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John Tyler

What Number President was He?


John Tyler assumed the role of the tenth President of the United States from 1841 to 1845 following the death of President William Henry Harrison in April 1841. He became the first Vice President to ascend to the Presidency due to the passing of his predecessor.

Characterized as "His Accidency" by his critics, John Tyler became the initial Vice President to transition to the position of President due to the demise of the incumbent.

Born in Virginia in 1790, he was brought up with a strong belief in the strict interpretation of the Constitution, a conviction he steadfastly adhered to throughout his life. He pursued education at the College of William and Mary and engaged in the study of law.

During his tenure in the House of Representatives from 1816 to 1821, Tyler frequently opposed nationalist legislation and expressed his disagreement with the Missouri Compromise. After his service in the House, he assumed the role of Governor of Virginia. As a Senator, he reluctantly endorsed Andrew Jackson's presidential candidacy as a choice between undesirable options. Subsequently, Tyler aligned himself with the states' rights advocates from the South in Congress, who united with Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and the newly established Whig party to counter President Jackson's influence.

In 1840, the Whigs nominated Tyler for the Vice Presidency, aiming to garner support from Southern states' rights proponents who were skeptical of the Jacksonian Democratic platform. The campaign catchphrase "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" encapsulated both patriotic nationalism and a hint of Southern regionalism.

Although Clay temporarily downplayed his strong nationalist stance to retain control over party leadership, and Webster positioned himself as a "Jeffersonian Democrat," both figures sought to exert influence over "Old Tippecanoe" after the election.

However, Tyler unexpectedly assumed the presidency upon President Harrison's death, which initially did not perturb the Whigs. Tyler promptly assumed the full powers of an elected President and delivered an Inaugural Address that seemed to align with Whig principles. The Whigs remained hopeful that Tyler would adhere to their agenda, but their optimism was short-lived.

While Tyler was open to compromises on banking matters, Clay remained unyielding. Tyler's proposed "exchequer system" was rejected by Clay, and in response, Tyler vetoed Clay's legislation aimed at establishing a National Bank with branches in multiple states. A similar bank bill managed to pass Congress, only to be vetoed by Tyler due to states' rights concerns.

As a consequence, the Whigs expelled Tyler from their party, leading to the resignations of the entire Cabinet except for Secretary of State Webster. When Tyler vetoed a tariff bill in 1843, it marked the first impeachment resolution targeting a President, although it ultimately failed in the House of Representatives.

Despite their differences, Tyler and the Whig-controlled Congress managed to enact several constructive laws. The "Log-Cabin" bill permitted settlers to claim 160 acres of land before it was publicly offered for sale, provided they later paid $1.25 per acre for it.

In 1842, Tyler signed a tariff bill aimed at safeguarding northern manufacturers. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty resolved a Canadian boundary dispute, and in 1845, Texas was annexed.

Tyler's administration bolstered the Presidency's authority but also deepened the sectional divide that ultimately led to the Civil War. By the end of his term, Tyler had replaced the original Whig Cabinet members with conservative figures from the South. In 1844, John C. Calhoun became Secretary of State. These individuals later returned to the Democratic Party, advocating for states' rights, Southern plantation interests, and the continuation of slavery. The Whigs, on the other hand, came to represent the economic and agricultural interests of the North.

As the Southern states began to secede in 1861, Tyler led efforts toward compromise. When those endeavors faltered, he played a role in establishing the Confederate States of America. He passed away in 1862 while serving as a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.

John Tyler

The applause of his native land is the richest reward to which the patriot ever aspires. It is this for which 'he bears to live or dares to die.' It is the high incentive to those achievements which illustrate the page of history and give to poetry its brightest charm.

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