Millercenter.org’s summary of speech:
“After the death of President William Henry Harrison, Vice President John Tyler assumes the presidency. He is the first ever to do so, setting the precedent for presidential succession”
Thoughts on Transcript:
President Tyler is the first to take office following the death or resignation of a sitting president. Rather than an Inaugural Address, he instead has a statement delivered to Congress where he acknowledges the oddity of the situation and promises to carry forth the ideals of the man who had been elected president.
There really isn’t much new here that hasn’t been said: Re-affirmation of neutrality in foreign affairs, use of the military for defense, and danger of concentrating power in government are all topics explored at length with previous addresses. A couple of topics that are interesting: Patronage (something that Jackson decried) and the growing corps of government jobs bestowed upon supporters; and the danger of having both the treasury and military under the same branch of government. Tyler promises to remove those people from government who are inadequate for their jobs, or who actively criticize his policies or partake in partisanship.
I’ve noticed this through the speeches I’ve read so far: They come in waves in terms of the issues important to the people. William Henry (why do I always include the middle name? I learned it that way, but I don’t know why) Harrison excluded, all of the Presidents to this point have emphasized maybe 6 different issues. Usually, one of those issues is foreign policy related – either urging war or urging neutrality (or both). Another may or may not be related to the Native Americans and dealings with them. A third will extol certain aspects of our government. A fourth may encourage infrastructure development. And so on. Tyler seems to be in the middle of a wave that is concerned about how the Treasury is run and its connection to the Executive Branch (digging back in my mind to AP History, I think there was a crash during Van Buren’s presidency) as well as the spoils system. Oddly enough, he doesn’t talk about the issues balancing States’ Rights and the Federal Government except in passing. Did Jackson’s actions strengthening the Executive Branch do enough to remove this issue from the table or is Tyler just trying to ignore the elephant in the room?
Also: Tyler likes his use of the word “sedulously” and is notable in that I had to look up several words from his speech – more than any other speech to this point.
sedulously: “diligently in application or pursuit OR involving or accomplished with careful perseverance”
sinecure: “a position requiring little or no work but giving the holder status or financial benefit”
Notes on speech:
- Memorial of prior president
- Foreign policy of neutrality
- Danger of patronage
- Removing political appointees (who were appointed by previous admin) from office
- Clear and understandable budget
- Talk of money supply and currency manipulation (?)
- Government is subservient to people, not vice versa
Phrases I have underlined, starred, or otherwise marked:
“Upon him you had conferred your suffrages for the first office in your gift, and had selected him as your chosen instrument to correct and reform all such errors and abuses as had manifested themselves from time to time in the practical operation of the Government.”
“For the first time in our history the person elected to the Vice-Presidency of the United States, by the happening of a contingency provided for in the Constitution, has had devolved upon him the Presidential office.”
“In regard to foreign nations, the groundwork of my policy will be justice on our part to all, submitting to injustice from none.”
“The Army, which has in other days covered itself with renown, and the Navy, not inappropriately termed the right arm of the public defense, which has spread a light of glory over the American standard in all the waters of the earth, should be rendered replete with efficiency.”
“In view of the fact, well avouched by history, that the tendency of all human institutions is to concentrate power in the hands of a single man, and that their ultimate downfall has proceeded from this cause, I deem it of the most essential importance that a complete separation should take place between the sword and the purse.”
“The patronage incident to the Presidential office, already great, is constantly increasing. Such increase is destined to keep pace with the growth of our population, until, without a figure of speech, an army of officeholders may be spread over the land. The unrestrained power exerted by a selfishly ambitious man in order either to perpetuate his authority or to hand it over to some favorite as his successor may lead to the employment of all the means within his control to accomplish his object.”
“I will remove no incumbent from office who has faithfully and honestly acquitted himself of the duties of his office, except in such cases where such officer has been guilty of an active partisanship or by secret means …”
“Freedom of opinion will be tolerated, the full enjoyment of the right of suffrage will be maintained as the birthright of every American citizen; but I say emphatically to the official corps, ‘Thus far and no farther.’ I have dwelt the longer upon this subject because removals from office are likely often to arise, and I would have my countrymen to understand the principle of the Executive action.”
“… a public debt in time of peace be sedulously avoided …”
“The appropriations should be direct and explicit, so as to leave as limited a share of discretion to the disbursing agents as may be found compatible with the public service.”
“The public interest also demands that if any war has existed between the Government and the currency it shall cease. Measures of a financial character now having the sanction of legal enactment shall be faithfully enforced until repealed by the legislative authority.”
“The institutions under which we live, my countrymen, secure each person in the perfect enjoyment of all his rights. The spectacle is exhibited to the world of a government deriving its powers from the consent of the governed and having imparted to it only so much power as is necessary for its successful operation. Those who are charged with its administration should carefully abstain from all attempts to enlarge the range of powers thus granted to the several departments of the Government other than by an appeal to the people for additional grants, lest by so doing they disturb that balance which the patriots and statesmen who framed the Constitution designed to establish between the Federal Government and the States composing the Union. The observance of these rules is enjoined upon us by that feeling of reverence and affection which finds a place in the heart of every patriot for the preservation of union and the blessings of union–for the good of our children and our children’s children through countless generations. An opposite course could not fail to generate factions intent upon the gratification of their selfish ends, to give birth to local and sectional jealousies, and to ultimate either in breaking asunder the bonds of union or in building up a central system which would inevitably end in a bloody scepter and an iron crown.”
Thoughts on delivery (audio and/or video of speech):
None. They didn’t have that technology when Tyler was inaugurated.