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Tyler and Truman

March 15, 2017

John Tyler was not the sort of man who would have been elected President in the first place.  He became President only after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death.  Since no one had ever succeeded to the office of President before, the Congressional leadership didn’t even refer to him as the President.  Instead, they called him the “Acting President.”  When he resisted this affront, Congress eventually came around, but Tyler was not nominated to succeed himself.

William Henry Harrison served the fewest days as President, but due to the absence of a universally accepted norm, his successor John Tyler had to assert himself.  Franklin Roosevelt served the most days as President, and that made it hard for people to remember that anyone else could be entrusted with so great a responsibility.  But unlike Tyler, Harry Truman was eventually nominated and elected to a term as President in his own right.

Truman, the 33rd President, was great-great-great nephew of Tyler, the 10th President.  In his memoirs Truman wrote:  “I have often been accused of having a stubborn streak.  Perhaps it came to me from Tyler, who was a close kinsman of my ancestors.  At any rate, I felt exactly the same way he did about the office of President.  Regardless of what else might be said about me, I wanted it to be made clear that as long as I was in the White House I ran the executive branch of the government, and no one was ever allowed to act in the capacity of President of the United States except the man who held that office.”

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