John Tyler

John Tyler, 1790–1862, 10th President of the United States, b. Charles City co., Va.

Early Career

Educated at the College of William and Mary, he studied law under his father, John Tyler (1747–1813), governor of Virginia from 1808 to 1811, and was admitted (1809) to the bar. A state legislator (1811–16, 1823–25) and U.S. Representative (1817–21), Tyler was an unswerving states' rights Democrat. He joined the condemnation of Andrew Jackson's actions in Florida and voted against the Missouri Compromise.

Governor of Virginia (1825–27) and a U.S. Senator (1827–36), Tyler reluctantly supported Jackson as the least objectionable of the presidential candidates in 1828 and 1832. Although he did not approve South Carolina's nullification act, he violently opposed Jackson's measures against it (see force bill). The President's fiscal policies further alienated him, so that he was eventually drawn to the new Whig party, joining its states' rights Southern wing, which differed with many of the nationalistic policies associated with the Clay leadership. He resigned from the Senate rather than abide by the instructions of the Virginia legislature to vote for the motion to expunge Henry Clay's censure of Jackson from the records.


In 1840, Tyler was chosen running mate to the Whig presidential candidate, William Henry Harrison, and they waged their victorious "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" campaign. One month after his inauguration Harrison died, and on Apr. 4, 1841, Tyler became the first Vice President to succeed to the presidency. His antipathy toward many Whig policies soon became apparent (he had never concealed it), and a rift developed between him and Henry Clay, the party leader.

After his second veto of a measure creating a national bank with branches in the states (on the grounds that it violated the constitutional rights of the states), his cabinet, except for Daniel Webster, resigned (Sept., 1841). Webster stayed on as Secretary of State until the negotiations for the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with the British were completed (May, 1843). Bitterly denounced by the Whigs and with few friends among the Democrats, Tyler became a President without a party.

Nevertheless he accomplished much toward the annexation of Texas. Abel P. Upshur, Webster's successor, was killed when a gun on the U.S.S. Princeton blew up, and John C. Calhoun continued Upshur's negotiations for a treaty with Texas. The treaty was rejected by the Senate. Tyler then supported a plan for a joint resolution to annex Texas and had the satisfaction of seeing it accepted by Texas just before he left office in 1845. The completion of annexation was brought about under James K. Polk, Tyler's Democratic successor.

Later Career

Tyler, nominated by a small Democratic faction, had withdrawn from the 1844 election. In Feb., 1861, he presided over the unsuccessful conference at Washington that attempted to find some last-minute solution to avert the Civil War. Later, he served in the provisional Confederate Congress and was elected to the permanent Confederate Congress, but he died before he could take his seat.


See L. G. Tyler (his son), Letters and Times of the Tylers (3 vol., 1884–96, repr. 1970); biographies by O. P. Chitwood (1939, repr. 1964) and G. May (2008); studies by R. J. Morgan (1954) and N. L. Peterson (1989).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2018, The Columbia University Press.

John Tyler: Selected full-text books and articles

John Tyler, the Accidental President By Edward P. Crapol University of North Carolina Press, 2012
The Republican Vision of John Tyler By Dan Monroe Texas A&M University Press, 2003
John Tyler, Champion of the Old South By Oliver Perry Chitwood D. Appleton-Century Company, Incorporated, 1939
The Moment of Decision: Biographical Essays on American Character and Regional Identity By Randall M. Miller; John R. McKivigan; Jon L. Wakelyn Greenwood Press, 1994
Librarian's tip: Chap. 4 "John Tyler as President: An Old School Republican in Search of Vindication"
Presidential Campaigns By Paul F. Boller Jr Oxford University Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. Fourteen "1840: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too"
The Year We Had No President By Richard H. Hansen University of Nebraska Press, 1962
Librarian's tip: "Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too" begins on p. 5
Torn between Family and Politics: John Tyler's Struggle for Balance By Leahy, Christopher The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 114, No. 3, July 1, 2006
From Failing Hands: The Story of Presidential Succession By John D. Feerick Fordham University Press, 1965
Librarian's tip: Chap. 7 "The Tyler Precedent"
Slavery and the American West: The Eclipse of Manifest Destiny and the Coming of the Civil War By Michael A. Morrison University of North Carolina Press, 1997
Librarian's tip: Chap. 1 "John Tyler's Hobby Territorial Expansion and Jacksonian Politics"
The Road to Disunion: Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 By William W. Freehling Oxford University Press, vol.1, 1991
Librarian's tip: Chap. 20 "Anti-Annexation as Manifest Destiny"
The Federalist Years to the Civil War By Philip H. Burch Jr Holmes & Meier, vol.1, 1981
Librarian's tip: Chap. 5 "The Pre-Civil War Years (1841-1861)"
Presidential Anecdotes By Paul F. Boller Jr Oxford University Press, 1996 (Revised edition)
Librarian's tip: Chap. Ten "John Tyler 1841-45"
Playing Her Greatest Role: Priscilla Cooper Tyler and the Politics of the White House Social Scene, 1841-44 By Leahy, Christopher J The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 120, No. 3, July 1, 2012
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