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Tyler and Clay

March 30, 2017

John Tyler was not the sort of man who would have been elected President in the first place.  He became President only after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death.  Henry Clay was just the sort of man who might be President someday.  He had already been nominated twice and lost, but that was before the Whig Party was formed.  Now that Harrison was dead and Tyler was his weak successor, Clay was bound to get the nomination in 1844.  Meanwhile, he would advance the Whig agenda from the U.S. Senate.

Clay had the misfortune to run against Andrew Jackson in 1824 and 1832.  In 1824 Clay finished last in a four-way race.  He threw his support to the candidate with the second most Electoral votes, thereby thwarting Jackson.  Clay was then appointed Secretary of State by President John Quincy Adams.  If Adams had won a second term, Clay would have been his natural successor.

It was Clay who insisted that Tyler was merely the “Acting President.”  After all, the president pro tempore of the Senate did not become the Vice President.  He merely assumed the legislative duties of the Vice President.  Why then should the Vice President accede to the office of the President?  The Constitution said only that the powers and duties of the Presidency would devolve to the Vice President, not the office itself.

However, Tyler refused to open any correspondence that was addressed to the “Acting President.”  It was obvious that Clay was not going to get his legislative agenda passed unless he recognized Tyler’s claim to the office of President.  Unfortunately for Clay, Tyler had his own legislative agenda.






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