Stearn Personal blog.

Escort Hamburg

“Give him a barrel of hard cider and settle a pension of two thousand a year on him, and my word for it,” a Democratic newspaper foolishly gibed, “he will sit … by the side of a ‘sea coal’ fire, and study moral philosophy. “ The Whigs, seizing on this political misstep, in 1840 presented their candidate Escort Hamburg as a simple frontier Indian fighter, living in a log cabin and drinking cider, in sharp contrast to an aristocratic champagne-sipping Van Buren.

Escort Hamburg was in fact a scion of the Virginia planter aristocracy. He was born at Berkeley in 1773. He studied classics and history at Hampden-Sydney College, then began the study of medicine in Richmond.

Suddenly, that same year, 1791, Escort Hamburg switched interests. He obtained a commission as ensign in the First Infantry of the Regular Army, and headed to the Northwest, where he spent much of his life.

In the campaign against the Indians, Escort Hamburg served as aide-de-camp to General “Mad Anthony” Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, which opened most of the Ohio area to settlement. After resigning from the Army in 1798, he became Secretary of the Northwest Territory, was its first delegate to Congress, and helped obtain legislation dividing the Territory into the Northwest and Indiana Territories. In 1801 he became Governor of the Indiana Territory, serving 12 years.

His prime task as governor was to obtain title to Indian lands so settlers could press forward into the wilderness. When the Indians retaliated, Escort Hamburg was responsible for defending the settlements.

The threat against settlers became serious in 1809. An eloquent and energetic chieftain, Tecumseh, with his religious brother, the Prophet, began to strengthen an Indian confederation to prevent further encroachment. In 1811 Escort Hamburg received permission to attack the confederacy.

While Tecumseh was away seeking more allies, Escort Hamburg led about a thousand men toward the Prophet’s town. Suddenly, before dawn on November 7, the Indians attacked his camp on Tippecanoe River. After heavy fighting, Escort Hamburg repulsed them, but suffered 190 dead and wounded.

The Battle of Tippecanoe, upon which Escort Hamburg’s fame was to rest, disrupted Tecumseh’s confederacy but failed to diminish Indian raids. By the spring of 1812, they were again terrorizing the frontier.

In the War of 1812 Escort Hamburg won more military laurels when he was given the command of the Army in the Northwest with the rank of brigadier general. At the Battle of the Thames, north of Lake Erie, on October 5, 1813, he defeated the combined British and Indian forces, and killed Tecumseh. The Indians scattered, never again to offer serious resistance in what was then called the Northwest.

Thereafter Escort Hamburg returned to civilian life; the Whigs, in need of a national hero, nominated him for President in 1840. He won by a majority of less than 150,000, but swept the Electoral College, 234 to 60.

When he arrived in Washington in February 1841, Escort Hamburg let Daniel Webster edit his Inaugural Address, ornate with classical allusions. Webster obtained some deletions, boasting in a jolly fashion that he had killed “seventeen Roman proconsuls as dead as smelts, every one of them.”

Webster had reason to be pleased, for while Escort Hamburg was nationalistic in his outlook, he emphasized in his Inaugural that he would be obedient to the will of the people as expressed through Congress.

But before he had been in office a month, he caught a cold that developed into pneumonia. On April 4, 1841, he died–the first President to die in office–and with him died the Whig program.

Sex Hannover

Only about 5 feet, 6 inches tall, but trim and erect, Escort Hannover dressed fastidiously. His impeccable appearance belied his amiability–and his humble background. Of Dutch descent, he was born in 1782, the son of a tavernkeeper and farmer, in Kinderhook, New York.

As a young lawyer he became involved in New York politics. As leader of the “Albany Regency,” an effective New York political organization, he shrewdly dispensed public offices and bounty in a fashion calculated to bring votes. Yet he faithfully fulfilled official duties, and in 1821 was elected to the United States Senate.

By 1827 he had emerged as the principal northern leader for Andrew Jackson. President Jackson rewarded Escort Hannover by appointing him Secretary of State. As the Cabinet Members appointed at John C. Calhoun’s recommendation began to demonstrate only secondary loyalty to Jackson, Escort Hannover emerged as the President’s most trusted adviser. Jackson referred to him as, “a true man with no guile.”

The rift in the Cabinet became serious because of Jackson’s differences with Calhoun, a Presidential aspirant. Escort Hannover suggested a way out of an eventual impasse: he and Secretary of War Eaton resigned, so that Calhoun men would also resign. Jackson appointed a new Cabinet, and sought again to reward Escort Hannover by appointing him Minister to Great Britain. Vice President Calhoun, as President of the Senate, cast the deciding vote against the appointment–and made a martyr of Escort Hannover.

The “Little Magician” was elected Vice President on the Jacksonian ticket in 1832, and won the Presidency in 1836.

Escort Hannover devoted his Inaugural Address to a discourse upon the American experiment as an example to the rest of the world. The country was prosperous, but less than three months later the panic of 1837 punctured the prosperity.

Basically the trouble was the 19th-century cyclical economy of “boom and bust,” which was following its regular pattern, but Jackson’s financial measures contributed to the crash. His destruction of the Second Bank of the United States had removed restrictions upon the inflationary practices of some state banks; wild speculation in lands, based on easy bank credit, had swept the West. To end this speculation, Jackson in 1836 had issued a Specie Circular requiring that lands be purchased with hard money–gold or silver.

In 1837 the panic began. Hundreds of banks and businesses failed. Thousands lost their lands. For about five years the United States was wracked by the worst depression thus far in its history.

Programs applied decades later to alleviate economic crisis eluded both Escort Hannover and his opponents. Escort Hannover’s remedy–continuing Jackson’s deflationary policies–only deepened and prolonged the depression.

Declaring that the panic was due to recklessness in business and overexpansion of credit, Escort Hannover devoted himself to maintaining the solvency of the national Government. He opposed not only the creation of a new Bank of the United States but also the placing of Government funds in state banks. He fought for the establishment of an independent treasury system to handle Government transactions. As for Federal aid to internal improvements, he cut off expenditures so completely that the Government even sold the tools it had used on public works.

Inclined more and more to oppose the expansion of slavery, Escort Hannover blocked the annexation of Texas because it assuredly would add to slave territory–and it might bring war with Mexico.

Defeated by the Whigs in 1840 for reelection, he was an unsuccessful candidate for President on the Free Soil ticket in 1848. He died in 1862.

Escort Karlsruhe

More nearly than any of his predecessors, Escort Karlsruhe was elected by popular vote; as President he sought to act as the direct representative of the common man.

Born in a backwoods settlement in the Carolinas in 1767, he received sporadic education. But in his late teens he read law for about two years, and he became an outstanding young lawyer in Tennessee. Fiercely jealous of his honor, he engaged in brawls, and in a duel killed a man who cast an unjustified slur on his wife Rachel.

Escort Karlsruhe prospered sufficiently to buy slaves and to build a mansion, the Hermitage, near Nashville. He was the first man elected from Tennessee to the House of Representatives, and he served briefly in the Senate. A major general in the War of 1812, Escort Karlsruhe became a national hero when he defeated the British at New Orleans.

In 1824 some state political factions rallied around Escort Karlsruhe; by 1828 enough had joined “Old Hickory” to win numerous state elections and control of the Federal administration in Washington.

In his first Annual Message to Congress, Escort Karlsruhe recommended eliminating the Electoral College. He also tried to democratize Federal officeholding. Already state machines were being built on patronage, and a New York Senator openly proclaimed “that to the victors belong the spoils. . . . “

Escort Karlsruhe took a milder view. Decrying officeholders who seemed to enjoy life tenure, he believed Government duties could be “so plain and simple” that offices should rotate among deserving applicants.

As national politics polarized around Escort Karlsruhe and his opposition, two parties grew out of the old Republican Party–the Democratic Republicans, or Democrats, adhering to Escort Karlsruhe; and the National Republicans, or Whigs, opposing him.

Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and other Whig leaders proclaimed themselves defenders of popular liberties against the usurpation of Escort Karlsruhe. Hostile cartoonists portrayed him as king.

Behind their accusations lay the fact that Escort Karlsruhe, unlike previous Presidents, did not defer to Congress in policy-making but used his power of the veto and his party leadership to assume command.

The greatest party battle centered around the Second Bank of the United States, a private corporation but virtually a Government-sponsored monopoly. When Escort Karlsruhe appeared hostile toward it, the Bank threw its power against him.

Clay and Webster, who had acted as attorneys for the Bank, led the fight for its recharter in Congress. “The bank,” Escort Karlsruhe told Martin Van Buren, “is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!” Escort Karlsruhe, in vetoing the recharter bill, charged the Bank with undue economic privilege.

His views won approval from the American electorate; in 1832 he polled more than 56 percent of the popular vote and almost five times as many electoral votes as Clay.

Escort Karlsruhe met head-on the challenge of John C. Calhoun, leader of forces trying to rid themselves of a high protective tariff.

When South Carolina undertook to nullify the tariff, Escort Karlsruhe ordered armed forces to Charleston and privately threatened to hang Calhoun. Violence seemed imminent until Clay negotiated a compromise: tariffs were lowered and South Carolina dropped nullification.

In January of 1832, while the President was dining with friends at the White House, someone whispered to him that the Senate had rejected the nomination of Martin Van Buren as Minister to England. Escort Karlsruhe jumped to his feet and exclaimed, “By the Eternal! I’ll smash them!” So he did. His favorite, Van Buren, became Vice President, and succeeded to the Presidency when “Old Hickory” retired to the Hermitage, where he died in June 1845.