Reblog from May before the overturn of Roe.
This was the situation in April, 1841. Newly inaugurated president, William Henry Harrison died after only a month in office. The 68-year-old Harrison apparently succumbed to pneumonia after delivering an exceptionally long inaugural address in foul weather. Harrison, the first Whig to win the presidency, was also the first chief executive to die in office, and the Constitutional protocol of succession had never before been exercised.
Harrison’s Vice President, John Tyler, moved quickly upon learning of the President’s demise. He located a judge to administer the oath of office, and moved into the White House. When members of Harrison’s cabinet informed Tyler they would take care of the daily business of governing, he cooly responded that they could either cooperate, or resign.
Tyler had been an odd choice for Vice President. The Whig Party had gelled during the Jackson administration, proposing financial and internal developments over sectionalism and states rights. The Whigs further found slavery not only inconsistent with liberty, but also an obstacle to the growth of a modern economy.
Foremost among the Whigs was the Party’s greatest voice, Senator Henry Clay of Kentucky. Clay had first been a presidential candidate in 1824, and again in 1836. However, in 1840 when the Whigs met in Harrisburg, PA to nominate their candidate, Clay failed to gain the top spot, and then declined the offer of the vice-presidency. Clay later regretted his momentary pique.
Though John Tyler had been a Virginia Democrat, he had publicly broken with Andrew Jackson over Jackson’s misuse of presidential power. In particular, Tyler objected to Jackson’s threats against South Carolina in the Nullification Crisis, leading Tyler to forsake the Democrats, but not the philosophy of states’ rights, or the institution of slavery.
The Whigs decided that Tyler’s opposition to Jackson was good enough to offer him the second spot on the Whig ticket, and Tyler accepted. Then a month into his term, Harrison died, and this Southern Democrat, a wall-to-wall sectionalist assumed the presidency.
From there, Whig policies quickly unraveled.
If the Whig’s aimed to realize their platform of national economic growth, their hopes died under President Tyler’s veto pen. Predictably, the Whig cabinet soon grew frustrated, then disgusted with presidential obstruction. Members began to resign. Only Secretary of State Daniel Webster hung on, as he was in the middle of boundary discussions with the British. Then he, too, submitted his resignation. Shortly after the cabinet fled, the Whigs formally expelled Tyler from the party.
To their credit the Whig leadership didn’t excuse Tyler, or defend his contrary actions. No one said ‘let Tyler be Tyler.’ They publicly broke and denounced the President’s antics, though the cost, for the Whigs, came due ten years later when they disbanded.
Yet, the story doesn’t end with the demise of the Whigs, but begins anew with a stronger and more principled political movement. For, from the ashes came the birth of the Republican Party, much like a rising phoenix. And that party still exists today, for now. That is, if they haven’t already submerged their once decent name in the cesspool of Trumpism.
*This post appeared in 2019. And now, in 2022, the GOP has formally forsaken all that was decent in the Republican Party. They now publicly support a coup attempt through silence and excuses, abandoning leadership of their party to propagandized fanatics.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January:Figure Eight,” “Clay,” a play chronicling the life of Senator Henry Clay, followed by another, “Wolf By The Ears,” a study of racism and slavery.
Earned Wall Space
Poking around the basement in my mom’s house I unearthed a framed black and white portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The picture had been in a stack with other effects from one set of grandparents or the other. Certain this pic would probably end up in a dumpster, I packed it in my suitcase and brought it home. Our 32nd President is on display among other WWII pieces I’ve collected over the years.
What was it about Roosevelt, and his times, that earned him wall space during the Depression and war years of the United States? Today the idea of commemorating a political leader with a wall display seems laughable.
So again, why did my grandparents include FDR in their home decor?
Admiration may be one reason. FDR appeared bigger than life. The man seemed to have it all, looks, money, and a pedigree that stemmed back to the early Dutch Patroons in America. His distant cousin, who also acted as his uncle-in-law, Theodore Roosevelt, still loomed large in American memory. That Franklin Roosevelt wished to serve his countrymen in a time of economic collapse felt assuring.
The laissez faire policies of previous administrations made common widespread fraud, especially on Wall Street.The 1920’s had been a heady time of speculation on the Dow, with banks making reckless loans on high risk investments. When the party came to a screeching halt in October of 1929, the sitting Republican President, Herbert Hoover, shouldered all the blame.
That fact raises another strength of President Roosevelt.The public trusted him. While autocracies generated “cults of personality,” Stalin, Mussolini, and Hitler, this candidate earned his place promising America a “New Deal.” He assured the country they had not failed, the system had forsaken them, and as their new President he meant to correct those abuses.
The choice to hang Roosevelt’s portrait came from genuine respect. The people elected FDR because he meant to serve America.
This President brought energy and purpose to the Executive Branch reaching Americans personally in their daily lives. New Deal legislation quickly translated into action with legions of new programs all designed to get folks working again. The public felt a connection to the White House that perhaps hadn’t existed before that time. Mail arrived in a vast volume, most requesting a “hand up,” not a hand out. The correspondence frequently mentioned that any financial help would be repaid. Repaid.
FDR brought electric light to rural America, and chatted with the folks via the radio in his Fireside Chats. Bridges, schools, and other large engineering projects connected the nation as never before. It’s a sure thing your town or city still bears an imprint of FDR’s time in office.
So it is with gratitude that I have placed Franklin Delano Roosevelt on my wall. After all, it’s a family tradition.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Both titles are available on Kindle. Chumbley has also authored two historical plays: “Clay” on the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” concerning the evolution of racism and slavery in America.
A House Blessing
“May none but wise men ever rule under this roof!”
John Adam’s on the White House, 1800
#WhiteHouse #ThePresidency #VoteBlue
Second Class Citizens
That’s me standing, my mom in the chair, my daughter kneeling, and my granddaughter in Mom’s lap. We are second class citizens of the United States.
Vote Blue, no-one is coming to our rescue. We must save ourselves.
In the fall of 1789 recently inaugurated President, George Washington called for a National day of Thanksgiving. Under the previous frame of government, the unworkable Articles of Confederation, such proclamations had customarily been sent to the governors of each state. However, Washington abandoned that practice. As the first US President, Washington instead issued the proclamation to the American People.
This President deliberately bypassed state governments.
The new Constitution, practically wet with ink, had been intentionally addressed to “We The People,” and Washington aimed through his administration to join every citizen, regardless of state, to the national government. This proclamation, seemingly banal, clearly signaled a dramatic reset of power in the new Republic.
Two years prior, in Philadelphia, the framers turned attention to composing a Preamble, otherwise understood as a mission statement. Preambles were not unusual, each state government began with them, but in that hot, humid chamber of Constitution Hall work commenced to define America’s mission. Gouverneur Morris, a delegate from New York, most probably authored the statement, and it was Morris who set out the language.
We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
The heart of these guiding principles begin with the phrase “The People,” followed by the active verb, “To Form.”
The Preamble rests upon this infinitive clause, implying America is a work in constant progress. This mission is a founding legacy fixed upon enduring bedrock.
Susan B Anthony sought justice voting in the Election of 1872. Arrested for casting her ballot, Anthony faced a Federal judge, and received a verdict of guilty. The 19th Amendment, ratified nearly fifty years later extended the vote to women. Hounded by settlers from the 17th Century onward, Native Americans sought survival and the tranquility to peacefully co-exist with whites. It’s ironic that indigenous Americans were not citizens until 1924.The United States in 1860, teetered on a knife point of dissolution. President, Abraham Lincoln, could not stand by and watch democracy die under the threat of secession. Preparing for the common defense Lincoln mobilized northern forces to defend the Union. From Jane Addam’s Hull House, a Chicago settlement center for immigrants, promoting the general welfare, to Dred Scott, and Homer Plessy’s struggle to reap the blessings of liberty, each generation stood tall in their historic moments.
To honor the principles of the document, and as heirs of Constitutional law, our charge, like those before, is weightier than our private comfort. We The People have no choice but to continue Gouverneur Morris, and President Washington’s wishes To Form A More Perfect Union.
Modern America’s mini tyrants must not prevail. Make your voice heard at the ballot box on Tuesday, November 8, 2022.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir, “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Both titles are available on Kindle. Chumbley has written two historical plays, “Clay” regarding the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” an exploring the roots of slavery and racism.
A biography of Lyndon B. Johnson, (by Robert A. Caro) presents an in-depth look at LBJ’s Senate career. Aptly titled “Master of the Senate,” Caro describes the future president’s considerable ability to push bills he championed through the US Senate.
Using his boundless energy to cajole, intimidate, and hound opponents, Senator Johnson proved remarkably effective. When candidate John F Kennedy selected LBJ to serve as his running mate, Johnson’s reputation as a political wheeler dealer sealed his selection.
A look at the backgrounds of all 46 American Presidents, only one-third rose from Congress’s upper chamber. From 1900 to today only seven Chief Executives began in the Senate. Perhaps as candidates, these politicians carry controversial voting records, or personal foibles leaving too much baggage for a successful run. In spite of inherent liabilities, most modern Senators-turned-President, bring an effective array of skills to the White House.
For both Truman with his Fair Deal, and John F Kennedy’s New Frontier, legislative wins were scarce. Truman did enjoy a moment with passage of the Marshall Plan to rebuilt war-torn Europe, and Kennedy with the ratification of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963.
Following JFK’s murder Lyndon Johnson seized that tragic moment initiating his Great Society program, and then showed America how to get things done. Public Television, highway beautification, Medicare, Medicaid, and both the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Johnson’s achievements were many, and important.
Richard Nixon served in the Senate, as well. Once President, Nixon promoted the Environmental Protection Agency, and the passage of Title IX for women in sports. It wasn’t all evil in that White House, the guy had skills.
In 2010, single-term Senator from Illinois, turned President, Barack Obama signed into law The Affordable Care Act. Standing near, watching was Obama’s Vice-President, Joe Biden, himself a 36 year veteran of the Senate.
The thing is Mitch McConnell lobbed every counterpunch in the rules to stop Obamacare. But he failed in the face of three wily tacticians, Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi in the House, and, of course, Joe Biden.
Now Joe has entered the White House in his own right.
The supposition that legislative cunning ensures a successful presidency is only an interesting thought. But Truman did see reelection, while LBJ collapsed under the weight of Vietnam, not his legislative magic. Nixon sabotaged himself, but the Biden presidency appears to be chugging along on a steady course.
In the Senate since 1973, this 46th President cut his political teeth on Capitol Hill. Senate rules, cloture, floor privileges, and more are some of the lethal weapons in his political arsenal. For example, when Senator Manchin suddenly came on board with the Inflation Reduction Act, Mitch McConnell, another sly dog, staggered, blindsided.
The point remains. There is a lot more to Joe Biden than meets the eye. This is not a President to dismiss for superficial reasons, like his grandpa appearance, and folksy demeanor. If anything, Biden’s Senate career has forged him into a political shark. The Infrastructure package, Covid Relief, and College Debt Forgiveness have largely passed, allowing his opponents no time to breathe.
And Joe’s VP? She’s a former Senator, too.
Gail Chumbley is the author of the two-part memoir “River of January,” and “River of January: Figure Eight.” Both titles are on Kindle. Chumbley has written two historical plays, “Clay” regarding the life of Senator Henry Clay, and “Wolf By The Ears,” an exploration of American racism and slavery.