Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Tyler Tells A Joke

By way of background, in September 1841 the Whig members of Congress, headed by an irate Henry Clay, read president John Tyler out of the Whig party for twice vetoing bills to establish a third national bank.

In his new book Manifest Destinies: America's Westward Expansion and the Road to the Civil War, Steven E. Woodworth relates that three and a half years later a satisfied Tyler joked about his status as outcast:
While Congress debated and finally approved Texas annexation that winter [1844-1845], Tyler approached the end of his administration with equanimity. He felt vindicated by the widespread public support for annexation . . .. On February 18 [1845] he and Julia [his new wife] held a final presidential ball with three thousand guests in attendance. A marine band was on hand to play cotillions and the more daring waltzes an polkas the Tylers had introduced to Washington society. "Wine and champagne flowed like water," commented a delighted guest. Congratulated on hosting such a gala event, Tyler joked, "Yes, they cannot say now that I am a President without a party."
About the illustration, entitled Going to Texas after the election of 1844:
A comic scene anticipating a Whig victory in the upcoming presidential election. The date is 1845, after an election supposedly decided on the Texas question, the tariff issue, and Democratic identification with Jacksonian policies. The artist ridicules Democrat James K. Polk's advocacy of the annexation of Texas as misguided aggression. In addition, the title's use of the phrase "Going to Texas," contemporary code for embezzling, may be a swipe at the political spoils system associated with the Democrats since the Jackson administration. Incumbent President John Tyler also comes under attack for corruption. The scene is outside the White House. On a "Loco Foco" donkey Polk and running-mate Dallas, heavily armed and equipped with military packs, are about to depart for Texas. Dallas holds a flag with skull-and-crossbones and the motto "Free Trade," a symbol of antiprotectionism. Around the donkey's neck is a feed barrel full of "Poke berries." Before the donkey stands Andrew Jackson, offering his trademark hat and clay pipe, and crooning: I give thee all, I can no more, / Though poor the offering be, / My hat and Pipe are all the store, / That I can bring to thee! / A hat whose worn out nap reveals / A friendly tale full well, / And better far a heart that feels, / More than Hat and Pipe can tell! At this the donkey brays, "Eehaw!" and Polk bids Jackson, "Goodbye General! It is all day with us. I am a gone Sucker!" Dallas exclaims, "D--n Clay!" Behind the donkey stands John Tyler, with lowered head, reflecting, "It is very odd, that after all my treachery, and the unscrupulous efforts of office holders and political dependents, this is my reward! If I had not laid by enough for a rainy day, I should slope for Texas too!" On the ground nearby lies a sign reading: "For Sale A lot of hickory Poles will be sold cheap to close the concern. enquire of Polk & Dallas." From the steps of the White House Henry Clay waves and calls out, "A pleasant journey to you Gentlemen! may your shadows never be less!" Below the title is a narrative, purportedly excerpted from the Tyler administration organ the "Madisonian" of April 1845: All wept particularly when the old chieftain approached and holding his hat and pipe in one hand and the other placed on his heart, with tremulous accent interrupted occasionally with a cough, sang the above lines, an impromptu composed by himself to the well known tune of my heart and Lute, even the sagacious Tyler was subdued and sank into a fit of melancholy abstraction; the Donkey brayed encore.

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