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Title: Tyler's Message

Creator: Walt Whitman [unsigned in original]

Date: March 28, 1842

Whitman Archive ID: per.00592

Source: New York Aurora 28 March 1842: [2]. Our transcription is based on a digital image of an original issue. Original issue held at the Paterson Free Public Library, Paterson, NJ. For a description of the editorial rationale behind our treatment of the journalism, see our statement of editorial policy.

Contributors to digital file: Patrick Ayres and Kevin McMullen

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In our Washington news will be found a short account of the message sent by the President last Friday to congress, and which was received at this office yesterday morning.1 Its importance is such that we think proper to comment upon it at length.

The chief magistrate says:

"Without affecting an alarm which I do not feel in regard to our foreigu2 relations, it may safely be affirmed that they are in a state too critical and involve too many momentous issues to permit us to neglect in the least, much less to abandon entirely, those means of asserting our rights without which negotiation is without dignity and peace without security."3

Well done, John Tyler! There speaks the soul of a man of sense, and an American true! Such language, coming from one whose past course we are free to confess has not impressed us in his favor, it gladdens our heart to hear. We think the legislative branches at Washington cannot but be stirred up to do something, by this.

The President then speaks of the deficiency of funds at the disposal of government, and adds:

"Under such circumstances, I am deeply impressed with the necessity of meeting the crisis with a vigor and decision which it imperatively demands at the hands of all entrusted with the conduct of public affairs. The gravity of the evil calls for a remedy proportioned to it. No slight palliatives or occasional expedients will give the country the relief it needs. Such measures, on the contrary, will, in the end, as is now manifest to all, too surely multiply its embarrassments."

Better and Better! If Tyler goes on in this style, we don't know but what he may have a chance for the next Presidency after all.

The message thinks it certain that Congress will be compelled to lay additional duties on imports, &c. It states, also, that although the President recommended the distribution among the states of the proceeds of public lands, he now perceives "the necessity of departing from that act."4 Tyler deserves credit for this candid confession; he would deserve more credit had he listened to the counsels of the ablest statesmen in Congress, who, when the distribution law was under discussion, foresaw and predicted the very exigency that has now come to pass. The message recommends that the law be repealed.

Tyler then speaks of the depreciation of American credit. He says a heavy loan must be raised, and that soon. He recommends that for the purpose of offering the very best security to lenders, the proceeds of the public land sales be pledged as surety for the loan.

The last paragraph but one of the message holds the following language:

"The source and foundation of all credit is in the confidence which the government inspires, and in proportion as that confidence shall be shaken or diminished will be the distrust among all classes of the community, and the derangemen5 and demoralization in every branch of business and all the interests of the country. Keep up the standard of good faith and punctuality in the operations of the general government, and all partial irregularities and disorders will be rectified by the influence of its example; but suffer that standard to be debased or disturbed, and it is impossible to foresee to what a degree of degradation and confusion all financial interests, public and private, may sink. In such a country as this, the representatives of the people have only to will it, and the public credit will be as high as ever."


1. John Tyler was the 10th President of the United States of America, serving from 1841–1845. Whitman refers to and quotes a message Tyler sent to Congress on March 25, 1842. For more on the Tyler Presidency, see Edward P Crapol, John Tyler: The Accidental President (Chapel Hill, N.C: The University of North Carolina Press, 2006). [back]

2. "Foreign" is misspelled in the original issue. [back]

3. In 1842, Great Britain and the United States were engaged in a series of land disputes over territory on the boundary between the northeastern United States and British Canada. The exact nature and location of the boundary had been a matter of debate ever since the Treaty of Paris (1783) that concluded the American Revolutionary War. A series of disputes in the ensuing decades culminated in Congress, in 1839, authorizing the raising of a 50,000-man militia to defend the disputed territory. The resulting standoff between American and British forces became known as the Aroostook War, despite no actual fighting taking place. The conflict was resolved with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, signed on August 9, 1842. See Chris J. Magoc, Imperialism and Expansionism in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia and Document Collection (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2016), 91–92. [back]

4. In 1841, Congress passed an act that allowed for the distribution of revenue from sale of public lands to the states. Tyler had supported this measure, holding to the republican theory that individual states had, in the formation of the nation, ceded lands to the federal government, and that the states deserved to be compensated for them. He also believed that such redistribution would bring financial stability to many states that were, at the time, greatly burdened with debt, stablility that would in turn work to stabilize the nation as a whole. See Dan Monroe, The Republican Vision of John Tyler (College Station, TX: Texas A&M University Press, 2003), 122. [back]

5. "Derangement" is misspelled in the original issue. [back]


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