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Title: The Fourth of April

Creator: Walt Whitman

Date: April 5, 1842

Publication information: New York Aurora 5 April 1842: [2].

Source: Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue.

Whitman Archive ID: per.00402

Contributors to digital file: Stefan Schöberlein, Amanda Kapper, Jason Stacy, and Kevin McMullen




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THE FOURTH OF APRIL.—

At most of the whig head quarters, yesterday, throughout the city, the flags were displayed at half mast, in solemnity of the anniversary of the death of President Harrison.1 It well becomes the whigs to lament his death. No party in this country ever came into power under more favorable auspices; and now they are broken up, divided, and scattered—a tornado or an earthquake could not have done it more effectually. General Harrison undoubtedly favored Henry Clay as his successor,2 and his administration would have been a Clay administration. He would have signed a charter for a national bank, and gone for a protective tariff. With his majorities in congress, any reasonable measure of his recommendation would have received the legislative sanction, and3 the difficulties now so varied would have been rare, because his policy was fixed. The name of Harrison was a cynosure, which guided his party to victory; and when "it shot from its sphere," there was no pilot to weather the storm.

In alter4 times, this period of our national history will appear singular indeed. An administration assumed office with an extraordinary majority of the people in its favor. The head of that administration died, and the next constitutional successor assumed his seat, elected precisely on the same grounds—yet, "ere those shoes were cold," his cabinet divided, split up in opinion, and that successor lost the confidence of the majority of his party, and they turned upon him with greater ferocity than his opponents.

John Tyler's5 administration will be a warning to politicians of the pitfalls that surround the station of the great. For good or evil, his measures will have remarkable influence upon the future destinies of the country. The ultra whig party are determined to support Mr. Clay, and the past conduct of John Tyler either kills or makes him. If the whigs do not unite on Henry Clay, the democratic nominee will be elected by as large a majority as General Harrison. Nous verrons.6


Notes:

1. William Henry Harrison (1773–1841) was the 9th U.S. President. Harrison served in Congress, as governor of the Indiana territory, and as a general in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812. A member of the Whig party, he served as President from March 4, 1841 until his death on April 4, 1841 (Isaac Rand Jackson, General William Henry Harrison, Candidate of the People for the President of the United States [Baltimore, 1840], 16). [back]

2. Henry Clay (1777–1852) began his career as a lawyer. From 1806 until his death, he represented Kentucky as a U.S. Senator and member of the House of Representatives, and served as the Speaker of the House, and as Secretary of State under President John Quincy Adams. During those years, Henry Clay also ran for president multiple times as a member of the Whig Party (Rev. G. Capers, Eulogy on the Life and Public Services of the Hon. Henry Clay (Mobile, AL: Dade, Thompson, 1852), 5–16. [back]

3. In the issue of the Aurora from which our transcription is derived the page is either torn or folded over at this point, obscuring one line of text. The missing text is here supplied by consulting The Collected Writings of Walt Whitman: The Journalism, Vol. I: 1834–1846, ed. Herbert Bergman (New York: Peter Lang, 1998), 98. [back]

4. This word is likely meant to be either "after" or "later." [back]

5. John Tyler (1790–1862) was the tenth President of the United States. He began his career as a lawyer and was later voted into the Senate, served in the House of Representatives, and served as the govenor of Virginia. In the beginning of his political career he identified as a Democrat but later joined the Whig party. When William Henry Harrison was running for presidential office, southern Whigs largely supported Henry Clay. To gain southern Whig votes, Tyler was chosen as Harrison's Vice Presidential candidate. With Harrison's victory, Tyler was inaugurated as Vice President in 1841. Harrison died just one month later, leaving Tyler the President of the United States (Portrait and Biographical Album of Marshall County, Kansas... [Chicago: Chapman Bros., 1889], 55–56). [back]

6. 'We shall see'; 'it remains to be seen' (Oxford English Dictionary). [back]


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