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Special Message

February 29, 1844

To the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States:

I have to perform the melancholy duty of announcing to the two Houses of Congress the death of the Hon. Abel P. Upshur, late Secretary of State, and the Hon. Thomas W. Gilmer, late Secretary of the Navy.

This most lamentable occurrence transpired on board the United States ship of war the Princeton on yesterday at about half past 4 o'clock in the evening, and proceeded from the explosion of one of the large guns of that ship.

The loss which the Government and the country have sustained by this deplorable event is heightened by the death at the same time and by the same cause of several distinguished persons and valuable citizens.

I shall be permitted to express my great grief at an occurrence which has thus suddenly stricken from my side two gentlemen upon whose advice I so confidently relied in the discharge of my arduous task of administering the office of the executive department, and whose services at this interesting period were of such vast importance.

In some relief of the public sorrow which must necessarily accompany this most painful event, it affords me much satisfaction to say that it was produced by no carelessness or inattention on the part of the officers and crew of the Princeton, but must be set down as one of those casualties which to a greater or less degree attend upon every service, and which are invariably incident to the temporal affairs of mankind. I will also add that it in no measure detracts from the value of the improvement contemplated in the construction of the Princeton or from the merits of her brave and distinguished commander and projector.


John Tyler, Special Message Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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