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January 29

In 1848, former US President John Winston Jones died on this day in Petersburg, Virginia. He was fifty-six years old.

President Jones passes awayFour years earlier, President John Tyler, who had himself been raised to the presidency by the death of his predecessor William Harrison, was killed by the explosion of an experimental cannon aboard the USS Princeton.

Tyler had no vice-president to succeed him, so the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Virginian John Winston Jones, assumed the high office.

President Jones, who had been planning on retiring, found that the power of the presidency was quite intoxicating, and used the influence he had as the incumbent to secure the Democratic Party's nomination for the 1844 elections. He won against the Whig candidate, Senator Henry Clay, in a hotly contested and close election. His stridently pro-Southern policies rubbed the northern states the wrong way, and Henry Clay, although a Southerner himself, used this disaffection to hobble Jones' power. The conflict between them is widely attributed to the shortening of Jones' life, something Clay expressed little remorse over in later years

When President Jones resigned due to ill health [1], his vice-president, James K. Polk, assumed office in the middle of a war with Mexico and widespread dissatisfaction with the government. Polk's mismanagement of the Mexican War led to a wave of secessions from states bordering Mexico, and the diminishment of the once-bright shining star of the US.