Description

    John Tyler Outstanding Autograph Letter Signed: A remarkable letter by the Vice Presidential candidate extolling the head of his ticket, "the distinguishd [sic] Citizen under whose command the battle of Tippecanoe was fought and won," whose "past life furnishes a sure augury, that his country as in all times past, will continue to be the only idol of his devotion."

    Signed: "John Tyler", one page, 7.75" x 9.75". Williamsburg, Va. May 4, 1840. To G.S. Orth. Integral leaf addressed by Tyler to: "Godlove S. Orth Esqr/Secretary Tip[pecanoe] Club/La Fayette/Indiana." In full: "Sir, The cane which you were so good as to forward me through the politeness of Doctor Williams has been safely deposited by him in the hands of my friend the Hon. Mr. Wise at Washington, who waits only a favorable opportunity of sending it to me - Be assured that I shall receive it with infinite satisfaction. The battle field on which it grew is justly to be regarded as consecrated by history - and the name of the distinguishd [sic] Citizen under whose command the battle of Tippecanoe was fought and won will be repeated by a distant posterity with grateful enthusiasm - Permit me to congratulate you on the recent demonstrations of public sentiment in his behalf, and the more especially that Virginia, where he first breathed the breath of life, has in its recent elections so decidedly manifested her attachment to his cause - Should that result transpire which every thing would seem now to indicate, and he be translated to the head of the Confederacy, his past life furnishes a sure augury, that his country as in all times past, will continue to be the only idol of his devotion. With assurances of great Respect, I have the honor to be Yrs." With two photographs of engraved portraits of Orth.

    John Tyler was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1827 as a Jacksonian and was reelected in 1833 as an Anti-Jacksonian. In early 1836, the legislature of Virginia which had elected Tyler to the Senate, voted instructions to its two U.S. Senators to support a resolution expunging from the Journal of the Senate the resolution of a previous censure of President Jackson. Tyler, who had voted for the censure, could not conscientiously obey and, on February 29, 1836, resigned his seat. In the election of 1836, Tyler was nominated as a Whig candidate for Vice President by friends of Tennessee Senator Hugh L. White who was one of the Whigs running for President. Tyler came in third with 47 electoral votes, none of them from Virginia. At the first national convention held by the Whig Party in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, December 4-7, 1839, the Whigs nominated William Henry Harrison for President over Kentucky Senator Henry Clay and General Winfield Scott. Although born in Virginia, Harrison was identified with Indiana, Ohio, and the West. Satisfied with Tyler's anti-Jacksonian votes in the Senate and his public opposition to Van Buren's policies, the Whigs nominated Virginian John Tyler for Vice President.

    William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), while serving as Territorial Governor of Indiana, led his forces to victory over the Shawnee Indians on November 7, 1811. The Shawnees were led by Tecumseh's younger brother, The Prophet, who had prophesized that the weapons of Harrison's men would not be able to hurt his warriors. The battle was fought near the Tippecanoe River and became known as the Battle of Tippecanoe. General Harrison was complimented by President Madison in his message of December 18, 1811, and was also thanked by the legislatures of Kentucky and Indiana. Word quickly spread about the hero of Tippecanoe.

    John Tyler wrote this letter to Godlove S. Orth from his home in Williamsburg, Virginia, on May 4, 1840. On that day, about 170 miles north, at the Academy of Music in Baltimore, the Democrats gathered to renominate President Martin Van Buren and, across town, the National Convention of Whig Young Men assembled at the Canton Race Course to approve the nominations of Harrison and Tyler.

    Godlove S. Orth (1817-1882) was a 23-year-old lawyer who practiced in Lafayette, Indiana, in Tippecanoe County, named after the Battle of Tippecanoe. He was a Whig member of the Indiana State Senate (1843-1848) and was a Whig elector in 1848. In February, 1861, Orth was a delegate to the Peace Convention held in Washington, D.C., presided over by John Tyler, in an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war. He later served in Congress as a Republican (1863-1871, 1873-1875, 1879-1882).

    At the 1839 Whig convention in Harrisburg, Tyler had energetically campaigned to get Henry Clay the presidential nomination and was believed by some even to have shed tears at his defeat. After Harrison's nomination, the Whig leaders were looking for a suitable geographical and ideological balance to the ticket. It didn't seem to matter that Tyler disagreed with Harrison on the issues. Most probably for this reason, at Harrison's request, Tyler remained inactive, at least publicly, during most of the 1840 election campaign. This letter is evidence of Tyler's steadfast support and championing of General Harrison.

    In this letter, the Whig nominee for Vice President thanks the young lawyer for a cane made from a tree grown on the battlefield of Tippecanoe. Tyler's friend, Congressman Henry A. Wise, now has the cane which he will soon forward to Tyler. Evidently Orth had recently organized a successful Harrison rally. A month after this letter, Tippecanoe himself attended a rally on the battlefield with an estimated 60,000 supporters in attendance.

    Henry A. Wise (1806-1876) represented Virginia in Congress from 1833-1844 when he became U.S. Minister to Brazil (1844-1847). He later served as Governor of Virginia (1856-1860). First elected to Congress as a Jacksonian, he was a Whig at the time of this letter.

    Tyler's reference to an election held in Virginia, "where he [Harrison] first breathd the breath of life," likely refers to the election earlier that year of two Whigs to the U.S. Senate. Tyler was also born in Virginia, but two native Virginians weren't enough for the Whigs and they lost the state's 23 electoral votes to Van Buren.

    It is interesting to note that Tyler writes about demonstrations in "his behalf", election results favoring "his cause", and the likelihood that "he be translated to the head of the Confederacy," each referring only to presidential candidate William Henry Harrison, not to him. Even the Whig campaign slogan of "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" seems to be adding John Tyler to the ticket as an afterthought.

    Letters of a U.S. President glorifying another President are extremely desirable. This unique letter, written by a Vice Presidential candidate immortalizing the Presidential candidate whose "name...will be repeated by a distant posterity with grateful enthusiasm" is particularly poignant when one realizes that John Tyler succeeded to the presidency when Harrison died after serving just one month in office. This letter, in extra fine condition, would be a major addition to any historical or presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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