John Tyler was our 10th President.  He served from April 4, 1841 – March 4, 1845.

Nicknames:  His Accidency, The Accidental President

Quote: “Wealth can only be accumulated by the earnings of industry and the savings of frugality.”

After checking it out about seven times, I finally made it through Edward P. Crapol’s (unfortunate last name) book “John Tyler: The Accidental President.”  Here is what I learned:

  • John Tyler Jr was born on March 29, 1790
  • he is most famous for being the first Vice President to become a President because of the incumbent President’s death – this is called “The Tyler Precedent”  and before it happened, nobody had a plan for what happened if a President died, John Tyler pretty much made the decision to take the position on his own
  • it was mostly his actions and attitude during the hours and days after President Harrison’s death that secured Tyler the Presidency
  • The Tyler Precedent eventually became the 25th amendment to the Constitution of the United States
  • he was sworn in on April 6th, 1841
  • he was mockingly called “His Accidency” because he wasn’t actually voted in, but he was chosen as President Harrison’s running mate as a plan in case Harrison died in office
  • his taking of the role of President helped preserve the autonomy of the Executive Branch of the government
  • the Senate voted 38-8 in support of him taking the Presidency
  • he was born and raised on a slave plantation in Virginia named Greenway
  • born less than 20 minutes away from where President Harrison was born
  • the entire Tyler family was political and John Tyler was groomed for politics his entire life
  • his father, Judge John Tyler, was Thomas Jefferson’s room mate at the College of William and Mary, the college President Tyler attended
  • before entering politics, he had the pre-cursor career – lawyer
  • at age 21, he began serving in the Virginia House of Delegates
  • before becoming Vice President, he served in the Senate, the House of Representatives, and as the governor of Virginia
  • he was forced to resign from his position in the House in 1821 because of health problems
  • was elected to the Senate in 1827 at age 37
  • is the only President to serve as the President pro tempore (second to the VP in the rank of the Senate and the highest ranking Senator)
  • rather than vote to retract a censure of President Andrew Jackson, he resigned his Senate seat
  • wrote Thomas Jefferson’s eulogy and presented it at the funeral
  • Tyler was a crazy strong Anglophobe (prejudiced against and afraid of the British) – so strong that he refused to set foot in Canada b/c he didn’t want to set foot on British soil
  • he loved champagne, it was his favorite drink
  • played the fiddle
  • he suffered often from dysentery
  • loved Shakespeare and often quoted his works
  • he was usually a strong advocate of restricted executive power and put a priority on states’ rights
  • he opposed the slave trade but not slavery (no more importing slaves, but those already in the States were still slaves)
  • despite being pro-slavery states, he wanted to eventually phase out slavery by adding more slave states to diffuse the slave population
  • over his lifetime, he owned several hundred slaves and used several of them as servants in the White House
  • like many others, he was accused of fathering children with his slaves and then selling the children for profit
  • he believed many anti-abolitionists were British spies and disunionists
  • he was married twice and fathered 15 children – the most of any President, and his youngest child lived until 1947
  • his two wives were named Letitia Christian and Julia Gardiner
  • Letitia Gardiner suffered a stroke before he took office and mainly lived on the 2nd floor of the White House, she was the first First lady to die in office and the youngest at 51
  • loved books and had a personal library of 1200+ books when he died
  • he started a political feud with longtime friend Henry Clay when he refused to support a national bank (like his party, the Whigs, expected him to do as President)
  • because of his veto of a national bank, the entire Whig cabinet, except his Secretary of State, resigned and President Tyler was voted out of the Whig party
  • in 1841, he sent out a secret agent to Britain to undermine the anti-slavery movement – Duff Green
  • there really was a Dr. Peter Parker, a medical missionary to China (one of the first U.S. missionaries to China)
  • signed the first treaty with China in 1844, the treaty of Wangxia
  • signed the first treaty with Hawaii in 1845, but had a hard time recognizing them as a nation b/c of their skin color
  • he strongly supported Territorial Expansion and was the first President to consider bringing the Republic of Texas into the United States
  • he believed America had the right and duty to bring democracy and liberty to the rest of the world, but by leading through example and not force, and was the first to state the U.S.  had the means to become a superpower
  • despite his desire for American expansion, he was the least well traveled President in history, he never traveled past the Mississippi River
  • he recommended the conversion of U.S. navy ships to steam vessels, the creation of the positions of Admiral and Vice-Admiral, and the formation of the Naval Academy
  • worked against the recognition of Haiti as a free country, including using the Secret Service against it
  • he supported the Revolution of the Dominican Republic from Haiti
  • he was the first President to be subjected to impeachment hearings, and the first President to have a veto overturned
  • used Secret Service agents on/against American citizens for propaganda purposes
  • his first Secretary of State and personal friend, Abel Upshur, was killed in an explosion on a warship which would have killed the President had he not been below decks in the dining room flirting with his future wife
  • he and his Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, settled the Webster-Ashburton treaty concerning the U.S./Canada border in Maine
  • his Secretary of State, Daniel Webster’s refutation of Britain’s case for self defense (when their forces sank the U.S. ship The Carolina) has been used many times as precedence including: the Nuremburg Tribunal for Nazi War Crimes, the 1976 Israeli raid of the Entebbe airport in Uganda, and the current War on Terror in Iraq
  • he believe in and supported the “American Multiplication Table” method of claiming territory – sending settlers to reproduce in an area and overrun it with American citizens
  • when he decided to annex Texas, he removed all members of his administration/cabinet who were opposed to it and replaced them with people who supported annexation
  • he hired Irish gang leaders to intimidate rival party members into annexing  Texas
  • had his son coerce postmasters to buy a lot of copies of his propaganda biography to distribute to people in their districts
  • he had 4 Secretaries of State: Upshur (killed), Legate (died of illness), Webster (removed from office), and Calhoun
  • he married Julia Gardiner when she was 24 and he was 54
  • she was the first First Lady to hire her own PR person, and was the one who started having “Hail to the Chief” played at public Presidential appearances
  • favorite foods (via The Awl) – Woodcock, pigeons, oysters, kidneys, ham, venison, champagne, and grateful pudding.
  • retired to an estate named Sherwood Forest in Virginia, one of the largest estates – 300 feet long, and was formerly owned by President Harrison
  • he considered going to California during the gold rush and encouraged his relatives to go
  • believed women should never be active in politics except by throwing parties
  • owned a river barge named the Pocahontas
  • he arranged a peace conference between the 12 border states, 6 slave and 6 free, to try and preserve the Union in 1861
  • while he was at the conference, his 19 year old grand-daughter, Letitia Tyler, raised the Stars and Bars at the dedication ceremonies of the new Confederate capitol of Montgomery, Alabama
  • he voted for Virginia secession
  • he negotiated to move the Confederate capitol to Richmond, Virginia
  • he died of a stroke on January 18th, 1862, 9 months after Virginia seceded
  • his death wasn’t even noted in the North because of the Civil War, no flags at half mast, no moment of silence, and no official government announcement – he had been labeled a traitor in the North on par with Benedict Arnold
  • he believed white slave masters were the beginning of a new master race
  • his oldest son was nearly lynched in the North and was hung in effigy in his front yard by his neighbors
  • several of his children died in the Confederate Army
  • Sherwood Forest was sacked by a regiment of Northern black soldiers and Tyler’s former slaves

Post title taken from Jonathan Coulton’s song “The Presidents”

<—  William Henry Harrison *****  James K. Polk –>

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