- 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.
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.
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.