Nathaniel Pitcher Tallmadge, 8 Feb 1795 - 2 Nov 1864
Anna Tuthill Harrison Taylor, 1813 - ?
Image: 22.9 x 33.5cm (9 x 13 3/16")
Mat: 40.6 x 55.9cm (16 x 22")
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Born Berkeley, James City County, Virginia
This deathbed scene, a format popular in the mid-nineteenth century, marks the passing of President William Henry Harrison, who caught pneumonia while giving a long inaugural address in bad weather. The words written on the paper—"Sir I wish you to understand the true principles of government. I wish them carried out. I ask nothing more"—were reputedly Harrison’s final instructions to Vice President John Tyler. In office only a month, the Whig Party’s Harrison had alienated the most powerful Whig in the Senate, Henry Clay, by selecting Clay’s rival, Daniel Webster, to be secretary of state. Harrison had quickly called Congress into session to consider a number of Whig proposals, but Clay, determined to dominate from the Senate, never acted on them. On assuming the presidency, Tyler, a Democrat from Virginia chosen as Harrison’s running mate to win southern support, opposed Harrison’s program. (Interestingly, neither Clay nor Tyler are depicted here.)