UNITED STATES HISTORY
Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too!
*During Jackson’s presidency, the expansion of the West was
proceeding with such alacrity that it outpaced the borders of the
United States, but at first these settlers were welcome in their
*As Spain was losing its grip on Mexico in the late 1810s, she was
still working to settle it by encouraging immigrants from America
to move there and settle in Texas. After Mexico won her
independence from Spain, she had continued that policy.
*The first major land grant was given to Moses Austin, who died
shortly afterwards, leaving the right to bring settlers to Mexico
to his son, Stephen Fuller Austin. He ultimately recruited
297 families (‘The Old Three Hundred’) to move to the Bravos River
region of the province of Texas in the newly independent Republic
*There were many benefits to moving to Mexico: land was
cheap (12½¢ per acre, 10% the going price for similar land in the
US), immigrants were exempt from property taxes for ten years, and
did not have to pay customs duties for seven years.
*There was also a price: immigrants had to become Mexican
citizens, convert to Catholicism, learn Spanish, and leave their
*At first, this seemed like a good deal for everyone.
However, American-Texans soon outnumbered Mexican-Texans (many of
whom had also recently moved there). Although they accepted
Mexican citizenship, most did not convert to Catholicism or adopt
Spanish culture, nor were they willing to give up slavery (as many
had moved to Texas to grow cotton).
*Many of these new Texans were reprobates and scoundrels fleeing
from the law, but a few were famous men.
*Samuel Houston was from Tennessee, having lived many years near
Maryville and having practiced law in Lebanon. He had been adopted
by the Cherokee who called him ‘The Raven,’ and at one point he
took a Cherokee wife. He had also fought the Creek at
Horseshoe Bend. He was a former governor of and congressman
from Tennessee and an ally of Andrew Jackson. However, he
arrived in Texas in 1832, after leaving behind Tennessee, a
divorced white wife, and an abandoned Cherokee wife.
*Davy Crockett was also from Tennessee. Born in Greene
County, he was famous as a frontiersman, hunter (he supposedly
killed 105 bears), veteran of the Battle of Horseshoe Bend,
storyteller, and Congressman. Elected to two non-consecutive
terms in the House of Representatives, he opposed Jackson on the
issue of Indian Removal and other points, lost an election in
1835, and left Tennessee hoping to make a new political career in
the West. He told his constituents ‘You may all go to hell,
and I will go to Texas.’
*These men had both come to Texas illegally, because in 1830,
Mexico had outlawed further American immigration to Texas and
revoked their exemptions from taxes and customs duties, but this
did not stop Americans moving there. Soon Mexico grew tired
of this illegal immigration from the United States and threatened
to send the army into Texas.
*Furthermore, Mexico was having problems in many of its other
provinces. Many parts of Mexico wanted greater
self-government, and General Antonio López de Santa Anna promised
it to them when he overthrew the Mexican government in 1832 and
placed one of his fellow generals in charge as the new
president. The next year, 1833, the Mexican Congress made
Santa Anna himself president. Shortly afterwards, he changed
his position to favour a strong central government.
*In 1834, Santa Anna dissolved many state legislatures, disarmed
state militias, and abolished the Mexican Constitution of
1824. Soon many of Mexico’s states rose in rebellion,
*At first, Texans wanted to remain part of Mexico, and even as
they formed Committees of Correspondence and Safety, they flew a
flag based on that of Mexico but with the year 1824 written in the
centre to assert their loyalty to the Constitution of 1824 which
Santa Anna had recently abolished. They also stopped paying
customs duties, and in 1835 Santa Anna sent a small group of
soldiers into Texas, where they were repulsed on 2 October, 1835
along the Guadeloupe River.
*After this, Santa Anna prepared to march his army into Texas, as
did another Mexican general, José de Urrea, while the Texans
debated the possibility of independence.
*One of the first defences standing between Santa Anna and the
main settlements of Texas was the Alamo, an old mission near San
Antonio that had been converted into a rough fort that contained a
few old cannon. Samuel Houston, leader of the Texan army,
sent Jim Bowie to remove the cannon and destroy the fort.
However, when he got there, he could not find any draught animals
to haul the cannon away with. Instead, he decided to stay
and defend the Alamo, telling his superiors that it was of great
strategic importance in blocking the Mexican invasion. Soon
he was joined by William Travis, who brought reinforcements.
Together they commanded the Alamo (and were later joined by
volunteers from America led by Davy Crockett).
*On 23 February, 1836, Santa Anna’s army surrounded the
Alamo. He had about 2,400 soldiers while the Alamo was
defended by about 180 men. Santa Anna demanded immediate and
unconditional surrender, but Travis and Bowie refused. Jim
Bowie then became so sick he had to be confined to his bed.
For a few days, Santa Anna patiently waited outside the Alamo,
while inside the Alamo the defenders waited for reinforcements,
who never arrived. Reinforcements for Santa Anna did arrive.
*His officers asked him to wait for cannon to arrive too, but by 4
March, he was impatient and wanted to attack. According to
legend, on 5 March, William Travis drew a line in the sand,
telling everyone who was willing to fight for Texas to cross it
and stand beside him. Every soldier in the Alamo but one did
so—Jim Bowie had men carry him across the line in his bed.
*On 5 March, the Mexicans advanced against the Alamo. The
Texans did not have grapeshot, so they fired any scrap metal they
could find, including door hinges and horseshoes, at the
Mexicans. The Texans held off two Mexican charges, but there
were so many Mexicans that on their third charge they made it to
the walls and over them. Colonel Travis was among the first
to die as he commanded the men on the walls.
*As the Mexicans poured over the north walls, Texans on the south
side of the Alamo turned their cannon around to fire on the
Mexicans coming in on the North, and were then attacked from
behind and killed, giving the Mexicans command of the main
*The last group of Texans in the open were Crockett’s men
defending the low wall on the Southeastern corner of the
Alamo. As they ran out of ammunition (or time to reload),
they fought with their knives and used their rifles as clubs.
*Finally the last Texan defenders were those inside the mission
buildings. Jim Bowie was bayoneted in his bed after firing a
set of pistols he had kept loaded on his bed.
*A few Texans were taken prisoner, but executed at the orders of
Santa Anna. According to some accounts these men included
Davy Crockett, who was given the opportunity to be spared if he
begged for mercy, which he refused to do.
*Every man who defended the Alamo was killed—about 180 men—but
they inflicted 400 to 600 Mexican casualties before they
died. The execution of prisoners and the killing of all the
defenders made the battle a rallying cry for the Texans:
‘Remember the Alamo!’
*Furthermore, even though the Alamo fell, it delayed the main
Mexican army long enough for a Texas to declare independence and
form a government of their own. They chose David Burnet as
interim president and confirmed Sam Houston as commander of the
*Shortly after declaring independence, Texas suffered another
defeat at Goliad. There James Fannin and 500 men fought
another delaying action, but finally surrendered along with 341
surviving Texans after General de Urrea promised that they would
not be killed. This was false, as Santa Anna had declared
that all rebels would be executed.
*On 27 March, 1836, almost all the Texans were shot, and those who
did not die in the first volley were run down by the Mexican
cavalry or clubbed to death (a few men did escape and some
survived by falling down and pretending to be dead). Now
Texans had another battle cry: ‘Remember Goliad!’
*Santa Anna and José de Urrea now joined their armies together and
marched deeper into Texas. However, by now Houston had been
able to raise a large army of his own. He led Santa Anna on
a chase across Texas (possibly even planning on leading him into
Louisiana, sparking a war between Mexico and the United States),
burning farms and towns behind him so that Santa Anna would have
no supplies to pillage.
*Eventually, Santa Anna divided his forces and sent some of them
towards Galveston to try to capture the Texan government, while he
began leading some of his men back towards Mexico City, which he
feared was going to rebel against his leadership. Houston’s
army turned to follow Santa Anna.
*After defeating Houston in a small skirmish, Santa Anna decided
to rest his army near the San Jacinto River (near modern Houston
and Galveston). A Texan scout reported their location to
Houston, and the Texans planned a surprise attack. They
burnt the only bridge that would have allowed Santa Anna to escape
across the San Jacinto, and then attacked about 3:30 p.m. on 21
April, 1836, catching the Mexican army during its siesta.
*The Mexicans were completely surprised, and attempted to flee the
field, but were trapped against the river by Texans yelling
‘Remember the Alamo’ and ‘Remember Goliad!’ Many of them
killed soldiers who tried to surrender. The battle was over
in 18 minutes. While only 9 of the 900 Texans engaged were
killed (and 23 wounded, including Houston, who was shot in the
ankle), 630 Mexicans were killed and 730 captured.
*Santa Anna was captured and taken to Houston, and was forced to
sign the Treaties of Velasco withdrawing his army and recognising
*The Mexican government refused to honour Santa Anna’s agreements
and stripped him of his position as commander of the army.
He ended up in exile in the United States, but later made his way
back to Mexico where he managed to become president again (a
position he would hold eleven times in total).
*Even though Mexico disowned the Treaties of Velasco, Texan
independence was complete after the Battle of San Jacinto.
However, to avoid political problems with Mexico and between
Northern and Southern states in the United States, neither Andrew
Jackson, nor any other president for almost nine years, would
agree to annex Texas as a state, so it existed as the Republic of
Texas for almost a decade.
*During Jackson’s presidency, especially towards the end, he was
criticised for many of his policies. His numerous vetoes,
especially those of the Maysville Road Bill and the Bank
recharter, were seen as the acts of a tyrant—of King Andrew
I. Previously, the few presidential vetoes had been over
serious constitutional issues. Jackson saw his as being so,
too, but his opponents saw them as mere party politics.
*By 1836, Jackson had served two terms, made the presidency far
more powerful, preserved the Union, set the stage for Indian
Removal, and even appointed at last his own Chief Justice of the
Supreme Court, the Court's first Catholic, Roger B. Taney, in
1836. With all this behind him, and Washington's two-term
tradition in mind, Jackson planned to return to the Hermitage.
*By 1836, Jackson’s enemies had been organised as the Whig party
for three years, taking their name from the British political
party that had opposed a strong monarchy in Great Britain in the
17th and 18th centuries: these American Whigs planned to
oppose King Andrew and his followers in the same way.
*Many different types of people became Whigs. Some were
Western supporters of the American System of internal
improvements, like Henry Clay. Others were Northern
industrialists and merchants who wanted a protective tariff, and
those who supported their interests, like Daniel Webster.
Some were Southerners who were still nationalists who wanted a
strong central government and trusted the Constitution to protect
their ownership of slaves. Still others were evangelical
Protestants and reformers such as the former members of the
Anti-Masonic Party. There were even some strong supporters
of states’ rights among the Whigs, although in general they were a
*What all Whigs had in common, however, was a hatred for Jackson,
and in all sections of the country, this bound them together, just
as support for Jackson bound together the Common Man (especially
farmers and immigrants, although people of all classes and races
could be found in both parties) in all sections of the
country--the Second Two-Party System was based on national parties
made up of diverse constituencies spread throughout the Union.
*In 1836, the Democrats and the Whigs held their party conventions
to chuse their candidates for the presidency. Jackson used
his influence to get his Vice-President, Martin van Buren,
nominated, and threw his public support behind 'The Little
Magician,' 'Old Kinderhook.'
*The Whigs, hoping to split the vote and throw the election into
the House of Representatives where their great statesmen such as
Clay and Webster might be able to sway the vote, ran four
candidates, a favourite son from each region of the country:
William Henry Harrison, Governor of Ohio (the great war hero),
Hugh L. White, Senator from Tennessee, Willie Mangum, Senator from
North Carolina, and Daniel Webster, Senator from Massachusetts.
*The Whigs did split the vote, but they mostly split their own,
and van Buren won with more than twice as many votes as the
second-place candidate (Harrison), making him the first President
elected who had been born an American citizen rather than a
*Jackson retired to the Hermitage, having left his stamp on
American politics. Many of his policies were harmful in the
long run, but he himself had been quite popular, and retired as a
hero in the eyes of his people. Any problems he left behind
would simply fall under the purview of his successor, van Buren
who, though very intelligent and capable in most cases, was unable
to perform well as a president or to fill Jackson’s shoes in terms
of personal force of public affection. In many ways he was
better as a backroom politician than as a public leader. He
also had many problems to face.
*To the north, there were disputes with Canada. Canada
experienced rebellions in 1837 by French-speakers who wanted to
protect their culture and by radical reformers who wanted to limit
the power of the colonial government or possibly even create a
republic. These had had little chance of success, but some
Americans, hoping otherwise, or just wanting to hurt Britain, sent
military supplies and even volunteers to their aid. The
American steamboat Caroline was intercepted carrying
supplies across the Niagara River. The British eventually
crossed the river into New York, captured the boat at a dock, set
her on fire and cast her adrift into the river, where she shortly
went over Niagara Falls with one American on board. This was
played up and exaggerated by the newspapers of the time, but it
was definitely a violation of American neutrality.
*Americans were outraged. In 1838, Americans burnt the
British ship Sir Robert Peel in an American port, and
General Winfield Scott was sent to Buffalo try to make
*When a Canadian named McLeod boasted in a New York bar about
having taken part in Caroline raid a few years later in
1840, he was arrested and charged with murder. The British
threatened war, and he was released under diplomatic pressure and
an admission that he had actually been lying about his involvement
to impress people while he was drinking heavily in the tavern.
*South of the 49th Parallel, members of the growing anti-slavery
movement were in an uproar about the recognition of the Republic
of Texas, the treatment of slaves in the South, which was growing
harsher following Denmark Vesey's Rebellion and Nat Turner's
Rebellion, and any talk of expansion to the West.
*Worst of all, van Buren inherited all the problems caused by the
destruction of the Bank of the United States, which, combined with
other problems, led to the Panic of 1837.
*Over-speculation in land, inflation caused by excess printing of
paper money, and the lack of control exercised by the pet banks
(which themselves often acted imprudently) created a very unstable
economic atmosphere. Jackson’s Specie Circular pushed things
over the edge by suddenly halting speculation and inflation, and
causing banks to fail. Not coincidentally, grain prices
rose, and there were food riots in New York City. On the
other hand, cotton prices fell in 1839.
*In addition to these domestic problems two prominent British
banks failed, which caused English investors, who had lent money
to American banks and businesses, to call in their loans, breaking
more American banks and bankrupting more businessmen.
*The Whigs called for the expansion of bank credit, for a return
to a system like that of the old Bank of the United States, and
for subsidies for internal improvements, thinking these would not
only improve the nation in general, but would also boost the
economy by creating jobs and by facilitating commerce.
*Van Buren stood by his Jacksonian principles, and would not let
the government interfere with the economy. He felt that, if
anything, it was still too involved, and that was probably part of
the problem. He introduced what was called the ‘Divorce
Bill,’ because it was meant to divorce the government’s funds (and
thus the government) from the public banking system (and thus the
*The ‘Divorce Bill’ was properly called the Independent Treasury
Bill, because it would have created an independent treasury.
Such an institution would have taken all government specie and
locked it away in vaults in the Treasury building, and in
subtreasury buildings in major cities. This would keep the
money safe, and available to the government, but out of the
economy at large.
*This was more stable than the system of Jackson’s pet banks, but
it did not let the government do much to manage the national
economy the way it could have if it had been more directly
involved in the banking system.
*The Independent Treasury Bill was passed but was soon repealed,
as the Whigs came to power in the election of 1840.
*Martin van Buren had been a fairly unsuccessful and unpopular
president, but he was re-nominated by the Democrats nonetheless,
due to his continuing influence within the party and in return for
years of loyal service.
*The Whigs only ran one candidate this time around, and they again
chose William Henry Harrison, a war hero and former territorial
governor whose political views (if any) were not widely known and
who, therefore, had few enemies.
*Although Harrison had been born on a Virginia plantation and
studied medicine before turning to the Army in 1791, and had been
governor of the Northwest Territory and the Indiana Territory, he
was portrayed as a simple man, a poor farmer living in a log cabin
and sipping hard cider. Likewise, he ran on his war record,
recalling his service with Mad Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers and
his victories at Tippecanoe and the Thames, and was known as ‘Old
Tippecanoe’ or even ‘Old Tip.’
*Determined to make no mistakes this time, the Whigs balanced
their own ticket with a moderate and principled Democrat, John
Tyler, also of Virginia. Together, they ran as ‘Tippecanoe
and Tyler, Too!’ while van Buren was called ‘Martin van Ruin’ for
the Panic of 1837 that haunted his entire presidency. With
no real political stands made by Harrison, the entire campaign was
one of slogans and electioneering and advertising—of log cabins
and hard cider, perhaps the first campaign based entirely on style
rather than substance.
*Although the popular vote was separated by less than 150,000
votes (or a little over 6% of the total), Harrison won almost the
entire electoral vote, 234 to 60, and the total voter turnout was
78% of those registered, the highest to that point in American
history, and one of the highest ever.
*Politics had become extremely popular and a significant part of
the culture, and the two-party system was cemented as part of the
American political tradition.
*On 4 March, 1841, Harrison stood in Washington to give his
inaugural address. It was filled with classical allusions,
intricate rhetoric, and interminable passages meant to show that
he was actually an educated man and not the rough frontiersman he
had campaigned as. The speech lasted two hours and fifteen
minutes, the longest in American history. To show that he
was still tough despite being 68 years old, Harrison did not wear
an overcoat in the cold winter weather, caught pneumonia, and died
exactly one month later—the oldest president elected to office at
that point, the one with the longest inauguration address and
shortest terms ever, and the first to die in office.
*The Whigs were horrified. Clay, the most influential man in
the Senate, and Webster, Secretary of State, had meant to steer
the government with Harrison as a figurehead. John Tyler,
however, made it clear that he was his own man, declaring that he
was president, not just an acting president (as his own Cabinet
said he should be), thereby setting an important precedent (which
would eventually be codified in the XXV Amendment).
Furthermore, he was aligned with the states-rights minority
faction in the Whig party and was still a Jeffersonian Democrat at
heart, who had only left the Democrats when Jackson came to seem
*Tyler let Clay destroy the independent treasury, but then Tyler
vetoed a new Bank bill, and a substitute for it called the Fiscal
Corporation, essentially a Bank of the United States under another
name. Not only did this show that he would not let Clay
control the presidency, it was also in line with his Jeffersonian
*Tyler was called ‘His Accidency.’ He was burned in effigy, there
was an attempt to impeach him, and there were threats on his
life. The Virginia Whigs formally expelled him from the
party, and at the direction of Henry Clay, Tyler's entire cabinet
resigned except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who did not
want to be seen as Clay's puppet and, even more importantly, was
tied up in delicate foreign negotiations with Great Britain.
*The United States and Great Britain had remained hostile after
the War of 1812, and perhaps were growing more so. The
British ridiculed American culture as barbaric, coarse,
uncivilised and unrefined. Having recently abolished slavery
themselves, the British looked down on the continuation of that
system within the United States. British authors, including
Charles Dickens, wrote numerous articles against the United
States, in part because the lack of proper copyright laws in
America meant their work was constantly printed in America with no
payment of royalties. Americans also had a bad habit of not
paying back the loans made them by English investors. There
were also problems with Canada dating back to the van Buren
*Americans and Canadians were still angry over the Caroline Affair,
especially the arrest (and release) of McLeod in 1840.
*In 1841, the British further annoyed America by offering asylum
in the Bahamas to a group of slaves who had rebelled and captured
the Creole, which was transporting them from Hampton,
Virginia, to New Orleans for sale. In the end, 128 American
slaves gained their freedom in the Bahamas as a result of the Creole
*There was a long-running border dispute in Maine as well.
There were about 12,000 square miles of territory in the Aroostook
River Valley that were claimed by both nations in or near northern
Maine, and the British wanted to build a road through it to
connect Halifax and Quebec.
*Lumberjacks from Canada and the US moved in and began fighting in
the area, and this 'Lumberjack War' or 'Aroostook War' threatened
to evolve into open warfare between the US and Britain.
*The British sent the wealthy financier Lord Ashburton, who had
married an American woman, to negotiate with Secretary of State
Daniel Webster. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 settled
the Maine border by splitting the territory, with the US getting
7,000 square miles and the British 5,000, including the route for
the new road. The treaty also established a boundary for
Minnesota. Neither nation was too happy with the outcome,
but both agreed that it solved their problems for the moment, and
the two nations returned to insulting each other with the pen
rather than the sword.
This page last updated 19 August, 2021.