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John Tyler Biography

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One of the least-known of American presidents is our tenth president, John Tyler, who served from April 4, 1841 until March 4, 1845. He is certainly the only one whose post-presidential activities included rebellion against the United States.

His greatest prominence in the common memory of the American people is as the “Tyler” of the electoral slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”  However, it is doubtful that many Americans could identify that Tyler as the successful vice-presidential candidate, John Tyler. The head of the ticket, William Henry Harrison, had run for president as the winner of the battle of Tippecanoe, but had served as president for only one month before he died.

As the first vice-president to succeed a president unable to complete his term, Tyler set the standard for succession being a full assumption of the title and powers of the presidency, against opponents who had claimed that only a more limited acting presidency was justified. These opponents had hoped to exercise more sway over a Tyler who was weakened by being less than fully a president, in both title and fact. His firm stand, bolstered by resolutions in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, prevented this, both for himself and for future vice-presidential successors. His opponents kept up their campaign to diminish him, notably including referring to him as “His Accidency” throughout his term of office. But Tyler never wavered and the precedent he set prevailed.

Tyler had held a number of political posts prior to his vice-presidency and presidency, both in the government of Virginia and in the government of the United States.

Tyler's most notable accomplishment in office was the annexation to the Untied States of the independent Republic of Texas. Tyler's administration negotiated an annexation treaty with Texas which was at first rejected by the U.S. Senate. However, annexation was approved by both the Senate and the House while Tyler was still president, under terms which Texas ultimately accepted, several months after Tyler left office.

Tyler initially sought to forestall secession from the Union by compromise, but when this failed, he embraced secession, as a delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress and later as a member of the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress. But, although he had been elected to the Confederate House, he died before he had begun to serve. Because of his participation in the breaking away of the Confederate States from the United States, and of his support, as a Confederate, of the consequent conflict with the U.S. Government that was the Civil War, his is the only death of someone who had been president which is not officially recognized by the U.S. Government.

John Tyler was married twice. With eight children from his first marriage and seven from his second, he spawned a larger brood than any other U.S. Chief Executive. John Tyler lived from 1790 to 1862. His last surviving child, Pearl Tyler, lived from 1860 to 1947. As of August 2011, two grandsons of John Tyler through his son, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, were still living---Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr. and Harrison Ruffin Tyler.

Tyler is generally regarded as a poor president by historians. Dissenters from this view generally point to his foreign policy accomplishments. To what extent judgment of his term of office is clouded by the obloquy of his role in the Civil War is a matter about which reasonable people may disagree, but surely this little-known president ought to be better known, however he may be regarded.


president 1841-1845 tippacanoe and tyler too presidential campaign tyler

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