John Tyler Writes After Delivering his First State of the Union Address: “the Ultras on both sides are dissatisfied and the extremes meet...”
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Two days after “His Accidency” delivered his first State of the Union Address, John Tyler affirms that his position had infuriated the “Ultras”: the radicals in both parties: states-rights-leaning Whig such as Clay, and more nationalistic Jacksonian Democrats. JOHN TYLER.
Autograph Letter Signed as President. Washington, D.C., December 9, 1841. 2 pp., 8½ x 11½ in., roughly torn, with lower quarter and at least three lines of text lacking, but signature intact on verso.
Washington, December 9, 1841
I enclose the copy of my message to Congress and hope that you will find nothing in it to change your favorable opinion of me. I have now thrown the responsibility of a plan which will be well digested and prepared, on the shoulders of Congress. Of its adaptation to the wants of the country I do not doubt, and I am highly gratified at the almost universal favor, so far as my information extends, with which the message has been received. The Ultras on both sides are dissatisfied and the extremes meet—this was to have been expected—but my relyance [sic] from the first has been and is upon the great masses--they are al...xxxx...their...xxxx <2> write to me your wishes and views freely and be assured of my constant regard.
Following the Panic of 1837, fiscal policy was at the top of the government’s agenda. When John Tyler assumed the presidency after the untimely death of William Henry Harrison after only a month in office, Whig leaders such as Henry Clay expected Tyler to work closely with them to follow Harrison’s policies. At first Tyler played the role, but on pivotal issues he rebuked Whig advances. His reference to the “Ultras” refers to the Clay faction of the Whig party as well as the Democrats who. While there was room for compromises on issues of the protective tariff, Tyler twice vetoed acts to reestablish a national bank. Following the second veto in September, the bulk of his Cabinet, holdovers from Harrison’s administration, resigned in protest.
It is likely that Tyler is writing to his unknown recipient regarding the sections of his State of the Union that pertained to solidifying the nation’s currency, as the speech referred to repeated jockeying with Congress over the issue of gold, silver, paper currency, and other Treasury notes. Tyler has indeed “thrown the responsibility of a plan ...on the shoulders of Congress.”
“Nor will the plan be submitted in any overweening confidence in the sufficiency of my own judgment, but with much greater reliance on the wisdom and patriotism of Congress. I can not abandon this subject without urging upon you in the most emphatic manner, whatever may be your action on the suggestions which I have felt it to be my duty to submit, to relieve the Chief Executive Magistrate, by any and all constitutional means, from a controlling power over the public Treasury. If in the plan proposed, should you deem it worthy of your consideration, that separation is not as complete as you may desire, you will doubtless amend it in that particular. For myself, I disclaim all desire to have any control over the public moneys other than what is indispensably necessary to execute the laws which you may pass.”
John Tyler (1790-1862) was the first president to be elevated to office from the vice presidency upon the death of William Henry Harrison after only a month in office. His ascension led to the Constitutional question of whether he was actually president or still the vice president merely performing presidential duties. From his perspective, he had assumed to office and delivered an inaugural address. Dubbed “His Accidency” by critics, Tyler refused to fall under Henry Clay’s influence and instead charted his own course as president, leading to vetoes, Cabinet resignations and an impeachment attempt.