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Tyler and Calhoun

April 19, 2017

John Tyler was not the sort of man who would have been elected President in the first place.  Neither was John Calhoun.  Tyler became President only after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death.  Calhoun gave up on the idea of becoming President and instead sought to become Vice President.  In this capacity he served in two very different administrations.

It would be wrong to say that he served the Presidents who headed the aforementioned administrations, because Calhoun clearly had his own agenda.  In the John Quincy Adams administration Calhoun was not really favorable to Adams’s proposed program of internal improvements.  In the Jackson administration he resigned during the Nullification Crisis.  Neither Adams nor Jackson was very happy with him.

When Daniel Webster resigned in 1843, President Tyler appointed Abel Upshur as Secretary of State.  He was, politically speaking, the ideal man to handle the negotiations that would make the Republic of Texas into a state in the American republic.  Unfortunately, he was accidentally killed in 1844.

Tyler needed a replacement who could sell Texas annexation based on nationalist sentiment.  Even though Tyler was not considering Calhoun, word got around that Calhoun was his choice.  Calhoun was certainly qualified to be Secretary of State, but he was also a strong apologist for the institution of slavery.  Ten years earlier, in a conversation with a Northern friend, Calhoun had said: “There cannot be a durable republic without slavery.”

Tyler decided it would be better to appoint Calhoun than to insult him, and this resulted in some reduction of support for Texas annexation.  Still, all was not lost.  On March 1, 1845, just three days before Tyler left office, he signed the bill that would lead to eventual statehood.  On December 29, 1845 Texas became the 28th state.




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