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John Tyler

Mediterranean Ship’s Passport
Issued on December 9, 1842

This passport was issued in New Bedford to the vessel Phenia, which was under the command of James L. Bassett and had a carrying capacity of 423 16/95 tons (known as “burthen” or “burden”). There is no information on destination or cargo, but the Phenia carried no guns and had a crew of 30 men. A crew of this size would be far more than was needed to sail the ship, so it strongly indicates this was another New Bedford whaling ship.

This Mediterranean passport was signed by President John Tyler who was the first Vice president to succeed to the Presidency after the death of his predecessor, in this case William Henry Harrison, who was only in office from March 4, 1841 until his death of pneumonia on April 4, 1841. Tyler, in his one term from April 4, 1841 to March 4, 1845, proved himself a strong President.  He vetoed bills his Whig supporters wanted when he thought the bills were flawed. Within six months he was expelled from the Whig party and all of his cabinet resigned except Daniel Webster, then Secretary of State. Daniel Webster also signed this document. Webster had been appointed by William Henry Harrison and was in place when Tyler became President. Webster had been a member of the U.S. House of Representative and the U.S. Senate before his appointment as Secretary of State. In his time serving under Tyler, he managed the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842 with Great Britain, which resolved a number of issues and began a period of good relations between the two countries. He resigned as Secretary during a disagreement with President Tyler over the President’s strong desire to annex Texas, which Webster opposed. The document is signed by the Collector of Customs in New Bedford in this period, William H. Allen, who had been appointed by President Harrison and was asked to resign by President Tyler.

This passport was printed on vellum and as is typical of Mediterranean passports, the top is scalloped where the top portion was cut off and sent to United States consuls in the Mediterranean for later matching with the passport held by the ship. It bears the Great Seal of the United State on the lower left.

[Description provided by J. Revell Carr, former President and Director, Mystic Seaport: The Museum of American and the Sea]