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Quiet, Please!

March 24, 2016

When John Tyler succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of William Henry Harrison, he still had a lot of credibility with the country. Although Harrison was a Whig and Tyler was a Democrat, they were united in their opposition to Andrew Jackson. Harrison was still in the honeymoon period of his administration when he died, and Tyler, who would have more than his share of disagreements with Congress, initially benefitted from sympathy for the late President.

When Millard Fillmore became President upon the death of Zachary Taylor, he was well-known to the country and had once been praised by the late John Quincy Adams. Unlike Taylor, Fillmore would endorse the Compromise of 1850 and thereby prevent civil war for another ten years. He didn’t get the nomination in 1852, but neither did the people despise him.

Andrew Johnson was a Union Democrat from Tennessee who opposed his state’s secession. He might have been killed along with Lincoln except for the last minute timidity of his would-be assassin. He would be impeached for violation of the Tenure of Office Act, but that event came after more than two years of wrangling with Congress. At the beginning of his administration there was at least a veneer of goodwill.

But when Chester A. Arthur became President, some were still wondering whether he had been involved in the assassination of his predecessor. Many blamed him for creating the situation that gave Garfield’s unstable assassin the motive to act. Most feared he would reverse Garfield’s policies and do the bidding of political boss Roscoe Conkling.

However, Arthur felt morally bound to continue Garfield’s policies. In late August, former New York Governor Edwin D. Morgan had advised Arthur to keep Garfield’s Cabinet for a while. One month later when the Arthur administration was in its second week, Julia Sand affirmed Morgan’s advice.

“What the nation needs most at present, is rest. We all are worn out with watching – & when people are very tired, they are apt to be irritable, unreasonable & ready to quarrel on small provocation. If a doctor could lay his finger on the public pulse, his prescription would be, perfect quiet.”

Arthur would do his best to achieve quiet for the country through governmental stability. He would now desperately try to hold onto Garfield’s Cabinet.

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