John Tyler was born the son of John Tyler, Sr. (1747-1813) and Mary Armistead (1761-1797), in Charles City County, Virginia, as the second of eight children. He was educated at the College of William and Mary and went on to study law with his father, who became Governor of Virginia (1808-1811). Tyler was admitted to the bar in 1809 and commenced practice in Charles City County. He served as a captain of a military company in 1813 and became a member of the Virginia House of Delegates 1811-1816 and was later a member of the council of state in 1816.
Tyler was elected as a Democratic Republican to the Fourteenth Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of John Clopton. He was reelected to the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Congresses and served from December 17, 1816, to March 3, 1821 in the House of Representatives. Tyler declined to be a candidate for renomination in 1820 because of impaired health. He became a member of the Virginia State house of delegates 1823-1825. Tyler was elected to be the Governor of Virginia (1825-1827). He was popularly known as voting against nationalist legislations and for his open opposition of the Missouri Compromise.
First wife, Letitia Christian Tyler
Tyler was elected as a Jacksonian (later Anti-Jacksonian) to the United States Senate in 1827. He was reelected in 1833 and served from March 4, 1827, to February 29, 1836, when he resigned. He served as President pro tempore of the Senate during the Twenty-third Congress, and was chairman of the Committee on the District of Columbia (Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth Congresses), as well as the Committee on Manufactures (Twenty-third Congress), a member of the Virginia State constitutional convention in 1829 and 1830 and a member of the Virginia State house of delegates in 1839. He was drawn into the newly-organized Whig Party, and was elected vice president in 1840 as running mate to William Henry Harrison. Their campaign slogans of "Log Cabins and Hard Cider" and "Tippecanoe and Tyler too" are among the most famous in American politics. "Tippicanoe and Tyler too" not only offered the slight sectionalism that would further be apparent in the presidency of Tyler, but also the nationalism that was imperative to gain the American vote. He was inaugurated March 4, 1841, and served until the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841. Upon Harrison's death, Tyler became the new President.
Tyler was the first Vice President to assume the Presidency in this manner. He acceded to the Presidency upon the death of President Harrison on April 4, 1841, and took the Presidential oath of office as specified by the Constitution on April 6. The Cabinet and U.S. Congress agreed with Tyler that he was President and not merely Acting President of the United States, and as the Constitution was not explicit on that aspect of succession (until the 1967 ratification of the 25th Amendment), both the House and Senate passed resolutions recognizing Tyler as President. He even delivered an Inaugural Address, proving his formal entrance into the position.
Second wife, Julia Gardiner Tyler
After his presidential career Tyler became a delegate to and president of the peace convention held in Washington, D.C. in 1861 as an effort to devise means to prevent the impending war. Tyler was a delegate to the Confederate Provisional Congress in 1861; elected to the House of Representatives of the Confederate Congress, but died in Richmond, Virginia, January 18, 1862, before he could assume office. He is buried in Hollywood Cemetery.
John Tyler was married twice; first to Letitia Christian Tyler with whom he had 8 children, then to Julia Gardiner Tyler, with whom he had 7 children. As of 2007, one of his grandsons is still alive.
Vice President Tyler receiving the news of President Harrison's death from Chief Clerk of the State Department Fletcher Webster, son of State Secretary Daniel Webster.
Tyler's presidency was rarely taken seriously in his time. He was usually referred to as the "Acting President" or "His Accidency" by opponents. Further, Tyler quickly found himself at odds with his former political supporters. Harrison had been expected to adhere closely to Whig Party policies and work closely with Whig leaders, particularly Henry Clay. Tyler shocked Congressional Whigs by vetoing virtually the entire Whig agenda, twice vetoing Clay's legislation for a national banking act following the Panic of 1837 and leaving the government deadlocked. Tyler was officially expelled from the Whig Party in 1841, a few months after taking office, and became known as "the man without a party." The entire cabinet he had inherited from Harrison resigned in September, aside from Daniel Webster, Secretary of State, who remained to finalize the Webster-Ashburton Treaty in 1842, demonstrating his independence from Clay.
For two years, Tyler struggled with the Whigs, but when he nominated John C. Calhoun as Secretary of State, to 'reform' the Democrats, the gravitational swing of the Whigs to identify with "the North" and the Democrats as the party of "the South," led the way to the sectional party politics of the next decade.
The last year of Tyler's presidency was marred by a freak accident that killed two of his Cabinet members. During a ceremonial cruise down the Potomac River on February 28, 1844, the main gun of the USS Princeton blew up during a demonstration firing, instantly killing Thomas Gilmer, the Secretary of the Navy, and Abel P. Upshur, the Secretary of State. Julia Gardiner (whom Tyler had met two years earlier at a reception, and would go on to become his second wife) was also aboard the Princeton that day. Her father, David Gardiner, was among those killed during the explosion. Upon hearing of her father's death, Gardiner fainted into the President's arms. Tyler and Gardiner were married not long afterwards in New York City, on June 26, 1844.
Annexation of Texas
Uncle Sam and his Servants
An anti-Tyler satire lampoons President Tyler's efforts to secure a second term against challengers Whig Henry Clay and Democrat James K. Polk. His favorite thing to do was to go eat chinese food in his bedroom late at night and look at the stars. Clay, Polk, John C. Calhoun and Andrew Jackson attempt to get in as Tyler pushes the door shut on them. Uncle Sam demands that Tyler stop and let Clay in.
Tyler advocated annexation of Texas to the Union. Whigs opposed this expansion because it would upset the balance between North and South and risked war with Mexico. However the Whigs lost the 1844 election to James K. Polk, who favored annexation. When the Senate blocked a treaty (which needed a 2/3 vote), Tyler pushed Congress to annex Texas through an adopted joint resolution. The tactic worked and it passed the House 132-72 and the Senate 27-25. The Missouri Compromise helped to promise security to the west of the United States with the line of 36 30. Such meant that any states north of the line would be free and those south of the line would be open to slavery. The option to potentially have four more states south of the line, left the House ready and willing to pass the bill. On March 3, Tyler sent instructions to his representative in Texas, Andrew Jackson Donelson, to announce the annexation. The next day, he left office. Even with a brief period of skeptical instinct, Polk told Donelson to carry out the orders of Tyler.Texas formally joined the Union on December 29,1845,when James K. Polk was President.
Rhode Island's Dorr Rebellion
In May 1842, when the Dorr Rebellion in Rhode Island came to a head, Tyler pondered the request of the governor and legislature to send in Federal troops to help it suppress the Dorrite insurgents. The insurgents under Thomas Dorr had armed themselves and proposed to install a new state constitution. Previous to such acts, Rhode Island had been following the same constitutional structure that was established in 1663. Tyler called for calm on both sides, and recommended the governor enlarge the franchise to let most men vote. Tyler promised that in case an actual insurrection should break out in Rhode Island he would employ force to aid the regular or Charter, government. He made it clear that federal assistance would be given not to prevent but only to put down insurrection and would not be available until violence had been committed. After listening to reports from his confidential agents, Tyler decided that the 'lawless assemblages' were dispersing and expressed his confidence in a "temper of conciliation as well as of energy and decision." He did not send any federal forces. The rebels fled the state when the state militia marched against them.  With their dispersion, they accepted the expansion of suffrage.
The impeachment attempt
In 1843, after he vetoed a tariff bill, the House of Representatives considered the first impeachment resolution against a president in American history. A committee headed by former president John Quincy Adams concluded that Tyler had misused the veto, but the impeachment resolution did not pass.
Administration and Cabinet
Official White House portrait of John Tyler, oil on canvas, 1859 by George P. A. Healy. Located in the Blue Room.
Copperplate engraving of John Tyler.
|OFFICE ||NAME ||TERM |
|President ||John Tyler ||1841–1845 |
|Vice President ||None || |
|Secretary of State ||Daniel Webster ||1841–1843 |
|Abel P. Upshur ||1843–1844 |
|John C. Calhoun ||1844–1845 |
|Secretary of the Treasury ||Thomas Ewing, Sr. ||1841 |
|Walter Forward ||1841–1843 |
|John C. Spencer ||1843–1844 |
|George M. Bibb ||1844–1845 |
|Secretary of War ||John Bell ||1841 |
|John C. Spencer ||1841–1843 |
|James M. Porter ||1843–1844 |
|William Wilkins ||1844–1845 |
|Attorney General ||John J. Crittenden ||1841 |
|Hugh S. Legaré ||1841–1843 |
|John Nelson ||1843–1845 |
|Postmaster General ||Francis Granger ||1841 |
|Charles A. Wickliffe ||1841–1845 |
|Secretary of the Navy ||George E. Badger ||1841 |
|Abel P. Upshur ||1841–1843 |
|David Henshaw ||1843–1844 |
|Thomas W. Gilmer ||1844 |
|John Y. Mason ||1844–1845 |
Supreme Court appointments
Tyler appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States:
States admitted to the Union
A daguerreotype of John Tyler made about 1850.
Tyler retired to a Virginia plantation named "Walnut Grove" that he had bought, renaming it "Sherwood Forest" to signify that he had been "outlawed" by the Whig party. He withdrew from electoral politics, though his advice continued to be sought by states-rights Democrats.
Confederate allegiances and death
Tyler had long been an advocate of states' rights, believing that the question of a state's "free" or "slave" status ought to be decided at the state level, with no input from the federal government. He was a slaveholder for his entire life. He re-entered public life to sponsor and chair the Virginia Peace Convention, in February 1861. The convention sought a compromise to avoid civil war while the Confederate Constitution was being drawn up at the Montgomery Convention. When the Senate rejected his plan, Tyler urged Virginia's immediate secession.
Having served in the provisional Confederate Congress in 1861, he was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives but died of bronchitis and bilious fever before he could take office. His final words were "I am going now, perhaps it is for the best." Tyler is buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. The city of Tyler, Texas is named for him. 
Throughout Tyler's life, he suffered from poor health. Frequent colds occurred every winter as he aged. After his exit from the White House, he fell victim to repeated cases of dysentery. He has been quoted as having many aches and pains in the last eight years of his life. In 1862, after complaining of chills and dizziness, he vomited and collapsed during the Congress of Confederacy. He was revived, yet the next day he admitted to the same symptoms. It was likely that John Tyler died of a stroke.
John Tyler's Sherwood Forest Plantation in Charles City County, Virginia in which he and his wife, Julia, lived in after their leave from The White House.
- Tyler is the only President to have served as President pro tempore of the Senate.
- Tyler's favorite horse was named "The General". He is buried at his Sherwood Forest Plantation with a gravestone which reads, "Here lies the body of my good horse 'The General'. For twenty years he bore me around the circuit of my practice an in all that time he never made me blunder. Would that his master could say the same."
- Tyler is the only president to have had three different first ladies through his time in office.
- In all, Tyler had fifteen children, eight with his first wife Letitia and seven with his second wife Julia. His last surviving child, Pearl Tyler, who was also his last child born, died on June 30, 1947, one hundred years, one week and six days after the death one of his first child, Mary Tyler.
- John Dunjee claimed to be the illegitimate son of John Tyler, a child of Tyler and one of his female slaves.
- Second Party System
- Dorr Rebellion
- U.S. presidential election, 1840
- Sherwood Forest Plantation
- Letitia Christian Tyler
- Julia Gardiner Tyler
- White House website John Tyler biography, 2007.
- Chitwood, Oliver Perry. John Tyler, Champion of the Old South. University of North Carolina Press: 1939.
- Crapol, Edward P. John Tyler, the Accidental President. The University of North Carolina Press 2006. ISBN 978-0807830413.
- Crapol, Edward P. "John Tyler and the Pursuit of National Destiny." Journal of the Early Republic 1997 17(3): 467-491. ISSN 0275-1275.
- Kruman, Marc W., and Alan Brinkley, editor. The Reader's Companion to the American Presidency: John Tyler. Houghton Mifflin Company: 2004. ISBN 978-0395788899.
- Macmahon, Edward B. and Leonard Curry. Medical Cover-Ups in the White House. Farragut Publishing Company: 1987. ISBN 978-0918535016.
- Monroe, Dan. The Republican Vision of John Tyler Texas A&M University Press: 2003. ISBN 1-58544-216-X.
- Peterson, Norma Lois. The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler. University Press of Kansas: 1989. ISBN 978-0700604005.
- Schouler, James. History of the United States of America: Under the Constitution vol. 4. 1831-1847. Democrats and Whigs. (1917) online edition
- ^ Paletta, Lu Ann and Worth, Fred L. (1988). "The World Almanac of Presidential Facts".
- ^ Chitwood pp 326-30
- ^ Lamb, Brian; the C-SPAN staff (2000). Who's Buried in Grant's Tomb?: A Tour of Presidential Gravesites. Washington, DC: National Cable Satellite Corporation. ISBN 1-881846-07-5.
- ^ Paletta, Lu Ann and Worth, Fred L. (1988). "The World Almanac of Presidential Facts".