The Traitor Tyler, Again

Tyler receiving the news of Harrison's death
Tyler receiving the news of Harrison’s death


Tune.— A wet sheet and a flowing sea.

When Harrison, the good and brave,
Was laid upon his bier,
The Whigs then look’d on me to save
The cause they held most dear;
The hero could not die without
A parting word for me:
He bade me truly carry out
The system of the free.

When Harrison the good and brave,
Was laid upon his bier,
The Whigs then look’d on me to save
The cause they held most dear.
These dying words do truly tell
How plain he did foresee.
That when to me his office fell,
All sense with it would flee;
I knew I dare not then proclaim
A word that would appall:
I’d strove high honors to obtain
And hid my views from all.

When Harrison, &c.

I promis’d fair, and told them then
That I would carry out
The measures those true hearted men,
Had warr’d’so long about,
Though fain a mask I would retain,
My evil heart to hide,
That awful Bank-bill when it came
I slipped it quite aside.

When Harrison, &c.

When first to me the bill was brought
I pious scruples feigned,
When changed to suit my ev’ry thought,
The veto power I claim’d ;
Another term I wish’d to run,
And so without delay,
Forgetting all the Whigs had done,
Their cause I did betray.

When Harrison, &c.

But they are just what they pretend —
My conduct they despise-
Their rigid virtue would not bend
To aught beneath the skies;
My native state it knew so well
How oft I’ve “jump’d just so,”
To me it bid a last farewell
A long, “long time ago.”
When Harrison, &c.

I’m like the old Egyptian king
My heart’s so hard to-day,
All o’er the land a curse I bring,
Its glory’s pass’d away;
Jackson did bad, and Van still worse,
And I too bad to name,
On history’s page we’ll stand accurs’d —
Our deeds its pages stain.

When Harrison, &c.

From zenith’s heights to nadir’s view
We’ve brought our own fair land.
The merchant, tradesman, farmer too
Have suffer’d by our hand.
The boasted blessings of free trade
We now have fairly prov’d.
Distress o’er all our land has made
Y«t we cannot be mov’d.

When Harrison, &c.

In vain I’ve reached ambition’s height —
I can’t retain my throne,
And soon, alas! I’ll sink in night —
No party will me own;
There’s not a thought to give relief
When all my power is gone,
“The worm, the canker, and the grief”
Will prey on me alone.

When Harrison, &c.

In wrath the nation speaks, “Depart!”—
Its tones like thunder seem!
I’ve acted a disgraceful part
Since President I’ve been;
Earth mourns! for Jackson, Van, and I
Have rul’d with tyrant’s sway,
The brightest land beneath the sky; —
Its freedom cast away.
But Henry Clay, he is a match,
For Jackson, Van and me.
The chains we’ve forge’d he’ll soon despatch,
And set the people free.


When William Henry Harrison died after just a month in office, Tyler had himself sworn in as president, and set the precedent that the Vice President becomes president in fact; he returned letters addressed to “Acting President Tyler” unopened.

Despite the fact that Tyler was a Whig, he believed that the Whig idea of a central bank was unconstitutional and vetoed a bill creating one.   When congress passed a second bank bill, Tyler vetoed that as well. Tyler’s entire cabinet, led by Henry Clay (and with the exception of Secretary of State Daniel Webster) resigned.

Congress passed two bills for higher tariffs;  Tyler vetoed them both.  (That’s what the line about the merchant, tradesman, farmer too suffering under free trade is all about.)  The Whigs began impeachment proceedings, which went nowhere.

“Jump’d just so,” is a line from the blackface minstrel song, “Jim Crow.”

“The worm, the canker, and the grief” is a line by Byron, from “On This Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year.”

Jackson is Andrew Jackson, Van is Martin Van Buren, the Democratic presidents of the 1830s.

Yet More Filler from the Song Book


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