Collusion: A presidential tradition

tags: Russia, Trump, John Tyler, collusion

Stephen F. Knott is a professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College.

Allegations of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia have sparked charges and countercharges between the administration and its critics, and led to the appointment of a special counsel whose investigation has yet to run its course. But if Donald Trump colluded with Russia, it wouldn’t be the first time that a president colluded with a foreign power. The first time such collusion occurred, in the 19th century, the presidency had limited authority and a much smaller bureaucracy. That didn’t stop President John Tyler from manipulating and ignoring laws for political advantage, however. The difference: For Tyler, colluding with foreign powers was about averting war, not winning an election.

On April 4, 1841, following the death of President William Henry Harrison, Vice President John Tyler became the nation’s 10th president. The new president was immediately confronted with the possibility of war with Britain, a prospect he hoped to avoid. Such a war would have marked the third such conflict in a little over 60 years.

The dispute in 1841 was over boundaries between northern Maine and the province of New Brunswick in British Canada. Tensions had flared during the somewhat farcical Aroostook War of 1838-1839, and while no actual combat broke out, militia were in place on both sides. Armed conflict seemed inevitable.

Fighting a war with the world’s greatest superpower to seize control of hundreds of thousands of acres of trees in northern Maine was hardly a top priority for an “accidental” president in his first year in office. But standing up to Britain was important to the people of Maine and the nation. Animosity toward Britain appeared to be almost inbred in the American character.

Many Americans saw Britain as an “imperialist bully” or even an “evil empire.” At the same time, the notion of “manifest destiny” animated the American imagination, as it was assumed that North America was ours, and the time for the Old World to depart the New World was long overdue. ...

Read entire article at The Washington Post

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