ADVANCED PLACEMENT 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 new homes. 

*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 of Mexico.

*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 slaves behind. 

*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, including Texas.

*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 American guns.

*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 army. 

*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 Texas’s independence.

*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 nationalist party.

*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 British subject.

*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 peace. 

*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 general economy).

*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 too tyrannical.

*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 Constitutional principles.

*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 administration.

*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 affair.

*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.
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