10. John Tyler

  • John Tyler
  • John Tyler (29 March 1790 – 18 January 1862) was the tenth President of the United States (1841–1845), after being the tenth Vice President of the United States (1841). A native of Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before being elected Vice President in 1840. He was the first to succeed to the office of President on the death of the incumbent. Tyler's opposition to nationalism and emphatic support of states' rights endeared him to his fellow Virginians but alienated him from most of the political allies that brought him to power in Washington. His presidency was crippled by opposition from both parties. Near the end of his life, he supported the secession movement in the southern states, and was elected to the Congress of the Confederate States of America.

Tyler was born to an aristocratic Virginia family of English descent and he came to national prominence at a time of political upheaval. In the 1820s, the nation's only political party, the Democratic-Republicans, split into factions, most of which did not share Tyler's strict constructionist ideals. Though initially a Democrat, his opposition to Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren led him to alliance with the Whig Party; he was elected Vice President In 1840 on the Whig ticket. Upon the death of President William Henry Harrison on 4 April 1841, only a month after his inauguration, a short Constitutional crisis arose over the succession process. Tyler immediately moved into the White House, took the oath of office, and assumed full presidential powers, a precedent that would govern future successions and eventually be codified in the Twenty-fifth Amendment.

John Tyler

As President, Tyler opposed the Whig platform and vetoed several of their proposals. As a result, most of his cabinet resigned, and the Whigs, dubbing him His Accidency, expelled him from the party. While he faced a stalemate on domestic policy, he still had several foreign policy achievements, including the Webster–Ashburton Treaty with Britain and the Treaty of Wanghia with China. Tyler dedicated his last two years in office to the annexation of Texas. He sought re-election to a full term, but he had alienated Whigs and the Democrats wouldn't have him back. His efforts to form a new party came to nothing. However, in the last days of his term, Congress passed the resolution authorizing annexation, which was carried out by Tyler's successor as President, James K. Polk.
Tyler essentially retired from electoral politics until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. He sided with the Confederate government, and won election to the Confederate House of Representatives shortly before his death. Although some have praised Tyler's political resolve, his presidency is generally held in low esteem by historians; today he is considered an obscure president, with little presence in the American cultural memory.

annexation of Texas
Shortly after the tariff veto, Whigs in the House of Representatives initiated the first impeachment proceedings against a President in American history. This was not only a matter of the Whigs supporting the Bank and tariff legislation which Tyler vetoed. Until the presidency of the Whigs' arch-enemy Andrew Jackson, Presidents vetoed bills rarely, and then generally on constitutional rather than policy grounds. So Tyler's actions also went against the Whigs' idea of the presidency.John Minor Botts of Virginia, who had been Tyler's greatest reviler, introduced a resolution on 10 July 1842. It levied several charges against the President and called for a nine-member committee to investigate his behavior, with the expectation of a formal impeachment recommendation. Clay found this measure prematurely aggressive, favoring a more moderate progression toward Tyler's "inevitable" impeachment. The Botts bill was tabled until the following January, when it was rejected, 127-83. A House select committee headed by former President John Quincy Adams, who was now a member of Congress, condemned Tyler's use of the veto and assailed his character. Adams, an ardent abolitionist, disliked the President for being a slaveholder. While the committee's report did not formally recommend impeachment, it clearly established the possibility. In August 1842, by a vote of 98–90, the House endorsed the committee's report. Adams sponsored a constitutional amendment to change the two-thirds requirement to override a veto to a simple majority, but neither house passed such a measure. The Whigs were unable to pursue further impeachment proceedings in the subsequent 28th Congress, as in the elections of 1842 they lost control of the House (although they retained a majority in the Senate). Near the end of Tyler's term in office, on March 3, 1845, Congress overrode his veto of a minor bill relating to revenue cutters. This marked the first time any president's veto had been overridden.

A large obelisk in a graveyard, with a bust of Tyler.
10.  John Tyler - Our Presidents
Tyler's grave at Hollywood Cemetery.
On the eve of the Civil War, Tyler re-entered public life as sponsor and chairman of the Virginia Peace Convention, held in Washington, D.C., in February 1861 as an effort to devise means to prevent a war. The convention sought a compromise to avoid civil war while the Confederate Constitution was being drawn up at the Montgomery Convention. When the convention's proposals were rejected by Congress, Tyler abandoned hope of compromise and saw secession as the only option. He was sanguine about a peaceful secession, predicting that a clean split of all Southern states would not result in war.When war ultimately broke out, Tyler unhesitatingly sided with the Confederacy and became a delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress from February 4, 1861. He was then elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress. On January 5, 1862, he left for Richmond, Virginia, in anticipation of his congressional service, but he would not live to see the opening sessions.Throughout Tyler's life, he suffered from poor health. As he aged, he suffered more frequently from colds during the winter. After his exit from the White House, he fell victim to repeated cases of dysentery. He had many aches and pains in the last eight years of his life. On January 12, 1862, after complaining of chills and dizziness, he vomited and collapsed. He was revived, yet the next day he admitted to the same symptoms. He was treated for the rest of the week, but his health did not improve, and he made plans to return to Sherwood Forest on the 18th. As he lay in bed the previous night he began suffocating, and Julia summoned his doctor. Just after midnight, Tyler took a last sip of brandy, and told his doctor, "I am going. Perhaps it is best." It is believed that he had suffered a stroke. Tyler is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, by the side of former President James Monroe.Tyler's death was the only one in presidential history not to be officially recognized in Washington, because of his allegiance to the Confederacy. He had requested a simple burial, but Confederate President Jefferson Davis and his fellows delivered a grand, politically pointed funeral, painting Tyler as a hero to the Confederacy.Tyler's favorite horse named "The General" is buried at his Sherwood Forest Plantation with a gravestone which reads,

Here lie the bones of my old horse, "General,"
Who served his master faithfully for twenty-one years,
And never made a blunder.
Would that his master could say the same!Tyler, TX

The Tyler presidency is generally held in low esteem by historians. Edward P. Crapol began his biography John Tyler, the Accidental President (2006) by noting: "Other biographers and historians have argued that John Tyler was a hapless and inept chief executive whose presidency was seriously flawed." In The Republican Vision of John Tyler (2003), Dan Monroe observed that the Tyler presidency "is generally ranked as one of the least successful". Robert Seager II wrote in And Tyler Too: A Biography of John and Julia Gardiner Tyler (1963) that Tyler "was neither a great President nor a great intellectual," adding that despite a few achievements, "his administration has been and must be counted an unsuccessful one by any modern measure of accomplishment".A survey of 65 historians, conducted by C-SPAN in 2009, ranked Tyler as 35th of 42 men to hold the office.
Some have argued that Tyler's accomplishments and political resolve warrant a more favorable treatment. Tyler's assumption of complete presidential powers "set a hugely important precedent", according to a biographical sketch by the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs. The article also noted that "Tyler could claim an ambitious, successful foreign policy presidency, due largely to the efforts of Secretary of State Webster." Monroe credits Tyler with "achievements like the Webster–Ashburton treaty which heralded the prospect of improved relations with Great Britain, and the annexation of Texas, which added millions of acres to the national domain." Crapol argued that Tyler "was a stronger and more effective President than generally remembered," while Seager wrote, "I find him to be a courageous, principled man, a fair and honest fighter for his beliefs. He was a President without a party."The book Recarving Rushmore (2009), which rated Presidents in terms of peace, prosperity, and liberty, ranked John Tyler as the best President of all time.
Tyler has been the namesake of several U.S. locations, including the city of Tyler, Texas and one of its schools, John Tyler High School, along with John Tyler Community College in Virginia, located near Tyler's home.While academics have both praised and criticized Tyler, the general American public has little awareness of him at all. Several writers have noted that Tyler is among the nation's most obscure presidents. As Seager remarked, "His countrymen generally remember him, if they have heard of him at all, as the rhyming end of a catchy campaign slogan."

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