Mid-Term Elections: 1858

James Buchanan is the only US President to have fewer states in the union at the end of his presidency than he had at the start. This is one of a number of reasons why Buchanan is regularly ranked last in presidential rankings. When he was elected president in 1856, it looked as if the reverse might be true. Buchanan came to the office with an impressive resume and even he himself had suggested that his presidency might rival that of George Washington. In the end, Buchanan's prediction might appear laughable if it wasn't for the tragic war that followed, in large measure because of his inaction.

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After Franklin Pierce was elected President in 1852, Buchanan agreed to serve as the United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom, a move that turned out to be a good one in terms of his presidential aspirations. Buchanan was out of the country while a very contentious and divisive debate over the Kansas–Nebraska Act was occurring. When the 1856 Democratic National Convention met in June 1856, Buchanan seemed to be an attractive candidate because his name was not associated with any of what had occurred in the territory. Buchanan was selected as the Democratic presidential nominee on the seventeenth ballot of the convention.

Buchanan was what is pejoratively referred to as a "doughface" (a northerner who was sympathetic to southern slaveholding interests) and in the election of 1856, Buchanan carried every slave state except for Maryland, as well as five free states, including his home state of Pennsylvania. He won 45 percent of the popular vote and 174 electoral votes, enough for victory at the polls.

Buchanan's presidency began ominously. He took the oath of office as president on March 4, 1857, and Chief Justice Roger Taney administered the Oath of office. In his inaugural address, Buchanan spoke critically about the growing divisions over slavery and its status in the territories. He asserted that a federal slave code should protect the rights of slave-owners in any federal territory and referred to a pending Supreme Court case, Dred Scott v. Sandford, which he stated would permanently settle the issue of slavery. In one of the most shocking and unethical acts in the history of the court, Buchanan already knew the outcome of the case, and had even played a part in its disposition by lobbying some of the justices to bring about a result favorable to slaveholders.

Two days after Buchanan's inauguration, Chief Justice Taney delivered the Dred Scott decision, which held that Congress had no constitutional power to exclude slavery in the territories. Before his inauguration, Buchanan had written to Justice John Catron in January 1857, inquiring about the outcome of the case and suggesting a result which, in Buchanan's opinion, would be more beneficial for the nation. Catron, a southernor from Tennessee, replied on February 10 that the Supreme Court's Southern majority would decide against Scott, but the decision would likely have to decided on narrow grounds unless there was support from the Court's northern justices. He asked Buchanan could convince his fellow Pennsylvanian, Justice Robert Cooper Grier, to join the majority. Buchanan wrote to Grier and successfully convinced him to join the majority in a more sweeping decision that went so far as to declare the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional.

Rumors of Buchanan's interference in the court's decision in order to further the interests of slaveholders hurt his reputation among northerners. But he also had a sluggish economy to contend with. A recession known as the Panic of 1857 began in the middle of Buchanan's first year in office and was marked by the collapse of fourteen hundred state banks and five thousand businesses. The South escaped the worst of the recession, but Northern cities saw a huge jump in the unemployment rate with many unemployed men and women taking to the streets to beg. Buchanan seemed unsympathetic to their plight, claiming that the government was "without the power to extend relief." Buchanan discouraged the use of federal or state bonds as security for bank notes issued. The economy would recover by 1859, but not before the mid-term elections of 1858.

The recession worsened sectional tensions. Many northerners blamed the Southern-backed Tariff of 1857 (passed on Franklin Pierce's last day in office) for the panic. Buchanan and the southerners who supported him blamed Northern bankers. The deficit grew under Buchanan's presidency.

Buchanan also lost credibility in the dispute in the Kansas-Nebraska territory by supporting the Lecompton Constitution, one written by those supporting slavery, and obtained by fraud and violence. He ignored the reports of two former Democratic governors of the territory who disputed the legitimacy of the Lecompton constitution and on February 2, 1858, he sent it to Congress and urged its adoption. He offered political favors, patronage appointments, and even cash bribes for votes. The Lecompton Constitution was approved by the Senate in March, but was defeated in the House. Rather than accepting defeat, Buchanan supported an alternate bill which offered Kansans immediate statehood and public lands in exchange for accepting the Lecompton Constitution. This bill won passage in both houses of Congress. But despite congressional approval, Kansas voters held a referendum in August of 1858 and strongly rejected the Lecompton Constitution.

The 1858 mid-term elections are famous for one particular race, that being the race for the Senate in Illinois where incumbent Democrat Stephen Douglas debated his Republican opponent, the former Whig Congressman Abraham Lincoln. Douglas's Senate term ended in 1859, and the Illinois legislature that would be elected in 1858 would determine whether Douglas would win re-election. The Senate election was the primary issue of the legislative election, andthe Lincoln-Douglas debates between the two candidates sought to convince voters as to their desired outcome. Buchanan used federal patronage appointees in Illinois to run candidates for the legislature to compete with both the Republicans and the Douglas Democrats. In his 1858 re-election bid, Douglas defeated Lincoln, and Douglas forces took control of the Democratic Party throughout the North, except in Buchanan's home state of Pennsylvania. But Douglas's support in the South was non-existent because of his refusal to support the Lecompton Constitution.

In the House of Representatives, the newly formed Republican party won a majority, gaining 23 seats and increasing their number form 90 to 113. Democrats lost 49 seats and dropped from 132 to 83 seats. Republicans benefited from the collapse of the nativist American Party, as well as from sectional strife in the Democratic Party. Northerners were angry over the Dred Scott Supreme Court decision, and blamed Democrats for the violence in Kansas, and for the Democrats' perceived attempts to impose slavery against the express will of a majority of its settlers. Republicans even made large gains in Buchanan's home state of Pennsylvania.

Democrats maintained control of the Senate, but lost 4 seats while Republicans gained 5. After the elections Democrats still have a majority of 38 to 25. As this election was prior to ratification of the seventeenth amendment, senators were chosen by state legislatures.

Republicans were united in opposing slavery in the territories and fugitive slave laws, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and the Dred Scott decision. Though not yet abolitionist, Republicans demonstrated a hostility to slavery. Democrats remained divided and politically trapped. Eight Northern Anti-Lecompton Democrats favored a ban on slavery in Kansas. Democrats lacked credible leadership. Democrats also lost seats in some slave states as many southerners feared that Stephen Douglas, Buchanan's perceived successor and the Democrats leader in the Senate, was not supportive of southern slaveholding interests.


Governing became more difficult for Buchanan as Republican control of the House allowed Republicans to block much of Buchanan's agenda in the second half of his term. A number of Democrats would resign from Congress near the end of the session following their states' secession from the Union. Buchanan had once predicted that his presidency would be as successful as that of Washington. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Mid-Term Elections: 1966

Lyndon Johnson became President of the United States on November 22, 1963, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Before becoming Kennedy's running mate and Vice-President, he was renowned for his political prowess as "Master of the Senate" while serving as Senate Majority Leader, but following Kennedy's election, Johnson had largely been sidelined in the Kennedy administration, in part because of his mutual dislike of Attorney-General Robert Kennedy. In spite of this, once Johnson became President, he was determined to secure the passage of Kennedy's unfinished domestic agenda, most of which had remained stalled in various congressional committees.


Many of these initiatives were being blocked by a conservative coalition of Republicans and Southern Democrats. When Johnson became president, he asked one of his aides, "do you realize that every issue that is on my desk tonight was on my desk when I came to Congress in 1937?"

Johnson had began calling his domestic agenda the "Great Society," a term coined by Richard Goodwin. It originated from the title of a book by Walter Lippman. Under the umbrella of Great Society goals were urban renewal, an improved transportation system, a cleaner environment, initiatives to combat poverty, healthcare reform, crime reduction, and educational reform. It was an ambitious agenda, and to bring about passage of his programs, Johnson had to use all of his skills in working with Congress.

Johnson was a southerner and had been mentored by a number of ardent segregationists such as Senator Richard Russell Jr. of Georgia, but in spite of this, Johnson was sympathetic to the Civil Rights Movement. It was his goal to pass the first major civil rights bill since the Reconstruction Era. Kennedy had submitted a major civil rights bill that would ban segregation in public institutions, but it was stalled in a Congressional committee when Johnson became president. Johnson not only wanted to win passage of the bill, but he also wanted to prevent Congress from stripping the most important provisions of the bill. He did not want another watered-down civil rights bill, as had occurred in the 1950s. Johnson began his January 8, 1964, State of the Union address with a public challenge to Congress, stating, "let this session of Congress be known as the session which did more for civil rights than the last hundred sessions combined."

In order for Johnson's civil rights bill to reach the House floor for a vote, he had to get around Representative Howard W. Smith, the chairman of the House Rules Committee. Johnson lobbied uncommitted Republicans and Democrats to support a discharge petition, which forced the bill onto the House floor. Faced with this possibility, the House Rules Committee approved the civil rights bill and placed it to the floor of the full House. Smith added an amendment to the bill that would ban gender discrimination in employment, as a tactic to prevent the bill's passage. Despite the inclusion of the gender discrimination provision, the House passed the civil rights bill by a vote of 290–110 on February 10, 1964. 152 Democrats and 136 Republicans voted in favor of the bill, while the majority of the opposition came from 88 Democrats in former Confederate states.

Next Johnson convinced Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield to put the House bill directly before the full Senate, bypassing the Senate Judiciary Committee and its segregationist chairman James Eastland of Mississippi. This left the anti-civil rights senators with the filibuster as their only means of delaying a vote on the bill. Overcoming the filibuster required the support of at least 20 Republicans, but their leading presidential contender, Senator Barry Goldwater, opposed the bill. Johnson worked with conservative Senator Everett Dirksen of Illinois and the two reached a compromise in which Dirksen agreed to support the bill, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's enforcement powers were weakened.

The bill was debated for months of debate, before the Senate voted for closure by a vote of 71–29 vote. (67 votes -a two-thirds majority - were needed for the cloture motion to succeed.) Once again most of the opposition came from Southern Democrats, though Senator Goldwater and five other Republicans also voted against ending the filibuster. On June 19, 1964 the Senate voted to 73–27 in favor of the bill. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law on July 2, 1964, just four months ahead of the coming mid-term elections.

The bill had teeth. It banned racial segregation in public accommodations, it banned employment discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or religion, and it strengthened the federal government's power to investigate racial and gender employment discrimination. Johnson knew however that that major legislative accomplishment would hurt him politically. When signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Johnson told an aide, "We have lost the South for a generation."

Meanwhile, in August of 1964, questionable evidence was presented to suggest that two U.S. destroyers had been attacked by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in international waters 40 miles from the Vietnamese coast in the Gulf of Tonkin. Johnson very much wanted to keep discussions about Vietnam out of the 1964 election campaign, he felt forced to respond to the supposed Communist aggression. He obtained from the Congress the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution on August 7, 1964. The resolution gave blanket congressional approval for use of military force to repel future attacks.

Johnson and Goldwater would square off in the Presidential election of 1964. Segregationist Alabama Governor George C. Wallace entered several 1964 Democratic presidential primaries, taking a large share of the vote in several states before announcing that he would seek the presidency as an independent or member of a third party. But after the nomination of Goldwater in June of 1964, Wallace withdraw from the race. Johnson was nominated as his party's candidate for President at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Robert F. Kennedy was a widely popular choice to run as Johnson's vice presidential running mate, but Johnson and Kennedy despised one another and Hubert Humphrey was selected as Johnson's running mate. Early on in the campaign, Goldwater had appeared to be a strong contender, as his support in the South threatened to flip Southern states to the Republican Party. But as the campaign went on, Goldwater's perceived extremism and his campaign's poor organization led Democrats to a major election victory. Johnson won by a landslide with 61% of the vote, the largest share of the popular vote won by any presidential candidate since the 1820 presidential election. In the Electoral College, Johnson defeated Goldwater by margin of 486 to 52.

In the next two years Johnson perceived his large victory as support for his past policies and embarked on even more domestic legislation. His next goal was voting rights. After the end of Reconstruction, most Southern states enacted laws designed to disenfranchise and marginalize African-Americans from voting. Even the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the January 1964 ratification of the 24th Amendment, which banned poll taxes, did not preclude many states from effectively disenfranchise African-Americans through mechanisms such as literacy tests. Soon after the 1964 election, civil rights organizations such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began a push for federal action to protect the voting rights of racial minorities. On March 7, 1965, these organizations began a march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama's capital, to present Governor George Wallace with their grievances. On the first march, demonstrators were stopped by state and county police, who shot tear gas into the crowd and trampled protesters. Televised footage of the scene, which became known as "Bloody Sunday", generated outrage across the country. In response, Johnson decided to immediately send voting rights legislation to Congress. In a famous address before a Joint session of Congress, he said:

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy. I urge every member of both parties, Americans of all religions and of all colors, from every section of this country, to join me in that cause... The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, and should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For, with a country as with a person, 'what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?'"


Johnson and Dirksen established a strong bipartisan alliance in favor of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. In August 1965, the House approved the bill by a vote of 333 to 85, and Senate passed the bill by a vote of 79 to 18. Johnson signed the bill into law on August 6, 1965. The bill outlawed discrimination in voting. Once again it was a bill with teeth. Between 1968 and 1980, the number of Southern African-Americans elected to state and federal offices nearly doubled. In Mississippi, the voter registration rate of African Americans rose from 6.7 percent to 59.8 percent between 1964 and 1967.

In April 1966, Johnson submitted a bill to Congress that barred house owners from refusing to enter into agreements on the basis of race, but the bill was met with opposition from many of the Northerners who had supported the last two major civil rights bills. A version of the bill passed the House, it failed to win Senate approval, marking Johnson's first major legislative defeat. It would not pass until 1968 after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Johnson began to lose support due to developments in Vietnam. He had waited until early 1965 before starting a eight-week bombing campaign against North Vietnam. The bombing campaign had little apparent effect. In a campaign known as Operation Rolling Thunder the U.S. would continue to bomb North Vietnam until late 1968. In March 1965, Johnson's advisor McGeorge Bundy called for American ground operations. Johnson agreed and changed the mission from defensive to offensive operations.

In late July, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara recommended an increase in U.S. soldiers from 75,000 to over 200,000. Johnson reluctantly agreed and under the command of General Westmoreland, U.S. forces increasingly engaged in search and destroy operations in South Vietnam. By October 1965, there were over 200,000 troops deployed in Vietnam, many of whom were drafted after leaving high school, and disproportionately came from poor families, because of the availability of deferments for college students.

Few members of Congress criticized Johnson's handling of the war, but in early 1966, Robert Kennedy harshly criticized Johnson's bombing campaign. Kennedy said that Johnson was going down "a road from which there is no turning back, a road that leads to catastrophe for all mankind." The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, chaired by Senator James William Fulbright, held televised hearings examining the administration's Vietnam policy. In June 1966, Senator Richard Russell, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and one Johnson's old friends from the senate, said that it was time to "get it over or get out" of Vietnam.

By late 1966, Johnson was receiving reports that the US was making progress against the North Vietnamese and Johnson was told that it was time to begin peace discussions. Johnson spoke of the need for decisive victory. But as the mid-term elections of 1966 neared, it was clear that the air campaign and any efforts at peace talks had failed.

An unpopular war and other factors were leading to a breakdown in Johnson's coalition of business, trade unions, liberal intellectuals, and ethnic. The success of the Great Society was less apparent because of growing urban violence and protests against the Vietnam War. Republicans campaigned on law and order and they criticized Johnson's conduct of the Vietnam War. They also blamed Johnson's policies for the sluggish economy and they warned of looming inflation and growing federal deficits because of the cost of the war and other social measures.

Many voters listened to the Republican message. In the midterm elections, Democrats lost 47 seats in the House to the Republicans, and also three in the Senate. Democrats retained majority control of both House and Senate, but in the House their majority was reduced from 295 to 248 seats, and the Republicans increased their seats from 140 to 187. Those hardest hit were the party's liberal wing hardest, making Johnson's ability to push more of his Great Society agenda through Congress more difficult.

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Things would get worse for Johnson, with the war becoming more of a quagmire. In 1968 Johnson would announce his intention not to run for re-election as President.

Remembering Lyndon Johnson

On January 22, 1973 (49 years ago today), Lyndon Baines Johnson, the 36th President of the United States died at his ranch near Stonewall, Texas at the age of 64 from a massive heart attack. Johnson had previously served as the 37th Vice President of the United States and he is one of only four people who served in all four elected federal offices of Representative, Senator, Vice President, and President. (Can you guess who the other three are?)

Lyndon Johnson was born in Stonewall on August 27, 1908. His father Samuel Ealy Johnson Jr. was a Democrat Texas Congressman and his son, the future president, also served as a United States Representative from 1937 to 1949 and as a Senator from 1949 to 1961. Johnson served six years as United States Senate Majority Leader, two as Senate Minority Leader and two as Senate Majority Whip. His prowess in brokering deals earned him the nickname "Master of the Senate". Johnson unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1960, and was then asked by John F. Kennedy to be his running mate for the 1960 presidential election. After their election, Johnson became President following President Kennedy's assassination on November 22, 1963. He completed Kennedy's term and was elected President in his own right, winning by a large margin over Barry Goldwater in the 1964 election.

Johnson's presidency was marked both with great success and great failure. He was responsible for designing the "Great Society" legislation that included laws that expanded civil rights, supported public broadcasting, created Medicare and Medicaid, aided environmental protection, education, the arts, urban and rural development. He declared "war on poverty", an initiative which helped millions of Americans rise above the poverty line during Johnson's presidency. Civil rights bills signed by Johnson banned racial discrimination in public facilities, interstate commerce, the workplace, and housing, and a powerful voting rights act guaranteed full voting rights for citizens of all races. With the passage of the sweeping Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the country's immigration system was reformed and all national origins quotas were removed. Johnson was known for his domineering personality. His methods of persuasion were known as the "Johnson treatment" through which he used various methods to convince powerful politicians to advance legislation that Johnson favored.

On the negative side of his legacy, Johnson escalated American involvement in the Vietnam War. In 1964, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave Johnson the authority to use any degree of military force in Southeast Asia without having to ask for an official declaration of war. The number of American military personnel in Vietnam increased dramatically on his watch, from 16,000 advisors/soldiers in 1963 to 550,000 combat troops in early 1968. As American casualties soared and the peace process bogged down, Johnson's popularity rapidly diminished. White House protesters chanted "hey hey LBJ, how many kids did you kill today?" Massive bombing campaigns targeting North Vietnamese cities were ordered, and millions of gallons of the herbicide Agent Orange were sprayed on Vietnamese land. Despite the growing number of American troops and the sustained bombing, the war showed no signs of ending and the public became increasingly skeptical of the administration's optimistic claims that victory was close at hand. Growing unease with the war generated a large, angry antiwar movement based especially on university campuses in the U.S. and abroad. Johnson faced further troubles when summer riots broke out in most major cities after 1965, and crime rates soared. These problems caused a split in the Democratic Party. Johnson's poor showing in the 1968 New Hampshire primary prompted him to end his bid for reelection. Republican Richard Nixon was elected to succeed him.

After leaving the presidency in January 1969, Johnson went home to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. Assisted by his former aid and speech writer Harry J. Middleton, he wrote two books: The Choices We Face, and also his memoirs entitled The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963-1969, published in 1971. Also in 1971, the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum opened near the campus of The University of Texas at Austin. He donated his Texas ranch in his will to the public to form the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, with the provision in the will that the ranch "remain a working ranch and not become a sterile relic of the past".

Johnson worried that his successor was being pressured into removing U.S. forces too quickly, before the South Vietnamese were really able to defend themselves. During the 1972 presidential election, Johnson endorsed Democratic presidential nominee George S. McGovern, a Senator from South Dakota, although McGovern had long opposed Johnson's foreign and defense policies. Privately McGovern's nomination and presidential platform disappointed him. Johnson believed that Richard Nixon could be defeated "if only the Democrats don't go too far left." He thought that Edmund Muskie would be more likely to defeat Nixon, but he declined an invitation to try to stop McGovern.

In March 1970, Johnson was hospitalized at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, after suffering an attack of angina. His weight had risen to about 235 pounds and he was urged to lose weight. In April 1972, Johnson suffered a massive heart attack while visiting his daughter, Lynda, in Charlottesville, Virginia. He required a portable oxygen tank beside his bed, which he periodically used during the day when needed. He continued to smoke heavily, and, although placed on a low-calorie, low-cholesterol diet, often ignored it. He also suffered from diverticulosis. Heart specialist Dr. Michael DeBakey, concluded that Johnson's heart condition presented too great a risk for any sort of surgery.

Johnson died at his ranch at 3:39 p.m CST on January 22, 1973, at the age of 64, from a massive heart attack. His death occurred just two days after the end of what would have been his final term in office had he successfully won reelection in 1968. He had suffered his first heart attack in July 1955 and suffered a second one in April 1972, but had been unable to quit smoking after he left the Oval Office in 1969. He was found dead by Secret Service agents, in his bed, with a telephone receiver in his hand. Shortly after Johnson's death, his press secretary Tom Johnson (no relation) telephoned iconic CBC news anchor Walter Cronkite, who was live on the air with the CBS Evening News. A report on Vietnam was cut abruptly while Cronkite was still on the line, so he could break the news to the nation.

Mid-Term Elections: 1822

In this series we have sometimes referred to a phenomenon known as the "six year itch" in which voters turn against the party of the President in office when the mid-terms are held during his sixth year in office. This has been the case every time since 1834 (when Andrew Jackson broke even) except for once (in 1998). The last time a President gained a significant number of seats in the sixth year of his Presidency occurred two centuries ago, in 1822, when James Monroe's Democratic-Republican party gained 34 seats in the House of Representatives. (At that time Senators were appointed by the state legislatures).

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It was a time known as the "Era of Good Feelings" when the Democratic-Republicans were the only game in town politically, or so it seemed. The Federalist Party, once a formidable political force, was now in its sunset years. It had lost popularity significantly because of its lack of support for the American cause during the War of 1812. Monroe, perhaps the most under-rated of all the Presidents, did not gloat over this. Shortly after first being elected president in 1816, Monroe went on a goodwill tour of New England, which had once been a Federalist stronghold, in an effort to unify the country and let Federalists know that there were no hard feelings. He did not go so far as to include any Federalists in his cabinet, for fear of upsetting the harmony within his own party.

In 1820 Monroe was re-elected to a second term as President, and remarkably his re-election was near unanimous. It is even more remarkable that this occurred not too long after a great recession known as the "Panic of 1819" and after fierce debates had taken place in Congress that year over slavery, leading to the Missouri Compromise. Despite these events which might have been political disasters for most Presidents seeking re-election, the collapse of the Federalists left Monroe without any real organized opposition and he ran for reelection unopposed. He was the second president in this position (the first being George Washington.) A single elector from New Hampshire named William Plumer, cast a vote for John Quincy Adams, preventing a unanimous vote in the Electoral College. Many believe that Plummer did so out of respect for the legacy of George Washington, because historians now believe that he did so simply because he disliked Monroe. Plumer never mentioned Washington in his speech explaining his vote.

Part of Monroe's popularity was due to his view on improving the national infrastructure. As the United States continued to grow, many Americans called for the construction of a system of internal improvements to help the country develop. Federal assistance for such projects was slow in coming because of contentious congressional factions which were fearful that their region would not get their fair share. Previous presidents had also been concerned about the constitutionality of federal involvement in such projects. But Monroe believed that the young nation needed to improve its infrastructure to thrive economically. Like his predecessors he was also worried about the constitutionality of a federal role in the construction, maintenance, and operation of a national transportation system, and he repeatedly asked Congress to pass an amendment allowing Congress the power to finance internal improvements, but Congress never acted on his proposal. Later on in his term, Monroe would urge Congress work with the states to build a system of canals to connect the rivers leading to the Atlantic Ocean with the western territories of the United States. He eventually signed a bill helping to finance the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal Company.

Following the 1820 Census, Congress added 26 seats to the House of Representatives, with most of the population growth occurring in the West. In the mid-term elections that followed two years later, the Democratic-Republican Party remained nationally dominant. The Federalist Party's influence was limited to the state and local level. In the mid-terms the Democratic-Republicans gained 34 seats, going from 155 to 189 members in the House. The Federalists lost 8 seats, dropping from 32 to 24 seats.

The Era of Good feelings would soon come to an end however. Monroe followed the precedent set by George Washington and did not seek a third term, even though such a thing was possible at the time. The Federalist Party had essentially collapsed by the end of Monroe's two terms. This caused increased competition within the Democratic-Republicans and factionalized the party. All of the major presidential candidates in 1824 were members of the Democratic-Republican Party. Three member of Monroe's cabinet sought to become Monroe's successor: Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, Secretary of War John C. Calhoun and Secretary of the Treasury William H. Crawford. Speaker of the House Henry Clay each entered the race with strong followings. General Andrew Jackson also jumped into the race. In previous elections, the congressional nominating caucus had decided who the Democratic-Republican presidential nominees, but not in 1824. Instead candidates were nominated by state legislatures or nominating conventions. Monroe remained neutral and watched on the sidelines as the non-partisan paradigm that he had sought to create dissolved.

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In the 1824 presidential election, Jackson won a plurality in the Electoral College, taking 99 of the 261 electoral votes, while Adams won 84, Crawford won 41, and Clay took 37. Since no candidate won a majority of the electoral vote, the House was required to hold a contingent election under the terms of the Twelfth Amendment, choosing a winner from among the top three electoral vote winners, with each state's delegation having one vote. This eliminated Henry Clay from the competition, but although he could not be king, he could be a kingmaker. Adams and Clay met prior to the contingent election, and Clay agreed to support Adams. On February 9, 1825, Adams became the second president elected by the House of Representatives (Thomas Jefferson was the first in 1801.) He won the contingent election on the first ballot, taking 13 of the 24 state delegations. The Era of Good Feelings was over.

Mid-Term Elections: 1922

In 1920, after the end of the first world war and the rejection of Woodrow Wilson's call for a League of Nations, Republican candidate Warren Harding campaigned on a call for a "return to normalcy." Snobbish critics mocked him for the fact that "normalcy" wasn't a word known to the English language, but thanks to Harding it is now.


In the Presidential election of 1920, Harding received 60.2 percent of the popular vote, the highest percentage since the evolution of the two-party system, and 404 electoral votes. His Democratic opponent, fellow Ohioan Governor James Cox, received 34 percent of the national vote and 127 electoral votes. Republicans greatly increased their majority in each house of Congress. In the House of Representatives they held a majority of 302 to 131 and in the Senate their majority was 60 to 36.

In his inaugural address, Harding proclaimed "Our most dangerous tendency is to expect too much from the government and at the same time do too little for it." A former newspaperman himself, Harding cultivated a good relationship with the media. Reporters admired his candor, and his humility when it came to knowing his limitations. Harding took the press behind the scenes and even spoke candidly with them about his fondness for the female sex. In November 1921, Harding also implemented a policy of taking written questions from reporters during his press conferences.

When Harding assumed office, the economy was not working in his favor. The nation was in the middle of a postwar economic decline known as the Depression of 1920–21. Consistent with what he had said in his inaugural address, Harding opposed proposals to provide for federal unemployment benefits. He believed that the best way to restore economic prosperity was to raise tariff rates and keep the government out of economic activities. His administration's economic policy was devised by Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, who called for cuts to the excess profits tax and the corporate tax. Mellon proposed a progressive income tax that only affected high-income earners. Mellon favored the wealthy holding as much capital as possible. He considered them to be the main drivers of economic growth. With the support of the Republican majority in Congress, tax cuts and tariff rates became the key legislative focus during Harding's first year in office. Harding called a special session of the Congress to address these issues, and Congress met in April 1921. Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1921 in November, and Harding signed the bill into law later that month. The act greatly reduced taxes for the wealthiest Americans, though the cuts were not as deep as Mellon had wanted. The act reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 73 percent to 58 percent, it lowered the corporate tax from 65 percent to 50 percent, and provided for the eventual elimination of the excess profits tax.

Government revenues dropped as a result at first, but wages, profits, and productivity all made substantial gains during the 1920s. Many economists believe that the Revenue Act of 1921 played a major role in the strong period of economic growth after the Depression of 1920–21.

In September 1922, Harding signed the Fordney–McCumber Tariff Act, legislation he and every congressional Republican strongly supported. The act increased the tariff rates to the highest level in the nation's history. Agriculture suffered as a result of the high tariffs and Harding realized that the long-term effects of high tariffs would be detrimental to national economy.

Many World War I veterans were unemployed and in tough financial straits when Harding took office. To aid these veterans, the Senate considered passing a law that gave veterans a $1 bonus for each day they had served in the war. But Harding opposed payment of a bonus to veterans, claiming that the bill would "break down our Treasury." The Senate sent the bonus bill back to committee. A bill providing a bonus, without a means of funding it, was passed by both houses in September 1922. Harding vetoed it, and the veto was narrowly sustained.

Union membership had grown during World War I, and by 1920 approximately 20% of the labor force were members of a union. Many employers reduced wages after the war, and some business leaders hoped to destroy the power of organized labor. This led to a large number of strikes in 1922. In April, 500,000 coal miners, led by John L. Lewis, struck over wage cuts. Harding convinced the miners union return to work while a congressional commission looked into their grievances. He also called out the National Guard and 2,200 deputy U.S. marshals to keep order. On July 1, 1922, 400,000 railroad workers went on strike. When Harding's efforts to bring about a settlement were rejected by management, Attorney General Daugherty obtained an injunction to break up the strike. The injunction succeeded in ending the strike; however, tensions remained high between railroad workers and management for years to come.


Entering the 1922 midterm election campaign, Harding and the Republicans had followed through on many of their campaign promises. But many of these, like cutting taxes for the wealthy, did not appeal to the electorate. The economy had not yet returned to a healthy position. Unemployment stood at 11 percent, and organized labor was angry over the outcome of a number of strikes.

In the 1922 mid-term elections voters were still feeling the effects of the economic downturn of the previous two years. Voters used the mid-terms as an opportunity to express their impression that Congress had failed to address the troubled economy. In many states voters returned Democrats to the House of Representatives in seats that Republicans won from them two years earlier, giving Democrats a stronger base in many major cities. Republicans Party lost a net of 77 seats in the House, of which 76 were won by Democrats. Voters were unimpressed by tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, and higher tariffs. The latter had pleased those in manufacturing but had also raised consumer prices. Republicans held on to a small majority in the House of 225 to 207, but the midterms had humbled them.

Republicans lost seven seats in the senate, six of which went to Democrats and the other to the Farm-Labor party. Republican control of the senate was reduced from 60 to 36, to 53 to 42.

Democrats showed their greatest gains in support in the industrial cities. Those of Irish and German ancestry and who had voted Republican because of Woodrow Wilson's persecution of anti-war sentiments, now returned to the Democratic party. Many families who now had a veteran among them also turned against the government, wanting to see a bonus paid to veterans. There was also an anti-government sentiment because of the federal prohibition on beer and wine, and the closing of saloons.

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The recovery recovered for a time, but another economic contraction began near the end of Harding's presidency in 1923, while tax cuts were still underway. The elections also empowered the progressive wing of the party led by Wisconsin Senator Robert La Follette. He who began investigations into Harding administration which would later uncover a number of scandals and corruption that would go on to tarnish Harding's legacy.

Mid-Term Elections: 1918

In 2020 the nation went to the polls to elect a President in the midst of a pandemic. Over a century earlier in 1918, it wasn't a presidential election year, but the nation was in the midst of a pandemic, the incorrectly named "Spanish flu" was spreading throughout the world. The earliest documented case was reported March 1918 at a US Army base in Kansas, and it spread among soldiers who were on their way to fight in the Great War with further cases recorded in France, Germany and the United Kingdom by April. Two years later, nearly a third of the global population, or an estimated 500 million people, had been infected in four successive waves, and the worldwide death toll was estimated at between 17 million to 50 million people, possibly as high as 100 million. President Woodrow Wilson has been criticized for his mishandling of this medical crisis, though that's not the only reason why he and his party did so poorly in the mid-term elections that year.

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Wilson was first elected as President in 1912 thanks mainly to a split within the Republican Party. He was renominated at the 1916 Democratic National Convention without opposition and ran for re-election on a progressive platform, as well as on his record in keeping the Unites States out of the war in Europe. Democrats campaigned on the slogan "He Kept Us Out of War," and warned that a Republican victory would mean war with Germany. At the 1916 Republican National Convention, Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes was nominated as the party's presidential candidate and the election was a very close one. It came down to California's electoral votes and in the end Wilson won the state by 3,806 votes, giving him a majority of the electoral vote. Wilson won 277 electoral votes and 49.2 percent of the popular vote, while Hughes won 254 electoral votes and 46.1 percent of the popular vote. Wilson's re-election made him the first Democrat since Andrew Jackson (in 1832) to win two consecutive terms, and Democrats kept control of Congress.

As the war went on, in January 1917, Germany initiated a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare against ships in the seas around the British Isles. In late February, the U.S. public learned of the Zimmermann Telegram, a secret diplomatic communication in which Germany tried to convince Mexico to go to war against the United States, in order to keep the US out of the war in Europe. This and a series of attacks on American ships, caused Wilson to conclude that the time had come for the United States to enter the war.

On April 2, 1917, Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. In his address to Congress, he asserted that Germany was essentially in "nothing less than war against the government and people of the United States." Congress voted to declare war against Germany with strong bipartisan majorities on April 6, 1917.

Congress also voted to impose conscription with the Selective Service Act of 1917 and gave power to local draft boards to decide who should be drafted. By the end of the war, nearly 3 million men had been drafted.

On January 8, 1918, Wilson delivered a speech, known as the Fourteen Points, wherein he set out his administration's long term war objectives. Wilson called for the establishment of a "League of Nations", an association of countries that would guarantee the independence and territorial integrity of all nations.

Under the command of General John J. Pershing, the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France in mid-1917. Wilson and Pershing rejected the British and French plan to have American soldiers integrated into existing Allied units. Russia exited the war after signing the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk in March 1918, allowing Germany to shift soldiers from the Eastern Front of the war. There were only 175,000 American soldiers in Europe at the end of 1917, but by mid-1918 10,000 Americans were arriving in Europe daily. The added strength of American forces helped the Allies defeated an exhausted German Army. By the end of September 1918, the German leadership no longer believed it could win the war, and Kaiser Wilhelm II appointed a new government, one which immediately sought an armistice. An armistice was signed, to take effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 (November 11, 1918.) By the end of the war, 116,000 American soldiers had died, and another 200,000 had been wounded.

Meanwhile, back at home, Wilson imposed severe restrictions on freedom of speech, in his view, in order to counter disloyalty to the war effort at home. Wilson pressed for passage of the Espionage Act of 1917 and the Sedition Act of 1918 to suppress anti-British, pro-German, or anti-war statements. He pushed for the arrest and deportation of foreign-born critics of the war and many recent immigrants who opposed American participation in the war were deported under the Immigration Act of 1918. Anarchists, Industrial Workers of the World members, and other antiwar groups were targeted by the Department of Justice and many of their leaders were arrested for espionage, or sedition. The most famous of these was Eugene V. Debs, the 1912 Socialist presidential candidate, who was convicted for encouraging young men to evade the draft, on questionable grounds. Wilson's excesses in curtailing free speech led to the creation of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 1917.

In the same month that the Armistice would be signed in Europe, back in the United States, the 1918 United States elections were taking place to elect the 66th United States Congress. The Spanish flu pandemic had hit and campaigning was disrupted around the country. Voter turnout was 40%, low for a midterm election at that time. Turnout in previous midterms had been in the low 50% range.


Wilson had asked on voters in the 1918 off-year elections to elect Democrats as an endorsement of his policies. Republicans ran against the expanded war-time government, the restricted liberties, and Wilson's Fourteen Points, especially Wilson's proposal for a League of Nations. While the end of the war was good news for the nation, the number of casualties was not. Many voters disagreed with Wilson's foreign policy, his reneging on his promise to keep the nation out of war so soon after being election on the strength of that promise, and the did not agree that it was the nation's role to serve as policeman for warring European factions.

Voters showed their displeasure by giving Republicans control of both houses of Congress, taking it away from the Democrats. The Republicans gained 24 seats in the House, increasing their number from 216 to 240. Democrats lost reducing their number down to 192. Voters also elected one Socialist, one Prohibition Party member and one independent. Previously Democrats had controlled the chamber with help from third parties. That ended with the results of these mid-terms. In the Senate, Republicans gained 6 seats, all lost by Democrats. They took control of the Senate by a slim margin of 49 to 47. The elections were a major defeat for Wilson and for his foreign policy agenda. The Republicans would control of both houses of Congress until the 1930 election.


The election was also important because it was seen as a turning point for women's suffrage in the United States. Ballot initiatives to give women the vote were held in the states of Oklahoma, Louisiana, South Dakota, and Michigan. Only men could vote for or against these initiatives, but in spite of this, every one of them passed except for the one in Louisiana. An extensive grassroots campaign by suffragists led to the defeat of many incumbent Senators who had refused to support the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, including Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts, who had been considered invincible.

Remembering John Tyler

On January 18, 1862 (160 years ago today) John Tyler, the 10th President of the United States, died in Richmond, Virginia, at the age of 71. Because he died during the Civil War, while living in Virginia, one of the Confederate States, he was not accorded the same honors at the time of his death as afforded to other presidents and is the only president whose death was not officially recognized in Washington D.C. Debate continues today as to whether Tyler was a traitor to his nation or a good man caught in the middle of unfortunate circumstances.

John Tyler was born on March 14, 1790, in Charles City County, Virginia. He was the first president born after the adoption of the Constitution, and he was also born in the same county as William Henry Harrison, the man for whom he would serve as Vice-President of the United States for a scant 31 days.

In his native Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before winning election as Vice President in 1840 on a ticket with Harrison. Harrison was renowned as the hero of the Battle of Tippecanoe and was affectionately known as "Old Tippecanoe." Together the two of them were referred to in a famous campaign song as "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!" Although Tyler had once been a Democrat, he and Harrison defeated Andrew Jackson's anointed successor Martin Van Buren in the election of 1840 under the Whig banner. Tyler served as Vice-President for only 31 days and became president upon the death of Harrison on April 4, 1841. Because there was no precedent for what happened when a president died in office up to that time, Tyler became the first Vice President to succeed to the office of President on the death of the incumbent. He was also the first person to become President without ever being elected to that office. He asserted his right to the office in the face of opposition from members of both parties, some of whom derisively called him "His Accidency."

Tyler was a strong supporter of states' rights, something that endeared him to his fellow Virginians but alienated him from most of the congressional movers and shakers in Washington. Opposition from both the Democrats and Whigs in Congress hamstrung his presidency. As President, Tyler opposed much of the Whig platform and vetoed several Whig party proposals including Henry Clay's plans for a national bank. As a result of this conflict, most of his cabinet resigned, and the Whigs expelled him from their party. In spite of this he was still able to achieve a number of foreign-policy accomplishments, including the Webster–Ashburton Treaty with Britain and the Treaty of Wanghia with Qing China. He was also able to orchestrate the annexation of the independent Republic of Texas during his last days in office. He wanted to seek election to a full term in 1844, but he had alienated both the Whigs and Democrats and his efforts to form a new party failed to attract significant support.

Tyler essentially retired from electoral politics until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. He unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a peace between the two sides, and when that was unsuccessful he sided with the Confederate government, and won election to the Confederate House of Representatives shortly before his death. It is not surprising that he sided with the Confederacy, given his strong support for states' rights throughout his lifetime.

Tyler has the distinction of being the President who fathered the most children: fifteen with two wives. His first wife Letitia died in 1842, and two years later, in 1844, he married 24 year old Julia Gardiner, a woman who was 30 years younger than him. One of his grandsons is still living as of this writing.

On January 12, 1862, after complaining of chills and dizziness, in Richmond, Tyler vomited and collapsed. He was revived, but the next day he repeated the same symptoms. His condition did not improve, and he made plans to return to his home (called Sherwood Forest) on the 18th. On the night of the 17th he began suffocating, and his wife Julia called for his doctor. Just after midnight, Tyler took a last sip of brandy, and told his doctor, "I am going. Perhaps it is best." He died early on the morning of the 18th. It is believed that he had suffered a stroke.


Tyler is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, in front of the gravesite of former President James Monroe. Tyler's death was the only one in presidential history not to be officially recognized in Washington, because of his allegiance to the Confederacy. He had requested a simple burial, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis ordered a grand, politically charged funeral, at which Tyler was portrayed as a hero to the Confederacy. Tyler's coffin was draped with a Confederate flag.

Mid-Term Elections: 1842

In the presidential election of 1840, William Henry Harrison was elected President, ending 12 years of Jacksonian Democratic rule. Harrison had been expected to adhere closely to Whig Party policies and to defer to party congressional leaders such as Henry Clay. When Harrison died on the 31st day of his Presidency, there was no precedent for what happened upon the death of a President. John Tyler asserted an interpretation of the Constitution that put him in the place of the President in the same manner as if he had been elected to the office, in spite of the assertion by Clay and others that Tyler was merely a placeholder.


Harrison's death caused considerable confusion as to who would perform the President's duties. At the time the Constitution read as follows:

In Case of the Removal of the President from Office, or of his Death, Resignation, or Inability to discharge the Powers and Duties of the said Office, the same shall devolve on the Vice President.

A debate immediately ensued as to whether the actual office of President "devolved" upon Vice President Tyler, or only its powers and duties. But in John Tyler's opinion, there was nothing to debate about the matter. Tyler arrived in Washington at 4:00 a.m. on April 6, 1841, and he had made up his own mind that he was now the President of the United States. He took the oath of office in his hotel room. The oath was administered by Judge William Cranch, Chief Judge of the United States Circuit Court of the District of Columbia, a judge who hailed from Massachusetts. However in Tyler's opinion, the oath was redundant to the oath he had already taken as Vice President. Out of an abundance of caution, he took the oath anyway.

Immediately after his inauguration, Tyler called Harrison's cabinet into a meeting. At that meeting, Secretary of State Daniel Webster informed Tyler of Harrison's practice of making decisions by a majority vote of cabinet. The cabinet expected Tyler to continue this practice, but Tyler is quoted as having told them:

I beg your pardon, gentlemen. I am very glad to have in my Cabinet such able statesmen as you have proved yourselves to be. And I shall be pleased to avail myself of your counsel and advice. But I can never consent to being dictated to as to what I shall or shall not do. I, as President, shall be responsible for my administration. I hope to have your hearty co-operation in carrying out its measures. So long as you see fit to do this, I shall be glad to have you with me. When you think otherwise, your resignations will be accepted.

Tyler delivered an inaugural address on April 9, 1841, but his assertion that he was President was not immediately accepted by opposition members in Congress. Congressman (and former President) John Quincy Adams, took the position that Tyler was merely a caretaker and should either be called "Acting President", or remain Vice President. Another who questioned Tyler's authority was Whig leader Henry Clay. Clay wanted to be the real power behind the presidency. He too saw Tyler as the "Vice-President" and considered his presidency as a mere "regency".

Tyler managed to convince a majority of legislators of his position and on June 1, 1841, both houses of Congress passed resolutions declaring Tyler the 10th President of the United States. In both houses of Congress, unsuccessful amendments were offered to strike the word "president" in favor of language suggesting a lesser rank such as "vice president" of "acting president", but these failed to pass.

John Tyler became the first U.S. Vice President to assume the office of President upon the death of the incumbent, establishing a precedent that would be followed seven times later. In 1967 Tyler's action of assuming both the full powers and the title of the presidency was legally codified in the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

Despite the Senate and House resolutions of support, Tyler's detractors like Clay and Adams, continued to refuse to accept Tyler as President. Tyler was referred to by many unflattering nicknames by his political enemies, including "His Accidency". However, Tyler never wavered from his conviction that he was the rightful President. When his political opponents sent correspondence to the White House addressed to him as "Vice President" or "Acting President," Tyler had it returned unopened.

At first he was in agreement with some of his party's economic policies. For example he signed into law a bill granting "squatters" rights to settlers on public land, a new bankruptcy law, and he also repealed the Independent Treasury that his predecessor Martin Van Buren had signed. But on the issue of banking, Tyler was soon at odds with the Congressional Whigs. The nation was still suffering from "the Panic of 1837", a significant recession. Twice Henry Clay had steered legislation through Congress for for a national banking act, and each time Tyler used his veto to kill the legislation, even though the second bill supposedly had been tailored to meet his stated objections in the first veto. Tyler proposed an alternative fiscal plan to known as the "Exchequer", but Clay was opposed to the idea, in part because Clay did not want to give Tyler stature to oppose Clay's bid for the Presidency in 1844.

On September 11, 1841, after the second bank veto, all of the members of the cabinet entered Tyler's office one by one and resigned, an action orchestrated by Clay, who hoped to force Tyler's resignation. The exception was Secretary of State Daniel Webster, who remained to finalize what became the 1842 Webster-Ashburton Treaty, and also to demonstrate his independence from Clay. On September 13, when the President did not resign, the Whigs in Congress expelled Tyler from the party. Tyler was heavily criticized in Whig newspapers and received hundreds of letters threatening his assassination. Whigs in Congress even refused to allocate funds for the repair of the White House, which had fallen into a terrible state of disrepair.

By mid-1841, the federal government faced a projected budget deficit of $11 million. Tyler saw the answer to the problem as being higher tariffs, but he wished to stay within the 20% rate created under the 1833 Compromise Tariff. He supported a plan to give to the states any revenue from the sales of public land, as an emergency measure to manage the states' growing debt, even though this would cut federal revenue. The Whigs also supported high protectionist tariffs and national funding of state infrastructure, and so Tyler and Congress were able to reach a compromise. The Distribution Act of 1841 created a distribution program, which put a ceiling on tariffs at 20 percent and increased tariffs to that level on previously low-taxed goods.

Despite these measures, by March 1842 it had become clear that the federal government was still in dire fiscal straits. Tyler believed that it would be necessary to override the Compromise Tariff of 1833 and raise rates above the 20 percent limit. This would require suspending the distribution program, with all revenues from the sale of federal lands going to the federal government. But the Whig Congress would not raise tariffs in a way that would affect the distribution of funds to states. In June 1842 they passed two bills that raised tariffs and extended the distribution program. Tyler felt that it was wrong to continue distribution at a time when federal revenue shortage required increasing the tariff, so he vetoed both bills. The Whigs were furious with Tyler and Congress tried again to raise tariffs but keep the distribution program, combining the two into one bill. Tyler vetoed it again, to the outrage of the Whigs in Congress.

This time the Whigs were unable to override Tyler veto. Something still had to be done about the huge deficit so Congress passed a bill restoring tariffs to 1832 levels and ending the distribution program. Tyler signed the bills.

Shortly after the tariff vetoes, Whigs in the House of Representatives initiated the first impeachment proceedings against a president in American history. It was clear to most reasonable persons that the grounds required under the Constitution for impeachment were lacking and the attempt was purely political. But until the presidency of the Andrew Jackson, Presidents rarely vetoed bills, and then generally on constitutional rather than policy grounds. Tyler's actions also went against the Whigs' idea that the president should allow Congress to make policy decisions. Representative John Minor Botts of Virginia, who was a political opponent of Tyler, introduced a resolution on July 10, 1842. It alleged several charges against the President and called for a nine-member committee to investigate his behavior, with the expectation of a formal impeachment recommendation. But even Henry Clay found this measure to be too much, though he said that he considered Tyler's impeachment to be "inevitable". The Botts bill was tabled until the following January, when it was rejected, 127−83.

A House select committee headed by former President John Quincy Adams, who was then a member of Congress, condemned Tyler's use of the veto and assailed his character. Adams was an ardent abolitionist, and disliked Tyler for being a slaveholder. The Adams committee's report did not formally recommend impeachment, but it spoke of the possibility. In August 1842, by a vote of 98–90, the House endorsed the committee's report. Adams sponsored a constitutional amendment to change the two-thirds requirement in each house to override a veto to a simple majority, but neither house passed such a measure.

The Whigs were unable to pursue further impeachment proceedings in the subsequent 28th Congress, as in the mid-term elections of 1842 they lost control of the House (although they retained a majority in the Senate). The 1840 census had resulted in the size of the House of Representatives being reduced by 19 seats. The expulsion of Tyler from the party hurt the Whigs in the midterms. Tyler was now a president without a party. He was disliked by politicians from both the Whigs and the Democrats and was unpopular with voters from both parties. But the lack of a sitting president from their party left the Whigs divided and in disarray. The economy was improving from the Panic of 1837, but the Whigs did not get credit for this. Rural voters favored the Democrats, rejecting the Whigs economic nationalism and distrusting their desire for a national bank.

In the midterms the Whig Party lost 69 seats in the House. In the last election the had held a majority of 142 seats to 98 for the Democrats. After the midterms, the Democrats held 147 seats compared to 72 for the Democrats. The loss of almost half of their House delegation was a blow to the Whigs. The Whigs also lost three senate seats, but held on to a slim majority of 27 to 23 in the senate (down from 30 to 20).

Tyler harbored visions of being re-elected as President in 1844 either as a Democrat or as the leader of a new party. He attempted to use patronage to gather support and pressed for the annexation of Texas. But Democrats did not trust him because he had once been a Jacksonian Democrat, only to jump ship both on Jackson and on the Democrats, to become a Whig. He abandoned his plans to run as a third party candidate after realizing the futility of such a plan and after receiving assurances from an aging Andrew Jackson, acting an an elder stateman for his party, that Democrats would not disparage Tyler in the coming presidential campaign.

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While John Tyler is a complicated study as President, he does deserve credit for standing up to congress, for asserting the rights of a Vice-President to assume the full mantle of the Presidency upon the death or resignation of the President, and for expanding the use of the power of the veto. He also deserves credit for refusing to let the office of the Presidency become the property of congress, and in doing so he strengthened an important component in the nation's system of checks and balances, making it clear that the Executive is a separate but equal branch of government.

Mid-Term Elections: 1970

Richard Nixon became President of the United States on January 20, 1969, marking one of the greatest political comebacks in history. After having failed to win the presidency in 1960 and the governorship of California in 1962, a petulant Nixon had told the press that they wouldn't "have Nixon to kick around" any more. He was wrong. He entered the Oval Office as president eight years later than he had hoped, and during turbulent times. The nation was losing the War in Vietnam, and the war had become unpopular in the media and in the minds of the public. The nation was awash with protests and the issue of race was becoming a divisive one. Crime was increasing and the United States was losing international prestige as pessimism was on the rise.


In his inaugural address, Nixon declared the words that would one day grace his tombstone: "The greatest honor that history can bestow is the title of peacemaker." Nixon said that his presidency would usher in an era of "Détente", the easing of tensions among super-powers. The following day, speaking to a group of his former campaign workers, he promised that he would wake up early and go to sleep late in order to confront the challenges facing the nation. Later that month, after naming his formal political rival George W. Romney to the post of Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Nixon visited a section of Washington DC with a predominant African-American population that had been torn apart by riots during the previous year. He stood in front of Jimmie's Pool Room early that morning and shook hands with the crowd. One man referred to the President as his "soul brother". He also appointed a Democrat, future New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, as his White House Urban Affairs Advisor Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

It was on the international stage that Nixon was most interested in however. On February 3, it was announced that Nixon planned to visit a number of western European countries in the next two months. Three days later he sought promises from the nation's military commanders concerning the safety of South Vietnam prior to agreeing to troop withdrawals in Vietnam. On February 10, Nixon's Press secretary Ron Ziegler announced that Nixon would travel to West Berlin, despite plans by East Germany to limit routes to the city due to the upcoming West German presidential election. On the same day Nixon hosted a White House state dinner honoring Australian Prime Minister Robert Menzies, who was visiting Washington. Later that month Nixon traveled to Europe, vising Great Britain, West Germany, and spending the largest amount of time in France, meeting with President Charles de Gaulle.

In late March of 1969, Nixon also spoke to a luncheon of the National Association of Broadcasters, where he told the group that private negotiations were taking place on the subject of peace in Vietnam, but that he could not release details of the talks. Nixon began the month of April by telling the nation, through his Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird, that South Vietnam would see a reduction in the number of B-52 bombing missions. Laird also announced that peace negotiations connected to Vietnam were taking place, and that "signs of progress" have occurred.

But the war would ultimately take its toll on Nixon's popularity. At the time Nixon took office, there were over 500,000 American soldiers in Southeast Asia. Over 30,000 U.S. military personnel serving in the Vietnam War had been killed since 1961, with approximately half of those deaths occurring in 1968. The war became more widely unpopular in the United States. Anti-war protests were taking place on a regular basis and these sometimes became violent. Nixon wanted to end the American role in it without the appearance of an American defeat. In mid-1969, Nixon began efforts to negotiate peace with the North Vietnamese, but negotiators were unable to reach an agreement. With the failure of the peace talks, Nixon implemented a strategy of "Vietnamization." This consisted of increased U.S. aid and Vietnamese troops taking on a greater combat role in the war. He began phased troop withdrawals by the end of 1969, sapping the strength of the domestic anti-war movement.

In early 1970, Nixon sent U.S. and South Vietnamese soldiers into Cambodia to attack North Vietnamese bases, expanding the ground war out of Vietnam for the first time. He had previously approved a secret B-52 carpet bombing campaign of North Vietnamese positions in Cambodia in March 1969 (code-named Operation Menu), without the consent of Cambodian leader Norodom Sihanouk. These incursions into Cambodia were met with intense disapproval and increased anti-war protests. One of these, known as the Kent State shootings, took place on May 4, 1970 when members of the Ohio National Guard opened fire on protesters and killed unarmed Kent State University Students and wounded nine others. The killings took place during a protest against the expanding involvement of the Vietnam War into neutral Cambodia by United States military forces. The incident marked the first time that a student had been killed in an anti-war gathering in United States history. Twenty-eight National Guard soldiers fired approximately 67 rounds over a period of 13 seconds. The students killed were Allison Beth Krause, 19, Jeffrey Glenn Miller, 20, and Sandra Lee Scheuer, who died on the scene. William Knox Schroeder, 19, was pronounced dead at Robinson Memorial Hospital shortly afterward.

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When the 1970 mid-term elections were held on November 3 to elect the members of the 92nd United States Congress, voters had enough of the Vietnam War, and had lost faith in Nixon's ability to broker a peace agreement. Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew campaigned heavily for Republican candidates. In an October speech he declared, "My friends, I say that the answer to those that engage in disruption--to those that shout their filthy slogans, to those that try to shout down speakers--is not to answer in kind, but go to the polls on election day, and in the quiet of that ballot box, stand up and be counted: the great silent majority of America."

Nixon's appeal failed. The Democratic Party retained its Senate majority and increased its majority in the House. In the House of Representatives, the Democrats picked up twelve seats at the expense of the Republican Party. Democrats won 255 seats in the House, to 180 for Republicans. In the Senate, Republicans picked up two seats and James L. Buckley won election as a member of the Conservative Party of New York. Democrats held 54 seats in the senate to 44 for Republicans, with Buckley and one other independent.

Nixon began his presidency appearing to be someone with a considerable amount of ability and promise on the international stage, as well as someone not adverse to making progress on number of issues typically considered to be within the province of liberals. But as the war dragged on and the economy worsened, and as Nixon became more fixated with his re-election and with getting even with his political enemies, his presidency would take on a much darker appearance.

Martin Luther King Day

Today the Martin Luther King Day holiday is being celebrated. April 4th, 2018 marked the 50th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination and later that month I had the opportunity to visit Memphis and tour the Civil Rights Museum and view the preserved Lorraine Motel where Dr. King died. I thought it fitting to day to repost the entry in this community that was posted on April 4, 2018.

On Thursday, April 4, 1968, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed in Memphis, Tennessee while standing on the second floor of the Lorraine Motel. Dr. King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, and was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. CST. He had been a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement, famous for his advocacy of nonviolence in seeking to achieve his goals.

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In 1968, Dr. King and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (the SCLC) had organized a project known as the "Poor People's Campaign". Its focus was to address issues of economic justice. King traveled across various locations in the south to assemble what he described as "a multiracial army of the poor". The plan was for the group to march on Washington to engage in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol until Congress created an "economic bill of rights" for poor Americans. In advance of the campaign, King had published his final book, entitled Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? In the book, Dr. King set out his views on how to address social issues and poverty, and called for a guaranteed basic income. The goal of the proposed march on Washington, D.C. was to demand economic aid to the poorest communities of the United States. It would urge government to invest in rebuilding America's cities. King said that he believed that Congress had shown "hostility to the poor" by spending "military funds with alacrity and generosity" while Congress doled out "poverty funds with miserliness." He also noted systematic flaws of "racism, poverty, militarism and materialism". King said that "reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced."

Prior to his assassination, King had received frequent death threats, and displayed a fearless and fatalistic attitude. He said that his death would not stop the struggle for equal rights. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, King told his wife Coretta, "This is what is going to happen to me also. I keep telling you, this is a sick society."

In early 1968 King traveled to Memphis, Tennessee, in support of striking African American city sanitation workers. The workers had staged a walkout on February 11, 1968, to protest unequal wages and working conditions imposed by Mayor Henry Loeb. At the time, Memphis paid black workers significantly lower wages than whites. Several sanitation workers had been killed on the job due to unsafe working conditions. These were mostly African-American workers. There were other glaring disparities in working conditions. White workers were paid even if they stayed home during bad weather, while African-American workers were not.

On April 3, King returned to Memphis to address a gathering at the Mason Temple, which was the headquarters of the Church of God in Christ. His airline flight to Memphis was delayed by a bomb threat, but he arrived in time to make his speech, which had been dubbed the "I've Been to the Mountaintop" address. In the speech he referred to the bomb threat he had received, telling the crowd:

"And then I got to Memphis. And some began to say the threat, or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers? Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! And so I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!"

On Thursday, April 4, 1968, King was staying in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. The motel was owned by businessman Walter Bailey and named after Bailey's wife. Reverend Ralph Abernathy told the House Select Committee on Assassinations that he and King had stayed in room 306 at the Lorraine Motel so often that it was known as the "King–Abernathy Suite". King's last words were reported to have been something he said to musician Ben Branch, who was scheduled to perform that night at a planned event. King said, "Ben, make sure you play 'Take My Hand, Precious Lord' in the meeting tonight. Play it real pretty." King then went out onto the balcony and was standing near his room when he was struck at 6:01 p.m. by a single .30-06 bullet fired from a Remington Model 760 rifle. The bullet entered through King's right cheek, breaking his jaw and several vertebrae as it traveled down his spinal cord. The bullet severed his jugular vein before lodging in his shoulder. The force of the shot ripped off King's necktie.

Shortly after the shot was fired, witnesses saw a man, later believed to be James Earl Ray, fleeing from a rooming house across the street from the Lorraine Motel. Ray had been renting a room there. Police later found a package dumped close to the site, which included a rifle and binoculars, both with Ray's fingerprints. Ray had purchased the rifle using a false name six days earlier. A worldwide manhunt followed and Ray was arrested at London's Heathrow Airport two months later.

Ralph Abernathy heard the shot from inside the motel room and ran to the balcony to find King on the deck, bleeding profusely. Andrew Young, a colleague from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference discovered that King still had a pulse. King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, where doctors opened his chest and performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation. King never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead at 7:05 p.m. According to King's biographer Taylor Branch, the autopsy revealed that despite being aged just 39, King's heart was in the condition of a 60-year-old man, the result of the stresses of his 13 years in the Civil Rights Movement.

Dr. King's assassination was seen by some as a flaw in the strategy of nonviolence. But for many others, it reaffirmed the need to carry on Dr. King's King's work. Leaders within the SCLC confirmed they would carry on the Poor People's Campaign

That night, Senator Robert F. Kennedy was in Indiana campaigning for his bid to become the Democratic Party's nominee for President. He had learned about the shooting just before before boarding a plane to Indianapolis. Kennedy learned that King had died when he landed in Indianapolis. His campaign staff gave him speaking notes, but he refused them. The Indianapolis chief of police recommended that Kennedy not address the crowd because he could not provide protection, but Kennedy decided to go ahead with his speech. Standing on a flatbed truck, Kennedy was the first to tell the audience King had died. After many in the crowd expressed emotions of grief, Kennedy told them:

"For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and mistrust of the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I would only say that I can also feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man."

Kennedy never spoken publicly about his brother's death before. He quoted a poem by the Greek playwright Aeschylus: "Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God." He asked the audience members to pray for the King family and for the country. Later that night as violence broke out in other major cities across the country, none occurred in Indianapolis. Kennedy canceled all of his scheduled campaign appearances and had phone conversations with many leaders in the African-American community.

President Lyndon B. Johnson was in the Oval Office that evening, planning a meeting in Hawaii with Vietnam War military commanders. His press secretary George Christian informed him of King's death at 8:20 p.m. Johnson canceled the trip and directed Attorney General Ramsey Clark to investigate the assassination in Memphis. He made a personal call to King's wife, Coretta Scott King, and declared April 7 a national day of mourning, on which the U.S. flag would be flown at half-staff

Mrs. King had received an outpouring of condolences and a large number of telegrams, including one from Lee Harvey Oswald's mother, which she regarded as the one that touched her the most.

Colleagues of King in the Civil Rights Movement called for a nonviolent response to the assassination. James Farmer Jr. said: "Dr. King would be greatly distressed to find that his blood had triggered off bloodshed and disorder. I think instead the nation should be quiet; black and white, and we should be in a prayerful mood, which would be in keeping with his life." But more militant leaders called for a more aggressive response. Stokely Carmichael said, "White America killed Dr. King last night. She made it a whole lot easier for a whole lot of black people today. There no longer needs to be intellectual discussions, black people know that they have to get guns. White America will live to cry that she killed Dr. King last night. It would have been better if she had killed Rap Brown or Stokely Carmichael, but when she killed Dr. King, she lost." A nationwide wave of riots followed in more than 100 cities. After the assassination, the city of Memphis quickly settled the strike on favorable terms to the sanitation workers.

The next day, funeral rites for King were held in his hometown of Atlanta, Georgia at Ebenezer Baptist Church. The service was nationally televised. A funeral procession transported King's body for 3.5 miles through the streets of Atlanta, followed by more than 100,000 mourners, from the church to Morehouse College. A second service was held there before the burial.

Governor George Wallace of Alabama, known as a segregationist, described the assassination as a "senseless, regrettable act". However Georgia Governor Lester Maddox called King "an enemy of our country" and threatened to "personally raise" the state capitol flag back from half-staff. California Governor Ronald Reagan described the assassination as "a great tragedy that began when we began compromising with law and order and people started choosing which laws they'd break".

Dr. King's funeral was held on April 9th. A crowd of 300,000 attended and Vice President Hubert Humphrey represented the President. Dr. King's last sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church was played at the funeral.

Two months after assassinating King, James Earl Ray was captured at London's Heathrow Airport while trying to depart from the United Kingdom on a false Canadian passport in the name of Ramon George Sneyd. Ray was quickly extradited to Tennessee and charged with King's murder. Ray confessed to the assassination on March 10, 1969. On the advice of his attorney Percy Foreman, Ray took a guilty plea to avoid a conviction and potential death penalty. Ray was sentenced to a 99-year prison term. He recanted his confession three days later. Ray died in prison on April 23, 1998, at the age of 70 from kidney and liver failure.

Conspiracy theories abound as to Ray's guilt. In 2004, Jesse Jackson, who was with King when he was assassinated, said, "The fact is there were saboteurs to disrupt the march. Within our own organization, we found a very key person who was on the government payroll. So infiltration within, saboteurs from without and the press attacks. I will never believe that James Earl Ray had the motive, the money and the mobility to have done it himself. Our government was very involved in setting the stage for and I think the escape route for James Earl Ray." King's friend and colleague James Bevel put it more succinctly when he said: "There is no way a ten-cent white boy could develop a plan to kill a million-dollar black man."

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Dr. King's legacy endures and had surpassed that of the ardent segregationists who hated him. Martin Luther King Day was proclaimed a national holiday in his honor. It was probably Dr. King himself who most prophetically summarized how he is remembered in the sermon he gave at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on February 4, 1968, two months before his death, when he said:

"I'd like somebody to mention that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to give his life serving others. I'd like for somebody to say that day that Martin Luther King Jr. tried to love somebody.

"I want you to say that day that I tried to be right on the war question. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try to feed the hungry. I want you to be able to say that day that I did try in my life to clothe those who were naked. I want you to say on that day that I did try in my life to visit those who were in prison. And I want you to say that I tried to love and serve humanity.

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major. Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter. I won't have any money to leave behind. I won't have the fine and luxurious things of life to leave behind. But I just want to leave a committed life behind."