« السابقةمتابعة »
time, in fact, since 1800 that there had been a real victory of an opposition over a well-organized administration party; for, though the election of Jackson in 1828 was of greater significance, Adams had no such party to support him. But the election of 1840 was, after all, less significant than it seemed.1 The popular majority for Harrison in most of the states was small; and for the whole Union, in an aggregate of over 2,400,000, it was less than 150,000. The congressional elections gave the Whigs a majority of forty-four in the House and seven in the Senate—enough to carry out a programme if the party were united in support of it, but not enough to make Congress independent of the executive. The significance of the election was mainly negative; it meant only that a little more than half the voters of the United States were for the moment arrayed against "Van Burenism"; but what alternative they wished was not so clear.
1 Cf. Wilson, Division and Reunion, 133.
THE QUARREL BETWEEN TYLER AND THE WHIGS
WHEN their triumph in the election gave the Whigs possession of the government, the party at last had to show its hand. Had Harrison lived, the catastrophe that followed might have been averted, or, at least, mitigated; for there can be no doubt that he was more in accord with the majority in Congress than was Tyler. But even the chief that led this miscellaneous aggregation to victory could scarcely have held it together when the fight was over. Before his brief exercise of the presidential functions was ended the signs of insubordination had already begun to appear. To be sure, he took his pledge as to the civil service seriously, repeated it substantially in his inaugural, and in fulfilment had a circular issued by the secretary of state to the heads of departments, directing them to disseminate information to the effect that '' partisan interference in popular elections ... or the payment of any assessment or salaries . . . for party or election purposes" would be regarded as cause for removal.1 This, however, meant only that he was inviting a struggle with those who had elected him; and it did not check an immediate wild rush after the federal offices as enthusiastic, if not so noisy, as the campaign had been. Harrison listened to the applicants so far as possible, but he could not satisfy all.2 The party was not likely to go to pieces in a struggle for the spoils; but it required no little strength, both moral and physical, to meet the importunity of the "hungry crowd."3 Whatever disorganizing effect might have come about, the situation was abruptly changed by President Harrison's death within a month from his inauguration. The impression got abroad that he was virtually killed by the strain the office-seekers put upon him, and this was probably part of the true explanation of his death.
Immediately on taking up his work as president, Harrison issued a proclamation convening the twenty-seventh Congress in special session on May 31 to consider "sundry . . . matters, principally growing out of the condition of the revenue and finances of the country."4 When the two houses met, it was Tyler who sent in the message, and they at once settled down to the work of a most spectacular session.
1 Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 13; Niles' Register, LX., 51.
•Crittenden to Letcher, March 14, 1841, in Coleman, Crittenden, I., 149.
'Clay, Works, IV., 451; Bell to Letcher, January 13, 1841, in Coleman, Crittenden, I., 136; Tyler to Tucker, July 38, 1841, in Tyler, Tylers, II., 53; cf. Von Hoist, United States, II., 408.
•Richardson, Messages and Papers, IV., 3i.
The political chiefs of the Whig party were Clay and Webster, of whom Clay was the superior as leader and organizer. He was beside himself with anger when he learned that Harrison, and not he, had"been nominated by the Harrisburg convention.1 He had no lack of faith in himself; for many forensic and popular triumphs had made him conscious of his powers, and he had no respect for "mediocrities" like Harrison and Tyler.2 There has been, perhaps, no other leader at any time in the history of the United States who has had such a large and devoted personal following. In the campaign he did his part; but it soon became evident that he did not mean to abdicate his supremacy, either in deference to a president chosen by the people or to one who had become such by the act of God.
Even before the death of Harrison there were premonitions of a struggle for the control of the new administration. Clay declined the offer of the secretaryship of state in Harrison's cabinet; and Harrison intimated to him that it was best for them not to be seen too much together, and even had to remind him who was president.3 If Clay was imperious towards Harrison, from whom he expected much, how might he be expected to treat Tyler, with whom he had so little in common? Another uncertain factor was Webster, a leader of towering intellectuality and surpassing eloquence, but lacking in Clay's warmth and personal magnetism, with little fitness for political management, and, as a New-Englander, less "available" than Clay. With all his disadvantages, his was an influence that must always be reckoned with; and it was well for Harrison that Webster took the place rejected by Clay, and for Tyler that he inherited the services of the great diplomat and retained them throughout the most trying period of his administration.
1 Wise, Seven Decades, 171.
'Clay, Works, IV., 446, 447; Sargent, Public Men and Events, II., 116; Tyler, Tylers, II., 10, n. 4.
The third statesman who claims attention is Tyler himself. Had he been willing to play quietly the part of roi faineant to Clay's mayor of the palace, he might have passed through his term in comparative peace and carried with him into private life the commendation and good wishes of those whose dictation he accepted and whose purposes he had served; but nature had not fitted him for such a characterless r61e, nor could he take it. His record was sufficiently extensive and consistent to afford ample means of judging him; and if men did not know what to expect from him, it was either because they did not know what he had always been, or because they thought he might be different now.1 The Whigs themselves, who refused during the campaign to fix any test or stand1 Cf. Von Hoist, United States, II., 412-414; Schurz, Clay, 199.