John Tyler

In office
April 4, 1841 – March 4, 1845
Vice President none
Preceded by William Henry Harrison
Succeeded by James K. Polk

In office
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
President William Henry Harrison
Preceded by Richard M. Johnson
Succeeded by George Dallas

In office
December 10, 1825 – March 4, 1827
Preceded by James Pleasants
Succeeded by William Branch Giles

In office
March 4, 1827 – February 29, 1836
Preceded by John Randolph of Roanoke
Succeeded by William C. Rives

In office
March 3, 1835 – December 6, 1835
Preceded by George Poindexter
Succeeded by William R. King

Born March 29, 1790(1790-03-29)
Charles City County
Died January 18, 1862 (age 71)
Nationality American
Political party Whig, Democrat
Spouse(s) Letitia Christian Tyler (1st wife)
Julia Gardiner Tyler (2nd wife)
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Episcopal (possibly a Deist) [1]

John Tyler, Jr. (March 29, 1790January 18, 1862) was the tenth (1841-1845) President of the United States. A long-time Democrat-Republican, he was elected Vice President on the Whig ticket and on becoming president in 1841, broke with that party. His term as Vice President began on March 4, 1841 and one month later, on April 4, incumbent President William Henry Harrison died of what is today believed to have been viral pneumonia. Harrison's death left Tyler, the federal government, and the American nation briefly confused on the process of succession. Opposition members in Congress argued for an acting caretaker that would continue to use only the title Vice President. The act of taking over as official president, rather than as acting president, came from the influence of the Harrison cabinet and some members of Congress. Members of Harrison's cabinet feared an acting leader would compromise the ability to successfully run the country. Tyler took the presidential oath of office, initiating a custom that would govern future successions, and became the first U.S. vice president to assume the office of president upon the death of his predecessor. It was not until 1967, that Tyler's action of assuming full powers of the presidency was legally codified in the Twenty-fifth Amendment. His most famous achievement was the annexation of the Republic of Texas in 1845. Tyler was the first president born after the adoption of the U.S. Constitution.

Biography[edit | edit source]

John Tyler was born the son of John Tyler (1747-1813) and Mary Armistead (1761-1797), in Charles City County, as the second of eight children. He was educated at the College of William and Mary and went on to study law with his father, who became Governor of Virginia (1808-1811). Tyler was admitted to the bar in 1809 and commenced practice in Charles City County. He served as a captain of a volunteer military company in 1813 and became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates 1811-1816 and was later a member of the council of state in 1816.

Tyler was elected as a Democratic-Republican to the Fourteenth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Clopton. He was reelected to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Congresses and served from December 17, 1816, to March 3, 1821 in the House of Representatives. Tyler declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1820 because of impaired health. He became a member of the Virginia State house of delegates 1823-1825. Tyler was elected to be the Governor of Virginia (1825-1827). He was popularly known as voting against nationalist legislations and for his open opposition of the Missouri Compromise.

First wife, Letitia Christian Tyler

Tyler was elected as a Jacksonian (later Anti-Jacksonian) to the United States Senate in 1827. He was reelected in 1833 and served from March 4, 1827, to February 29, 1836, when he resigned. He served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Twenty-third Congress, and was chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia (Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses), as well as the Committee on Manufactures (Twenty-third Congress), a member of the Virginia State constitutional convention in 1829 and 1830 and a member of the Virginia State House of Delegates in 1839.

He was drawn into the newly-organized Whig Party, and was elected Vice President in 1840 as running mate to William Henry Harrison. Their campaign slogans of "Log Cabins and Hard Cider" and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" are among the most famous in American politics. "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" not only offered the slight sectionalism that would further be apparent in the presidency of Tyler, but also the nationalism that was imperative to gain the American vote. He was inaugurated March 4, 1841, and served until the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841. Upon Harrison's death, Tyler became the new President.

Tyler was the first Vice President to assume the Presidency in this manner. He acceded to the Presidency upon the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841, and took the Presidential oath of office as specified by the Constitution on April 6. The Cabinet and United States Senate agreed with Tyler that he was President and not merely Acting President of the United States, and as the Constitution was not explicit on that aspect of succession (until the 1967 ratification of the 25th Amendment), both the House and Senate passed resolutions recognizing Tyler as President. He even delivered an Inaugural Address, proving his formal entrance into the position.

Second wife, Julia Gardiner Tyler

After his presidential career Tyler became a delegate to and president of the peace convention held in Washington in 1861 as an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war. Tyler was a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress in 1861; elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress, but died in Richmond, Virginia, January 18, 1862, before he could assume office. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.

John Tyler was married twice. His first wife was Letitia Christian Tyler with whom he had 8 children; she died in the White House in September 1842. His second wife was Julia Gardiner Tyler ( July 23, 1820 - July 10, 1889), with whom he had 7 children. As of 2007, one of his grandsons, Harrison Ruffin Tyler, is still alive.

Presidency 1841-1845[edit | edit source]

Policies[edit | edit source]

1888 illustration of Vice President Tyler receiving the news of President Harrison's death from Chief Clerk of the State Department Fletcher Webster

Tyler's Presidency was rarely taken seriously in his time. He was usually referred to as the "Acting President" or "His Accidency" by opponents. Further, Tyler quickly found himself at odds with his former political supporters. Harrison had been expected to adhere closely to Whig Party policies and work closely with Whig leaders, particularly Henry Clay. Tyler shocked Congressional Whigs by vetoing virtually the entire Whig agenda, twice vetoing Clay's legislation for a national banking act following the Panic of 1837 and leaving the government deadlocked. Tyler was officially expelled from the Whig Party in 1841, a few months after taking office, and became known as "the man without a party." The entire cabinet he had inherited from Harrison resigned in September, aside from Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, who remained to finalize the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842, demonstrating his independence from Clay.

For two years, Tyler struggled with the Whigs, but when he nominated John C. Calhoun as Secretary of State, to 'reform' the Democrats, the gravitational swing of the Whigs to identify with "the North" and the Democrats as the party of "the South," led the way to the sectional party politics of the next decade.

The last year of Tyler's presidency was marred by a freak accident that killed two of his Cabinet members. During a ceremonial cruise down the Potomac River on February 28, 1844, the main gun of the USS Princeton blew up during a demonstration firing, instantly killing Thomas Gilmer, the Secretary of the Navy, and Abel P. Upshur, the Secretary of State. Julia Gardiner (whom Tyler had met two years earlier at a reception, and would go on to become his second wife) was also aboard the Princeton that day. Her father, David Gardiner, was among those killed during the explosion. Upon hearing of her father's death, Gardiner fainted into the President's arms.[1] Tyler and Gardiner were married not long afterwards in New York City, on June 26, 1844.

Annexation of Texas[edit | edit source]

Uncle Sam and his Servants
An anti-Tyler satire lampoons President Tyler's efforts to secure a second term against challengers Whig Henry Clay and Democrat James K. Polk. Clay, Polk, John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson attempt to get in as Tyler pushes the door shut on them. Uncle Sam demands that Tyler stop and let Clay in.

Tyler advocated annexation of Texas to the Union. Whigs opposed this expansion because it would upset the balance between North and South and risked war with Mexico. However the Whigs lost the 1844 election to James K. Polk, who favored annexation. When the Senate blocked a treaty (which needed a 2/3 vote), Tyler pushed Congress to annex Texas through an adopted joint resolution. The tactic worked and it passed the House 132-72 and the Senate 27-25. The Missouri Compromise helped to promise security to the west of the United States with the line of 36°30'N. Such meant that any states north of the line would be free and those south of the line would be open to slavery. The option to potentially have four more states south of the line, left the House ready and willing to pass the bill. On March 3, Tyler sent instructions to his representative in Texas, Andrew Jackson Donelson, to announce the annexation. The next day, he left office. Even with a brief period of skeptical instinct, Polk told Donelson to carry out the orders of Tyler. Texas formally joined the Union on December 29, 1845, when James K. Polk was President.

Rhode Island's Dorr Rebellion[edit | edit source]

In May 1842, when the Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island came to a head, Tyler pondered the request of the governor and legislature to send in Federal troops to help it suppress the Dorrite insurgents. The insurgents under Thomas Dorr had armed themselves and proposed to install a new state constitution. Previous to such acts, Rhode Island had been following the same constitutional structure that was established in 1663. Tyler called for calm on both sides, and recommended the governor enlarge the franchise to let most men vote. Tyler promised that in case an actual insurrection should break out in Rhode Island he would employ force to aid the regular, or Charter, government. He made it clear that federal assistance would be given, not to prevent, but only to put down insurrection, and would not be available until violence had been committed. After listening to reports from his confidential agents, Tyler decided that the 'lawless assemblages' were dispersing and expressed his confidence in a "temper of conciliation as well as of energy and decision." He did not send any federal forces. The rebels fled the state when the state militia marched against them. [2] With their dispersion, they accepted the expansion of suffrage.

Separation of Church and State[edit | edit source]

On July 10, 1843, President Tyler wrote a letter to Joseph Simpson which included the following text.

The United States has adventured upon a great and noble experiment, which is believed to have been hazarded in the absence of all previous precedent — that of total separation of Church and State. No religious establishment by law exists among us. The conscience is left free from all restraint and each is permitted to worship his Maker after his own judgment. The offices of the Government are open alike to all. No tithes are levied to support an established Hierarchy, nor is the fallible judgment of man set up as the sure and infallible creed of faith. The Mohammedan, if he will to come among us would have the privilege guaranteed to him by the Constitution to worship according to the Koran; and the East Indian might erect a shrine to Brahma if it so pleased him. Such is the spirit of toleration inculcated by our political institutions… The Hebrew persecuted and down trodden in other regions takes up his abode among us with none to make him afraid… and the Aegis of the government is over him to defend and protect him. Such is the great experiment which we have tried, and such are the happy fruits which have resulted from it; our system of free government would be imperfect without it.

Impeachment attempt[edit | edit source]

In 1843, after he vetoed a tariff bill, the House of Representatives considered the first impeachment resolution against a president in American history. A committee headed by former president John Quincy Adams concluded that Tyler had misused the veto, but the impeachment resolution did not pass.

Administration and Cabinet[edit | edit source]

Official White House portrait of John Tyler, oil on canvas, 1859 by George P. A. Healy. Located in the Blue Room.

The Tyler Cabinet
Office Name Term
President John Tyler1841–1845
Vice President None1841–1845
Secretary of State Daniel Webster (W)1841–1843
Abel P. Upshur (W)1843–1844
John C. Calhoun (D)1844–1845
Secretary of Treasury Thomas Ewing, Sr. (W)1841
Walter Forward (W)1841–1843
John C. Spencer (W)1843–1844
George M. Bibb (D)1844–1845
Secretary of War John Bell (W)1841
John C. Spencer (W)1841–1843
James M. Porter (W)1843–1844
William Wilkins (D)1844–1845
Attorney General John J. Crittenden (W)1841
Hugh S. Legaré (D)1841–1843
John Nelson (W)1843–1845
Postmaster General Francis Granger (W)1841
Charles A. Wickliffe (W)1841–1845
Secretary of the Navy George E. Badger (W)1841
Abel P. Upshur (W)1841–1843
David Henshaw (D)1843–1844
Thomas W. Gilmer (D)1844
John Y. Mason (D)1844–1845

Supreme Court appointments[edit | edit source]

Tyler appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:

Nelson's successful confirmation in February 1845 was a surprise. Tyler had failed to fill the vacancy left by Smith Thompson, as the Whig-controlled Senate rejected his multiple nominees of John Spencer, Ruben Walworth, Edward King and John Read. King was rejected twice. Nelson, while a Democrat, had a reputation as a careful and noncontroversial jurist.

States admitted to the Union[edit | edit source]

A daguerreotype of John Tyler made about 1850.

Post-Presidency[edit | edit source]

Tyler retired to a Virginia plantation located on the James River in Charles City County and originally named "Walnut Grove." He renamed it "Sherwood Forest" to signify that he had been "outlawed" by the Whig party. He withdrew from electoral politics, though his advice continued to be sought by states-rights Democrats.

Tyler postage stamp

Confederate allegiances and death[edit | edit source]

Tyler had long been an advocate of states' rights, believing that the question of a state's "free" or "slave" status ought to be decided at the state level, with no input from federal government. He was a slaveholder for his entire life. He re-entered public life to sponsor and chair the Virginia Peace Convention in February 1861. The convention sought a compromise to avoid civil war while the Confederate Constitution was being drawn up at the Montgomery Convention. When the Senate rejected his plan, Tyler urged Virginia's immediate secession.

Having served in the provisional Confederate Congress in 1861, he was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives but died of bronchitis and bilious fever before he could take office. His final words were "I am going now, perhaps it is for the best." Tyler is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. The city of Tyler is named for him. [3]

Throughout Tyler's life, he suffered from poor health. Frequent colds occurred every winter as he aged. After his exit from the White House, he fell victim to repeated cases of dysentery. He has been quoted as having many aches and pains in the last eight years of his life. In 1862, after complaining of chills and dizziness, he vomited and collapsed during the Congress of Confederacy. He was revived, yet the next day he admitted to the same symptoms. It was likely that John Tyler died of a stroke.

Children[edit | edit source]

By Letitia Christian Tyler

Mary Tyler (1815-48); Robert Tyler (1816-77); John Tyler (1819-96); Letitia Tyler (1821-1907); Elizabeth Tyler (1823-50); Anne Contesse Tyler (1825); Alice Tyler (1827-54); Tazewell Tyler (1830-74);

By Julia Gardiner Tyler

David Gardiner Tyler (1846-1927); John Alexander Tyler (1848-83); Julia Gardiner Tyler (1849-71); Lachlan Tyler (1851-1902); Lyon Gardiner Tyler (1853-1935); Robert Fitzwalter Tyler (1856-1927); Pearl Tyler (1860-1947)

Trivia[edit | edit source]

John Tyler's Sherwood Forest Plantation in Charles City County in which he and his wife, Julia, lived in after their leave from the White House.

  • Tyler is the only President to have served as President pro tempore of the Senate.
  • Tyler's favorite horse was named "The General". He is buried at his Sherwood Forest Plantation with a gravestone which reads, "Here lies the body of my good horse 'The General'. For twenty years he bore me around the circuit of my practice an in all that time he never made me blunder. Would that his master could say the same."[4]
  • In all, Tyler had fifteen children, eight with his first wife Letitia and seven with his second wife Julia. His last surviving child, Pearl Tyler, who was also his last child born, died on June 30, 1947, one hundred years, one week and six days after the death of his first child, Mary Tyler.
  • John Dunjee claimed to be the illegitimate son of John Tyler, a child of Tyler and one of his female slaves. There was also a mulatto woman who frequently traveled with the Tyler family who was alleged to be the president's daughter.
  • John Tyler, born March 30, 1790, is the first President born after the Ratification of the Constitution of the United States (Virginia having ratified it in 1788) making him a contender for the first President to be born a United States Citizen. Because Rhode Island (the last of the original thirteen colonies to ratify the Constitution) didn’t ratify the Constitution until May 29, 1790, the second contender is James Buchanan, born April 23, 1791. However, because the tenth Amendment wasn’t ratified until December 15, 1791, James Polk is the third contender being born November 2, 1795.
  • Tyler's death in January 1862 was the only one in presidential history not to be officially mourned in Washington, because of his allegiance to the Confederacy.
  • Tyler is sometimes considered the only president to die outside the United States seeing that his place of death, Richmond, was part of the Confederate States at the time.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. ^ Paletta, Lu Ann and Worth, Fred L. (1988). "The World Almanac of Presidential Facts".
  2. ^ Chitwood pp 326-30
  3. ^ Lamb, Brian; the C-SPAN staff (2000). Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Washington, DC: National Cable Satellite Corporation. ISBN 1-881846-07-5. 
  4. ^ Paletta, Lu Ann and Worth, Fred L. (1988). "The World Almanac of Presidential Facts".

External links[edit | edit source]

WikisourceWp globe tiny.gif has original works written by or about:
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about:
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Political offices
Preceded by
James Pleasants
Governor of Virginia
1825 – 1827
Succeeded by
William Branch Giles
Preceded by
George Poindexter
President pro tempore of
the United States Senate

March 3, 1835 – December 6, 1835
Succeeded by
William R. King
Preceded by
Richard M. Johnson
Vice President of the United States
March 4, 1841 – April 4, 1841
Succeeded by
George M. Dallas
Preceded by
William Henry Harrison
President of the United States
April 4, 1841¹ – March 4, 1845
Succeeded by
James K. Polk
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
John Clopton
Member from Virginia's 23rd congressional district
1817 – 1821
Succeeded by
Andrew Stevenson
United States Senate
Preceded by
John Randolph
Senator from Virginia (Class 1)
1827 – 1836
Served alongside: Littleton W. Tazewell, William C. Rives,
Benjamin W. Leigh
Succeeded by
William C. Rives
Party political offices
New political party Whig Party vice presidential candidate
1836³, 1840
Succeeded by
Theodore Frelinghuysen
Notes & References
1. Tyler did not take the oath of office until April 6.
2. Tyler was elected in 1861, but died before taking office.
3. The Whig Party ran regional candidates in 1836. Tyler ran in the Southern states, and Francis Granger ran in the Northern states.

This page uses content from the English language Wikipedia. The original content was at John Tyler. The list of authors can be seen in the page history. As with this Familypedia wiki, the content of Wikipedia is available under the Creative Commons License.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.