voa慢速英语:American History Series: The Brief Presidency of ...

发表时间:2009-01-29内容来源:VOA英语学习网

American history Series: The Brief Presidency of William Henry Harrison

Welcome to THE MAKING OF A NATIONAmerican history in VOA special english.

In November of eighteen forty, the American people elected their ninth president, William Henry Harrison. The election of the retired general was expected. Still, it was a great victory for the Whig Party and a sharply felt loss for the opposing party, the Democrats. They failed to put their man, President Martin Van Buren, in the White House for a second term.


Whig leaders made most of Harrison's campaign decisions. Some of those leaders, especially senators Henry Clay of Kentucky and Daniel Webster of Massachusetts, believed they could control the newly elected president. But Harrison saw what was happening. When he made a trip to Kentucky, he made it clear that he did not want to meet with Clay. He felt that such a meeting might seem to show that Clay was the real power in the new administration.

But Clay made sure that Harrison was publicly invited to visit him. The newly elected president could not say no to such an invitation. He spent several days at Clay's home in Lexington.

This week in our series, Maurice Joyce and Jack Moyles discuss the presidency of William Henry Harrison.

VOICE ONE:

Daniel Webster, without even being asked, wrote an inaugural speech for the new president. Harrison thanked him, but said he already had written his speech. Harrison spoke for more than one and a half hours. He gave the speech outside, on the front steps of the Capitol building.

It was the coldest inaugural day in the nation's history. But Harrison did not wear a coat or hat. Harrison caught a cold, probably from standing so long outside in the bitter weather of inaugural day. Rest was his best treatment. But Harrison was so busy, he had little time to rest.

VOICE TWO:

Hundreds of people demanded to see the new president. They wanted jobs with the government. Everywhere he turned, Harrison was met by crowds of job-hungry people. And there was a problem that worried him. Henry Clay and Daniel Webster were fighting each other for power in the new administration.

Harrison had offered Clay any job he wanted in the cabinet. But Clay chose to stay in the Senate. Harrison then gave the job of Secretary of State to Webster. He also gave Webster's supporters the best government jobs in New York City.

VOICE ONE:

Clay did not like this. And he told the president so. Harrison accused Clay of trying to tell him -- the president -- how to do his job. Later, he told Clay that he wanted no further words with him. He said any future communications between them would have to be written.

Harrison's health grew worse. Late in March eighteen forty-one, his cold turned into pneumonia. Doctors did everything they could to cure him. But nothing seemed to help. On April fourth, after exactly one month as president, William Henry Harrison died.

Vice President John Tyler was then at his home in Williamsburg, Virginia. Secretary of State Webster sent his son Fletcher on horseback to tell Tyler of the president's death. The vice President was shocked. He had not even known that Harrison was sick. Two hours after he received the news, Tyler was on his way to Washington. He reached the capital just before sunrise on April sixth, eighteen forty-one.

VOICE TWO:

There was some question about Tyler's position. This was the first time that a president had died in office. No one was really sure if the Constitution meant that the vice president was to become president or only acting president. Webster and the other members of the cabinet decided that Tyler should be president and serve until the next election. Tyler also had decided this.

Tyler was sworn-in as the tenth president on April sixth. He was fifty-one years old. No other man had become president at such an early age. Tyler was born and grew up in the same part of Virginia as William Henry Harrison. His father was a wealthy planter and judge who had been a friend of Thomas Jefferson. John completed studies at the college of William and Mary, and became a lawyer. He entered politics and served in the Virginia legislature. Then he was elected a member of Congress and, later, governor of Virginia. He also served as a United States senator.


VOICE ONE:

Tyler believed strongly in the rights of the states. As a congressman and a senator, he had voted against every attempt to give more power to the federal government. Tyler's political beliefs were strongly opposed to those of the northern and western Whigs. Henry Clay firmly supported the ideas of a national bank, a protective tax on imports, and federal spending to improve transportation in the states. Tyler was just as firmly against these ideas.

There was something else. Clay expected to be the Whig Party's presidential candidate in eighteen forty-four. If he supported Tyler, then the new president might become too strong politically and win a second term in the White House.

VOICE TWO:

Tyler quickly established his independence after becoming president. Webster told him that President Harrison had let the cabinet make the decisions of his administration. He said Harrison had only one vote...the same as any member of the cabinet. Webster asked if Tyler wanted this to continue.

"I do not," said Tyler. "I would like to keep President Harrison's cabinet. But I, alone, will make the decisions. If the cabinet members do not approve of this, let them resign."

Tyler wanted to change the cabinet, but could not do so immediately. All but two members of the cabinet were supporters of Senator Clay. Tyler wanted to put these men out and appoint men who would support him. But if he did this immediately, it would split the party. He would have to wait.

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