Why was it important to have a president in office rather than wait for the 1868 presidential election?

Earlier in the semester, we held a debate between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.  We then discussed what precedents George Washington set as president that were not specifically outlined in the Constitution.  We learned about different interpretations of the Constitution (such as strict vs. loose construction).  We then traced Thomas Jefferson’s decision to go against his strict interpretation to buy the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803.  This week we will learn that President William Henry Harrison died in office, paving the way for John Tyler to become president.  Johnson’s succession is referred to as the “Tyler precedent.”  The conclusion of this course covers Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, and Andrew Johnson’s succession to the presidency.  Last year was the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination.  Ford’s Theatre (where Lincoln was shot) has put together an online primary source document collection in commemoration. (Note: this coming year, February 2017, will be the 50th anniversary of the ratification of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment.)


Read the short primary source “Glorious News.  Lincoln and Seward Assassinated!” available at http://rememberinglincoln.fords.org/node/192 .  Focus on the transfer of presidential power and how the Tyler precedent fits in.  Is this Alabama Beacon article entirely factual?  Was William Seward in the line of succession?  Draw parallels between the two transfers of power (Harrison-Tyler and Lincoln-Johnson).  How was the political and cultural climate similar?  Different?  Why was it important to have a president in office rather than wait for the 1868 presidential election?  What did this suggest for future sudden transitions of presidential power?


A well-written and well-argued essay will make specific reference to the source and use outside sources to explain how that passage reflects broader trends in US History.  In your answer, you should synthesize material you have learned in the classroom and readings.  Please remember to have a thesis.  A thesis is the argument that you will prove in your essay using evidence (specific citations from the documents).



Your essay should be 2-3 pages long, double-spaced, in 12 pt. font.  2-3 pages will be about 650-800 words. Any shorter and you will not have enough space to do the assignment well. If you use a huge font or start halfway down the first page or do something else with the formatting, obviously you will have to use more pages to do the assignment.

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