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A History of the United States by Cecil Chesterton

And Tyler confirmed his appointment


for themselves, the Democrats played the Whig game by assailing Harrison with very much the same taunts which had previously been used by the Whigs against Jackson. The ignorance of the old soldier, his political inexperience, even his poverty and obscurity of origin, were exploited in a hundred Democratic pamphlets by writers who forgot that every such reflection made closer the parallel between Harrison and Jackson, and so brought to the former just the sort of support for which the Whigs were angling.

"Tippercanoe" proved an excellent speculation for the Whig leaders. It was "Tyler too," introduced to meet the exigencies of electioneering (and rhyme) that altogether disconcerted all their plans.

Tyler was a Southerner and an extreme Particularist. He had been a Nullifier, and his quarrel with Jackson's Democracy had simply been a quarrel with his Unionism. His opinions on all subjects, political, administrative, and fiscal, were as remote from those of a man like Clay as any opinions could be. This was perfectly well known to those who chose him for Vice-President. But while the President lives and exercises his functions the Vice-President is in America a merely ornamental figure. He has nothing to say in regard to policy. He is not even a member of the Administration. He presides over the Senate, and that is all. Consequently there has always been a strong temptation for American wire-pullers to put forward

as candidate for the Vice-Presidency a man acceptable to some more or less dubious and detached group of their possible supporters, whose votes it is desired to obtain, but who are not intended to have any control over the effective policy of the Government. Yet more than one example has shown how perilous this particular electioneering device may turn out to be. For if the President should die before the expiration of his term, the whole of his almost despotic power passes unimpaired to a man who represents not the party, but a more or less mutinous minority in the party.

It was so in this case. Harrison was elected, but barely lived to take the oath. Tyler became President. For a short time things went comparatively smoothly. Harrison had chosen Webster as Secretary of State, and Tyler confirmed his appointment. But almost at once it became apparent that the President and his Secretary differed on almost every important question of the day, and that the Whig Party as a whole was with the Secretary. The President's views were much nearer to those of the Democratic opposition, but that opposition, smarting under its defeat, was not disposed to help either combatant out of the difficulties and humiliations which had so unexpectedly fallen on both in the hour of triumph. Yet, if Webster were dismissed or driven to resign, someone of note must be found to take his place. Personal followers the President had none. But in his isolation he turned to the one great figure in American politics that stood almost equally alone. It was announced that the office vacated by Webster had been offered to and accepted by John Caldwell Calhoun.

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