many of these were concerned about Catholic immigrants. Democrats appealed to Catholic immigrants, and Clay’s attempt to renounce nativism came too late. Whigs believed that the first “dark-horse” candidate Polk was much less qualified as he had lost his attempt to be re-elected as Tennessee governor in 1841. The abolitionist Abel Brown published a handbill widely distributed calling Clay a “man stealer, slave-holder, and murderer.” Less hyperbolic were the Democrats’ charges that Clay blasphemed, dueled, gambled, and was a profligate drunkard and philanderer. Some abolitionists would not vote for Clay because of his character flaws. Clay’s denying he was an abolitionist also lost votes to the Liberty Party.
      About 79% of the eligible voters cast their ballots in the first twelve days of November 1844 and gave 49.5% to Polk and 48.1% to Clay. The Whigs with Clay won in the following eleven states that Harrison had taken in 1840: Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Vermont. The Democrat Polk won the other 15 states with notably narrow wins in New York and Pennsylvania. The abolitionist James Birney of the Liberty Party got 2.3% of the votes with 15,812 votes in New York. His campaign probably changed the outcome because Clay lost New York to Polk by only 5,106. New York’s 36 electoral votes would have changed the result. Another factor mentioned by Theodore Roosevelt in his biography Thomas Hart Benton was Isaiah Rynders who led “the gangs of native and foreign-born ruffians” in New York. The Democrat Silas Wright winning the race for governor in New York also helped Polk there. Some historians have suggested that if Clay had won the election, the Mexican War and the Civil War might not have occurred.
      In the congressional elections the Democrats lost six seats but retained their majority in the House at 143-77, but in the US Senate a 27-23 Whig majority became a 27-25 Democratic advantage. When Texas became a state, the Democrats would gain two more senators. After the Whigs’ loss in the elections Daniel Webster in November called for the reform of the naturalization laws to slow down the influence of immigrants in future elections against the “rights of native-born American citizens.”
      On December 4 the Electoral College gave 170 votes for President to Democrat James K. Polk and 105 votes to Whig Henry Clay, and they elected the Democrat George M. Dallas of Pennsylvania as Vice President.
      The American and Chinese commissioners, Cushing and Qiying, had signed a peace, friendship and trade treaty at Wangxia on 3 July 1844 granting favorable trading with access to Canton and four other ports and extraterritoriality to Americans in China. The US and President Tyler would ratify it on January 17, and it lasted 98 years.

De Tocqueville’s Democracy in America

      Alexis de Tocqueville was born in Paris on 29 July 1805. In 1831 and 1832 he and Gustave de Beaumont traveled in the United States to study prison reforms in America. In 1833 they published On the Penitentiary System in the United States and Its Application in France. De Tocqueville published the first part of De la démocratie en Amérique in 1835 and the second part in 1840. In 1838 the first English translation of Democracy in America was published.
      De Tocqueville began the first part of Democracy in America by describing North America and the origin of the Anglo-Americans. He found the principle that the people are sovereign to be basic to life in the United States even before the Revolution. Then he analyzed the governance of states, counties and townships before discussing the federal Constitution. He described the American institutions as democratic because they elect representatives directly and usually annually. Next he discussed the history of the political parties from the Federalists and then how the Jeffersonian Republicans defeated them. He discussed issues of press freedom. He observed that magistrates have much power even in a democracy. He noted that American government can be unstable. He compared taxation and expenditures to those in France. He found that the habits of democracy improved the citizens as they usually promote the welfare of the most people. De Tocqueville suggested that justice is virtue applied to politics.
      De Tocqueville recognized the extraordinary power of the United States Supreme Court to pronounce a statute unconstitutional. Trials by jury in the democratic system help educate people on the laws, but juries can also be a check on the authority of magistrates. He wrote,

Every American citizen is qualified
to be an elector, a juror, and is eligible to office.
The system of the jury, as it is understood in America,
appears to me to be as direct and as extreme
a consequence of the sovereignty of the people,
as universal suffrage.20

Then he wrote that voting and juries contribute to the supremacy of the majority. Yet juries also recognize the rights of the minority and can prevent a majority from being tyrannical. He also wrote:

In the United States, the instruction of the people
powerfully contributes to the support of a democratic republic;
and such must always be the case I believe,
where instruction which awakens the understanding,
is not separated from moral education which amends the heart.21

Many of De Tocqueville’s generalizations are corrected when he turns to discussing the plight of Negroes and Indians in the Anglo-American culture he so admires. He draws this comparison:

The lot of the Negro is placed on the extreme limit of servitude,
while that of the Indian lies on the uttermost verge of liberty;
and slavery does not produce more fatal effects
upon the first, than independence upon the second.22

Yet the original independence of the American natives was soon pushed around by excessive power of the European colonists and settlers supported by the United States. He admitted that Cherokees were capable of civilization but was skeptical of their success under oppression. He wrote,

If we consider the tyrannical measures which have been
adopted by the legislatures of the Southern States,
the conduct of the Governors,
and the decrees of their courts of justice,
we shall be convinced that the entire expulsion
of the Indians is the final result to which
the efforts of their policy are directed.23

He also observed that the Union under Jackson and others was also lacking in good faith toward the Indians. At the very end of Part One he prophetically compared the Americans to the Russians as two great nations growing in power because of some similarities even though with this major difference:

The Anglo-American relies upon personal interest
to accomplish his ends, and gives free scope
to the unguided exertions and common sense of the citizens;
the Russian centers all the authority of society in a single arm;
the principal instrument of the former is freedom;
of the latter, servitude.
Their starting-point is different,
and their courses are not the same;
yet each of them seems to be marked out
by the will of Heaven to sway the destinies of half the globe.24

      Here are some highlights from Part Two of Democracy in America:

The principle of equality suggests to the Americans
the idea of the indefinite perfectibility of man. (p. 37)

Manners are softened
as social conditions become more equal. (p. 195)

In democracies servants are not only equal amongst themselves,
but it may be said that
they are in some sort the equals of their masters. (p. 216)

A democratic education is indispensable to protect women
from the dangers with which democratic institutions
and manners surround them. (p. 239)

The equality of conditions contributes
to the maintenance of good morals in America. (p. 243)

Providence has not created mankind
entirely independent or entirely free.
It is true that around every man a fatal circle is traced,
beyond which he cannot pass;
but within the wide verge of that circle
he is powerful and free:
as it is with man, so with communities.
The nations of our time cannot prevent
the conditions of men from becoming equal;
but it depends upon themselves whether the principle
of equality is to lead them to servitude or freedom,
to knowledge or barbarism,
to prosperity or to wretchedness. (p. 400)

John Stuart Mill wrote an Introduction to Part Two that was published with the English translation. He concluded that with the following:

The ascendancy of the commercial class
in modern society and politics is inevitable, and,
under due limitations, ought not to be regarded as an evil.
That class is the most powerful;
but it needs not therefore be all-powerful.
Now, as ever, the great problem in government
is to prevent the strongest from becoming the only power;
and repress the natural tendency of the instincts
and passions of the ruling body
to sweep away all barriers which are capable of resisting,
even for a moment, their own tendencies.
Any counterbalancing power can henceforth exist only
by the sufferance of the commercial class;
but that it should tolerate some such limitation,
we deem as important as that
it should not itself be held in vassalage. (p. li)


1. The Annals of America, Volume 6, p. 362.
2. Ibid., p. 335.
3. Ibid., p. 389-390.
4. Ibid., p. 484, 494.
5. Ibid., p. 509.
6. Ibid., p. 564.
7. Ibid., p. 539.
8. Ibid., p. 541.
9. Van Buren Papers quoted in The Presidency of Martin Van Buren by Major L. Wilson, p. 206.
10. Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1908, Volume IV, p. 41-42.
11. The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison & John Tyler by Norma Lois Peterson, p. 105.
12. The Annals of America, Volume 7, p. 109.
13. Ibid., p. 98.
14. Ibid., p. 212.
15. Daniel Webster: The Man and His Time by Robert V. Remini, p. 591.
16. The Annals of America, Volume 7, p. 209.
17. Messages and Papers of the Presidents 1789-1908, Volume IV, p. 341.
18. A Diplomatic History of the American People by Thomas A. Bailey, p. 233.
19. U.S. Congressional Globe, 28th Cong., 1 Sess., p. 678.
20. Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, Volume 1, p. 335.
21. Ibid., p. 377.
22. Ibid., p. 396-397.
23. Ibid., p. 417.
24. Ibid., p. 522.

Copyright © 2020-2021 by Sanderson Beck

United States Democracy & Slavery 1801-1844 has been published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

United States & Civil War 1845-1865

Jeffersonian Democracy 1801-1809
Madison & the War of 1812
US Era of Monroe & J. Q. Adams 1817-29
Native Tribes, Removal & the West
Jacksonian Democracy 1829-37
US Depression, Van Buren & Tyler 1837-44
US Slavery & Abolitionists 1801-44
Women Reforming America 1801-44
American Philosophy & Religion 1801-44
Emerson’s Transcendentalism
Literature of Irving, Cooper & Whittier
Summary & Evaluating America 1801-44

World Chronology to 1830
Chronology of America

BECK index