John Tyler




            The first person to ascend to the presidency via the death of the sitting president, John Tyler became the tenth President of the United States.  Tyler was born in Virginia in 1790 and, like so many of his predecessors, studied law at William and Mary.  Tyler served in the House of Representatives and as governor of Virginia as well as Senator, where he opposed Andrew Jackson’s appointment as president, but chose him as better than Adams and joined Clay and the rest of the Whig party to oppose Jackson’s ideals.  Tyler believed in following the Constitution strictly and voted against the Missouri Compromise and most nationalistic issues.

            When Van Buren became the presidential nominee, the Whigs chose Tyler to gain southern support from the anti-Jacksonian Democrats.  The slogan was developed “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too” to promote the pair as a war hero and a touch of southern separatism.  They soon found that Tyler was not as staunch as they had hoped.  Tyler insisted on taking on the role of an active president as if he had been elected.  Tyler went so far as to give an inaugural address, though he did still to the Whig script.  Unfortunately for Henry Clay and the Whigs the first test was not far away.  Clay rushed through a bill to set up a new national bank that had the state’s rights at its heart.  Tyler vetoed it because he felt that it did not protect the right of the state and would not budge on his position.  A second bill passed through Congress and was vetoed as well.  The Whigs voted to expel Tyler from the party, most of the cabinet resigned (all but the Secretary of State Daniel Webster) and, a year later when Tyler vetoed a tariff bill, brought the first impeachment resolution for a president was put into play in the House of Representatives.

            Despite great efforts by the committee headed by John Quincy Adams to remove Tyler from office on the claim that he abused his veto power, the resolution failed.  Despite these disagreements, Tyler and Congress did have many positive interactions.  The border with Canada was resolved with the Webster-Ashburton Treaty, establishing the true boundaries in the Maine and Great Lakes regions.  Texas was allowed into the United States in 1845 and the settlers of the west were allowed to claim and pay for at a set price of $1.25 an acre, up to one hundred sixty acres of land under the Log Cabin Bill before the land went up for public auction.  The president and Congress were even able to find common ground on a tariff bill that protected the interests of northern manufacturing companies.

            Tyler’s reorganized cabinet included mainly southern conservatives and John Calhoun as his Secretary of State.  Unfortunately, the Jacksonian hold on politics outlasted Tyler’s “assumed” presidency and he did not get re-elected.  Calhoun and Tyler returned to the Democratic Party to pursue the rights of the states, planters and most importantly-slavery.  When the Confederate States started to secede from the Union in 1861, Jackson tried to find a way to negotiate a compromise.  When he saw that it was impossible, he joined the Confederacy and helped to build its infrastructure.  He died in 1862 as a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.