TYLER, John (1790-1862), President. Letter signed ("John Tyler") as President, with autograph corrections and additions, to James Gordon Bennett (1795-1872), Publisher of the New York Herald, Washington, 9 January 1844. 2½ pages, 4to (10 x 8 in.), in very fine condition.
AN EMBATTLED PRESIDENT APPEALS FOR SUPPORT FROM THE PRESS TO DEMONSTRATE THAT A VICE-PRESIDENT "CAN ADMINISTER THE GOVERNMENT ON HIS OWN CONVICTIONS" AFTER "THE DEATH OF A PRESIDENT"
A plaintive letter from Tyler, unexpectedly elevated to the Presidency in the first instance of Presidential succession after William Henry Harrison's untimely death in office. Controversy immediately arose over the intent of the Constitution regarding succession, and many maintained that Tyler was only an "acting president" with limited powers. Tyler insisted that he was, in fact, the President, endowed with the full powers that the Constitution allowed the Chief Executive. Many of Tyler's policy directives met substantial opposition, even from within his own party, and in 1841 the cabinet resigned en masse over Tyler's banking policy.
Tyler appeals to the powerful editor of the New York Herald, James Gordon Bennett, expressing gratitude for "the prompt and able support which you gave me through the columns of the Herald at a moment of unprecedented difficulty to myself and my administration." Tyler explains that he has been "assailed with a fury and recklessness the equal to which no public man has heretofore been subjected to...my motives maligned, and not only my public but private character attempted to be destroyed..." Bennett, he adds, "gave me through your paper, a firm able and efficient support. Every effort was then made to alienate you, and to sew seeds of enmity between us. You were declared in the Senate and in the public streets to be one of my club of counsellors (I had no club and my revilers knew it) and every term of obloquy was cast upon you, which human ingenuity could devise. The settled purpose was formed to deprive me of your support, and all eforts to relax my confidence in your paper having failed on me, these efforts took a new direction--they were made on you." Tyler explains an effort to produce a separate paper, supposedly friendly to the Administration, to drive a wedge between him and the Herald: "It was all done without consultation with me. They professed to be my friends - many no doubt were, but the sequel proved they were deceived. I gave express directions that nothing should be done to displeasure you...I was assured that everything would be done to keep you friendly, but I saw that the blow had been struck and witnessed with pain the growing enmity displayed in your columns...they succeeded in separating you from me, and terminated the game by opening their batteries upon me."
Tyler deferentially entreats Bennett to renew his support: "Should you see in the policy of the administration cause to yield me your support for the residue of my term, I shall be most highly gratified. No ambition for place prompts this remark. I aspire to nothing but to have my administration respected, and the Executive placed in a position to command the respect of both parties. The experiment will have then been fairly and successfully tried and it will be established that a Vice President can administer the government on his own convictions of right, and that the death of a President does not imply the necessity for the Executive power to be in obeyance during the interval of a new election."
The Whigs, alienated by his disregard for party policy, refused to renominate Tyler for a second term in 1844.
Provenance: Paul C. Richards, 1988.