John Tyler (1790-1862), tenth president of the United States, was the first vice president to succeed to the presidency. His administration was marked by great conflict over the Texas question.
John Tyler was born on March 29, 1790, at Greenway Plantation in Charles City County, Va. His father, John Tyler, was governor of Virginia and a judge of the U.S. District Court. Young Tyler attended several preparatory schools and graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1807. He then studied law and was licensed to practice at the age of 19.
At 21 Tyler was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates; he served from 1811 to 1815. He subsequently was elected to the Virginia Council of State, to the U.S. House of Representatives, to the governorship of Virginia, and to the U.S. Senate (1827-1834). During these years Tyler emerged as one of the chief proponents of the states'-rights doctrine. He opposed internal improvements at Federal expense, a tariff to protect native industries, and a national banking system.
Like most politics of his day, Tyler's political activities were molded by the confused party situation existing during the 1820s and 1830s, as the long-dominant Jeffersonian Republican party dissolved. In the election of 1828 Tyler supported Andrew Jackson but found himself in opposition to Jackson soon after the inauguration. Tyler was against the President's threat to use force against South Carolina in order to enforce the tariff nullified in 1832. Tyler also attacked Jackson for what he considered to be his high-handed way of withdrawing governmental deposits from the Bank of the United States. Oddly, by alienating himself from the administration, Tyler found himself aligned with Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and the other Northern nationalists who had created the Whig party.
In 1839 the Whigs, whose presidential candidate was William Henry Harrison of Ohio, sought to balance the ticket with Tyler as their vice-presidential candidate. Because his views bore little relationship to those of the rest of his party, Tyler skillfully sidestepped the major issues during the campaign. Despite his presence on the ticket, the Whigs lost Virginia; however, they won nationally.
Harrison's death a month after his inauguration created a minor constitutional crisis and a major political one. Tyler was the first vice president to succeed to the presidency, and the question was raised as to whether he was actually president or just the vice president acting as president. Tyler established the precedent that the vice president succeeded to the powers and honors of the office as if he had been elected in his own right.
Although Tyler inherited governmental powers, he lost control of his party. As a misplaced Democrat within the Whig party, he had great difficulty with the congressional leaders of his party, especially Henry Clay. The split was most evident on three issues: the Bank of the United States, the tariff, and a proposal to distribute among the states the revenue secured from the sale of public lands. Tyler twice vetoed the charter passed by Congress for the creation of a Third Bank of the United States. He made several positive suggestions, however, for a substitute—including creation of a Bank of the District of Columbia with less power than that of the Second Bank of the United States. Tyler also vetoed a tariff and distribution bill that he contended violated the principles of the compromise tariff of 1833 (which had ended South Carolina's nullification threat).
Tyler's increasing isolation from the Whig party was hastened by the resignation on Sept. 11, 1841, of all the members of the Cabinet appointed by Harrison, except Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Webster remained until May 1843 in order to complete negotiations with England over a long-standing boundary dispute. Tyler's final Cabinet was composed mainly of Southerners, including John C. Calhoun as secretary of state.
The latter part of Tyler's tenure was dominated by the Texas question. After Texas won its independence from Mexico, the Jackson and Martin Van Buren administrations refrained from annexation because of the position of the North, which opposed incorporating more slave territory into the United States. Rejecting this opposition, Calhoun negotiated a treaty of annexation. This was turned down by the Senate in 1844. The question played a part in the election of 1844, after which the administration pushed a joint resolution through Congress providing for the incorporation of Texas. It was passed on the last day of Tyler's administration.
As Tyler had had little hope of renomination by the Whigs in 1844, he had sought to build a third party composed of dissident Democrats and Whigs but soon abandoned his efforts. Tyler remained active in national politics. He supported the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act. After South Carolina seceded in 1860, Tyler participated in the Washington Peace Convention that met early in 1861. When Virginia seceded, he supported his state. He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, but he died on Jan. 18, 1862, a month before that body held its first session.
Several good works deal with Tyler's life: Oliver Perry Chitwood, John Tyler: Champion of the Old South (1939), is a sympathetic portrait by a major historian, and Robert Seager, And Tyler Too: A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler (1963), is a warm portrait, which also includes much social history of the period. A good account of the politics of Tyler's administration is in Robert J. Morgan, A Whig Embattled: The Presidency under John Tyler (1954). The campaign of 1840 is detailed in Robert G. Gunderson, The Log-cabin Campaign (1957), and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., History of American Presidential Elections, vol. 1 (1971). For biographies of persons who were important in the Tyler administration see Glyndon G. Van Deusen, The Life of Henry Clay (1937); Charles M. Wiltse, John C. Calhoun (3 vols., 1944-1951); and Richard N. Current, Daniel Webster and the Rise of National Conservatism (1955). □
John Tyler was the first vice president to inherit the presidency upon the death of a chief executive, the first president to face impeachment charges, and the only one to be officially expelled from his party.
Tyler was born to an aristocratic family in Richmond, Virginia , in 1790. His father served as governor, speaker of the state House of Delegates, and as a judge. Tyler attended the College of William and Mary and excelled academically. He began to read law under his father at the age of seventeen, and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1809. At the age of twenty-one, he was elected to the Virginia legislature.
Tyler was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1816. He was elected governor of Virginia in 1825 and won a seat in the U.S. Senate in 1827. As a Jeffersonian Republican like his father, Tyler was firm in his belief that the Constitution must be interpreted strictly and he favored limitation of the powers of the federal government. These views led Tyler to oppose the creation of the first Bank of the United States (a commercial bank operated under a federal regulation) on the grounds that the Constitution did not provide Congress with the power to regulate a national bank. Tyler opposed the slave trade, but he disagreed with legislation limiting slavery , thinking it would eventually die out naturally.
At odds with the party
During the administration of President Andrew Jackson (1767–1845; served 1829–37), Tyler's loyalty to the Republican Party was severely tested. He supported Jackson's bid as the candidate of the Democratic-Republicans in 1828 and agreed with Jackson's views on some matters, but he began to feel that the president abused his authority, particularly when Jackson crushed the Bank of the United States. Though Tyler had opposed the Bank, when the president abruptly removed the government's deposits from its coffers it placed the national economy at risk. Tyler condemned his rash actions, resigned from the Senate, and left the Democratic-Republican Party.
The new Whig Party had emerged in opposition to the executive tyranny of “King Andrew,” as Jackson was dubbed by his critics. Tyler found himself among other Southern Democrats who were drawn to the new party, though his views were not consistent with it. He had left the Jacksonian Democrats because of Jackson's high-handed methods, but still believed in the Jeffersonian Republican principles upon which the party was founded. The Whigs, believing Tyler could help them win the votes of other former Southern Democrats, nominated him for the vice presidency on the William Henry Harrison (1773–1841; served 1841) ticket in 1840.
Succeeding to the presidency
Harrison and Tyler won the election easily. Then, within a month of his inauguration, Harrison was dead. The first question faced by the nation was fundamental: Was Tyler president in fact or only in name? This was the first time that a vice president had ascended to the presidency upon the death of a president, and the Constitution is vague concerning the succession. Tyler claimed all the rights and privileges of the presidency, establishing the practice that has been followed since that time.
Whig Party members believed Tyler would support their programs, but when Whig leadership submitted a legislative program calling for a higher tariff (duty on imports) and the creation of a new Bank of the United States, Tyler vetoed both measures. Some Whigs angrily charged that Tyler was a traitor. Acting in accord with the strict views he had held since his youth, Tyler stood his ground in the face of tremendous pressure from all sides, which included a rock-throwing mob that attacked the White House.
Most of Tyler's cabinet members soon resigned in disgust. The president replaced many of them with former Southern Democrats who shared his views. The Whigs brought impeachment charges (charges of misconduct in office) against the man they now called “His Accidency.” He was not convicted, but the Whigs formally expelled him from the party.
Tyler continued to perform his duties in accordance with his principles. By 1844, he hoped for reelection as an independent candidate but did not have enough support. During his last days in the presidency, Tyler signed measures annexing Texas and admitting Florida to statehood
Tyler retired to his plantation in Virginia. When turmoil between the North and South increased during the 1850s, he initially remained loyal to the Union . As compromises failed, though, he publicly supported the idea of the South seceding from the Union. He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives, the legislative body for the eleven Southern states that seceded from the Union, but he died in 1862, at the age of 71, before he could assume his seat.
John Tyler served as the tenth president of the United States from 1841 to 1845. A political maverick and a proponent of states' rights, Tyler was the first vice president to succeed to the office because of the death of a president. Rejecting the concept of an acting president, Tyler established the right of the vice president to assume the powers and duties of president.
"The great primary and controlling interest of the American people is union—union not only in the mere forms of government… but union founded in an attachment of… individuals for each other."
Tyler was born into a politically active family on March 29, 1790, in Greenway, Virginia. He graduated from the College of William and Mary in 1807 and was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1809. He began his political career in 1811 when he was elected as a member of the democratic party to the Virginia legislature. In 1817 he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he remained until 1821. During his years in the House, he was a consistent supporter of states' rights, believing that the role of the federal government should be limited. Tyler, who owned slaves, objected to the missouri
compromise of 1820, which placed restrictions on the expansion of slavery to new states.
In 1823 Tyler returned to the Virginia legislature, where he served two years. In 1825 he was elected governor of Virginia, and in 1827 he was elected to the U.S. Senate.
During his nine years in the Senate, Tyler opposed several of President Andrew Jackson's policies though he and Jackson were both Democrats. In 1832 South Carolina issued its nullification policy, declaring its right as a state to reject federal tariff regulations. Jackson, in retaliation, initiated the Force Act of 1833 (4 Stat. 633), which permitted the president to use the military, if necessary, to collect tariff revenues. Tyler did not agree with South Carolina's actions, but he vehemently opposed Jackson's use of federal power to bring the state to heel.
Tyler lost the support of Virginia Democrats when he refused to reverse his 1834 vote of censure against Jackson for removing deposits from the bank of the united states. In 1836, when the Virginia legislature gave him a direct order to change his vote, Tyler resigned from the Senate rather than obey. He returned to Virginia, where he was elected again to the Virginia legislature in 1838.
In the presidential election of 1840, the whig party sought to broaden its northern political base by selecting a vice presidential candidate who could attract southern voters. Accordingly, Tyler was chosen to be the vice presidential candidate to run with william henry harrison, known as "Tippecanoe" from the battle where he had defeated Chief Tecum-seh of the Shawnee tribe. In a campaign devoid of political ideas, the political slogan "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" popularized the two Whig candidates, who won the election.
The elderly Harrison died thirty-one days after becoming president, and Tyler assumed the presidency on April 4, 1841. As the first vice president to become president because of the death of the chief executive, Tyler rejected the idea that he serve as acting president. Though the U.S. Constitution was silent on the matter of succession, Tyler announced that he would assume the full powers and duties of the office, setting a precedent that would be followed by other vice presidents. (Procedures for presidential succession were added to the Constitution by the twenty-fifth amendment in 1967.)
Tyler's maverick streak, which had once stung the Democrats, soon offended the Whigs. Still a staunch supporter of states' rights, Tyler twice vetoed a Whig-sponsored act establishing a national bank. As a result, his entire cabinet resigned, with the exception of the secretary of state, daniel webster. For the remainder of his term, Tyler was a chief executive without a political party. Consequently, his accomplishments were few. He did approve the annexation of Texas and he signed the Preemption Act of 1841 (5 Stat. 453), which gave squatters on government land the right to buy 160 acres of land at the minimum auction price without competitive bidding.
After leaving office in 1845, Tyler continued to defend states' rights. In 1861, before the out-break of the Civil War, Tyler directed the Washington conference, which was convened in a final attempt to avert war. When that meeting failed, Tyler favored secession and was elected as a member of the Confederate Congress. He died on January 18, 1862, in Richmond, Virginia, however, before he could take his seat in the secessionist Congress.
Monroe, Dan. 2003. The Republican Vision of John Tyler. College Station: Texas A&M Univ. Press.
Peterson, Norma Lois. 1989. The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison & John Tyler. Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas.
10th president, 1841–1845
Born: March 29, 1790
Died: January 18, 1862
Vice President: none
First Ladies Letitia Christian Tyler, Julia Gardiner Tyler
Children: eight by his first marriage, seven by his second marriage
John Tyler was vice president of the United States when President William Henry Harrison died. Tyler was named president, the first person to assume the position under such circumstances. Because Tyler succeeded Harrison, he did not give an Inaugural Address.
Tyler was born in 1790 in Charles City County, Virginia. He studied law at the College of William and Mary, and later served in the House of Representatives from 1816 to 1821. He was also elected governor of Virginia for two terms.
During his presidency, Tyler ended the Seminole War and settled a dispute over the boundary of Maine. The westward movement of wagon trains over the famous Oregon and Santa Fe Trails began during Tyler's years in office.
Tyler was married to Letitia Christian Tyler. They had eight children. Letitia had a stroke two years before her husband became president, and she died in 1842. Tyler's second wife, Julia Gardiner Tyler, was 30 years younger than he was. She served as hostess during Tyler's final years in the White House. Tyler had seven children with Julia.
- Tyler was the first president who did not give an Inaugural Address.
- Julia Gardiner, Tyler's second wife, started the tradition of playing "Hail to the Chief" whenever a president appears at state functions.
- Tyler was the only president who was elected to the Confederate government. He died, however, before he could serve.
Tyler did not run for re-election when his term ended. He retired to his plantation near Richmond, Virginia, where he was an excellent farmer. Although he initially opposed secession by the southern states, he later became a strong voice for secession. In the year before his death, he was elected to the Confederate House of Representatatives.
When Tyler Was in Office
- The first child labor laws were passed in England and the United States.
- Horace Greeley founded the New York Tribune, one of the most influential newspapers of its day.
A party of settlers, the first large group to make the trip, arrived in Sacramento after a journey across the Oregon Trail, the Humbolt River, and the Sierra Nevada mountains.
- Samuel Morse sent the first public telegraph message, relayed from Washington, D.C. to Baltimore, Maryland. The message read, "What hath God wrought!"
- Florida became a state.