In ranking the Presidents of the United States from Worst to First- we are at #34 the 10th President of the United States John Tyler.
John Tyler was born on March 29, 1790 into a prominent family in Charles City County, Virginia. His father John Tyler Sr would serve as Governor of Virginia 1808-1811 and as a US Judge from the District of Virginia 1811-13. Tyler County in West Virginia is named for President Tyler’s father.
Tyler had a long career in politics before becoming president. He was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1816-21, served as Governor of Virginia like his father from 1825-1827. Tyler was a U.S. Senator from Virginia 1827-36. Tyler had been a democrat until the early 1830’s when he had a break with the party when the Nullification Crisis took place under President Jackson. South Carolina was threatening secession denied them the right to secede and the Force Bill would have authorized the use of military force. Tyler was sympathetic with South Carolina and broke from Jackson and the party and joined Henry Clay’s new Whig Party. He would never be comfortable as a Whig. His leaving the democratic party didn’t go over well in Virginia and he would leave the senate in 1836.
It looked as if his political career was over. He went home and planned to go back to his private law practice. He just couldn’t stay away though and ran and won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1837.
The 1840 election was coming up and the Whigs would end up nominating William Henry Harrison as its candidate to run against the incumbent president Martin Van Buren. It would be a re-match of the 1836 election in which of course Van Buren, the hand picked successor of Andrew Jackson had won. Keep in mind up until this time, from George Washington up until the #8th POTUS- 13 terms of the presidency- each and every president had served his full term. The Vice Presidency wasn’t really a big consideration. It seemed like a nothing job. The selecting of John Tyler was Harrison’s running mate wasn’t given much consideration. The thinking was Harrison, who southerners seemed to think had abolitionist leanings needed a southern slaveholder as his running mate to balance the ticket. Tyler fit that description and was given the nod.
The Whig’s in 1840 had no program except to run against President Van Buren and blame him and the democrats for the economic recession. The Whigs also played up that Harrison was born in a log cabin and a common man, when in fact he was high born, his father a signer of the Declaration of Independence. Tippacanoe and Tyler Too- won in a runaway taking the Electoral College by a 234-60 count.
The rest is history- Harrison who would be the oldest elected president until Ronald Reagan, got sick and died 31 days into his term and Tyler is president.
John Tyler is an important president for one reason. When #9 POTUS William Henry Harrison died one month into office, his Vice President John Tyler became the first vice president to become president due to the death of a president. How would Tyler be viewed? How would he be treated? Tyler’s reaction was critical.
William Henry Harrison died 31 days after his inauguration. Vice President Tyler was at his home in Richmond, Virginia when the news was delivered to him. The story goes he was playing marbles with one of his sons. Back in Washington, D.C. the cabinet-which was appointed by Harrison thought they were now in charge of calling the shots. Tyler, yes he has the title President since Harrison died but he was elected as Vice President, he’s kind of an “Acting President”, at least in their view.There were some who thought- a president dies there will be a new election for another one. When Tyler got to Washington and got the cabinet together they told him that on all decisions Harrison got the cabinet together and there was a vote with everyone having an equal say and that was how things would go. President Tyler told them the way it was, like it or not, he was the president, he was calling the shots and if they didn’t like it they could resign.
Tyler’s action in insisting he was president was a key moment. What if he had let Harrison’s Cabinet take control of things? There have been eight times now that presidents have died in office, four through assassination [Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley and Kennedy} and four times -Harrison, Taylor, Harding and Franklin Roosevelt in which a president died of various ailments. One time a Vice President became president when an elected president resigned- Ford. Tyler set the pattern. When a Vice President becomes POTUS he is the POTUS. That was the highlight of Tyler’s president and why I give him a D for his presidency.
.It wasn’t long before the cabinet did resign all except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster. The cause of the mass resignations. Remember Tyler had left the Democratic Party in the 1830’s and was now a Whig. The Whig Party leader Henry Clay and the Whig Party wanted a national banking act passed. Twice Tyler vetoed it. This put him on the outs permanently with his own party. There are times when being stubborn can be a good thing- like Tyler’s being stubborn and insisting he was president when Harrison died. In vetoing the National Banking Act his stubbornness all but made him a lame duck president. A president without a party. There would be no thought of giving him the Whig Party nomination in 1844. In 1844 Tyler would support Democrat James K. Polk for President.
John Tyler was 6 foot tall, thin in build. Light brown hair and blue eyes. In personality he was a typical well bred southern gentleman around those of his own class. He was dignified, charming at ease around his own people but seemed ill at ease around the working class. And yes, he was a stubborn kind of fellow.
During Tyler’s nearly four years as president he appointed one Justice to the U.S. Supreme Court- Samuel Nelson who would serve on the court from 1845-1872.
John Tyler was a southerner and when the American Civil War broke out he would remain true to the south. He would serve as a Delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress but would die early in the war- at the age of 71 in January 1861. He is buried in Richmond’s famous Hollywood Cemetery.
- Some trivia to tell your friends about President John Tyler.
- This is incredible. John Tyler who was president from 1843-46 and who died in 1862 has a living grandson. Tyler sired fifteen children- a presidential record. He fathered eight children with his first wife Letitia, when she passed he remarried a woman much younger by 30 plus years, Julia. Julia would have seven children. Tyler fathered his last child at the age of 70. When Tyler was sixty-three he fathered a son named Lyon. Lyon at age 75, fathered a son named Harrison Tyler. Harrison Tyler is in his late 80’s. Amazing that a president who has been dead 154 years has a living grandson. A few years ago when asked if he was going to continue this tradition of fathering children late in life- Harrison laughed and said “No.”
- President Tyler was born in 1790 George Washington was president. When his last born child- a daughter Pearl died in 1948 Harry Truman was president- a span of 159 years!
- The playing of “Hail to the Chief” for the president was started in 1844 by President Tyler’s second wife Julia.
- John Tyler was the first president who had a wife die while he was in office and the first to get married in office when he remarried in 1844.
- Tyler served his entire term without a vice president.
- Both William Henry Harrison and John Tyler were born in Charles City County, Virginia.
- Tyler is the only president who had served as President pro tempore of the Senate.
- “His Accidency” was the nickname President Tyler’s political enemies gave him.