John Tyler

Vice-President John Tyler ( 1790-1862) was at home in Virginia, playing marbles with his boys (according to one story), when he heard of President Harrison's death. He had just lost in the game of "knucks" and was on his knees with his knuckles on the ground, ready to receive the penalty, when Fletcher Webster, son of Secretary of State Daniel Webster, rode up in hot haste and dismounted. Tyler got up at once and looked inquiringly at him. "Mr. President," exclaimed young Webster, "I have been instructed by the Secretary of State to deliver these dispatches to you without delay." Tyler glanced at the papers handed him and then cried, "My God, the President is dead!""Yes, sir, Mr. President," said Webster, "the nation is in mourning.""Come, let us go into the house," said Tyler; and he began making arrangements to return to Washington. 1

Not everyone believed that Tyler -- the first Vice-President to become President upon the death of the incumbent -- had succeeded to the prerogatives of a Chief Executive under the Constitution. In the House of Representatives, John McKeon of Pennsylvania introduced a resolution stipulating that Tyler's title should be "acting President." The resolution was defeated by a viva voce vote, but some Congressmen continued to look upon the Virginian as only an "acting" President. Tyler himself, however, claimed all the rights and privileges of the Chief Executive; and the precedent he set has


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