Skip to content

Tyler and Monroe

John Tyler was not the sort of man who would have been elected President in the first place.  James Monroe served as President for two terms.  Tyler became President only after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death.  Monroe was unopposed when he ran for re-election.  Monroe died in 1831, almost ten years before Tyler became President.  Tyler died in 1862.

Monroe is known for the Monroe Doctrine and the Era of Good Feelings.  Tyler is known primarily as the first Vice President to become President upon the death of his predecessor.  Monroe signed the Missouri Compromise.  Tyler vetoed the bills that would have resurrected The Bank of the United States.

Monroe and Tyler were both from Virginia.  Both had served as officers in the U.S. military.  Lieutenant Monroe crossed the Delaware with General Washington.  Captain Tyler served in the local militia during the War of 1812 but saw no action.

Both Presidents are buried in Richmond, Virginia’s Hollywood Cemetery. Their graves are a stone’s throw apart.  Monroe’s casket is surrounded by an iron cage.  Tyler’s lies beneath  an obelisk.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler and Lincoln

John Tyler was not the sort of man who would have been elected President in the first place.  Neither was Abraham Lincoln.  Tyler became President only after William Henry Harrison’s untimely death.  Lincoln became the first Republican President because the Democrats were split in 1860.

Tyler left public life in 1845, but in 1861 he seized the opportunity to lead the peace conference whose goal was to prevent the dissolution of the Union.  He failed.  When Virginia seceded from the Union, he followed his home state.

Unlike Tyler, Lincoln had never been Vice President, U.S. Senator, or governor of a state.  Lincoln had served mostly as an Illinois state legislator.  He had served a single term in the U.S. House of Representatives.  When he ran for the U.S. Senate in 1858, his party won the popular vote, but the Illinois state legislature, which was still in the hands of the Democrats, chose Stephen Douglas instead.

In November 1861 Tyler was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives.  He died in January 1862 before he could take his seat.  If he had died during the peace conference of 1861, perhaps historians would have been kinder to his memory.

If Lincoln had died in January 1862, historians would probably have regarded him as a failure.  By that time eleven states had seceded from the Union, Fort Sumter had been seized, and the disastrous 1st Battle of Bull Run had occurred.  Fortunately, Lincoln lived long enough to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, fight for the 13th Amendment, and receive word of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.  He is generally regarded as the greatest U.S. President.

Tyler and Calhoun

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.

 

 

 

Tyler and Jackson

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.  Andrew Jackson had been elected and re-elected President by significant popular and Electoral vote margins.  His coattails extended even to the next election when his hand-picked successor became President.  When Jackson’s entrenched monetary policy ultimately failed, his successor lost re-election to the Whig Party ticket that named Tyler as Vice President.  However, Tyler and Jackson were mostly in agreement regarding the issues of the day.

Among these issues was the annexation of Texas.  So, when Tyler asked the former President to write a letter to Sam Houston, Jackson accepted the challenge.  He began by appealing to personal friendship.  “…I have been & still am your friend…Some of your enemies have been & are circulating [rumors]…that you are desirous to become closely allied to Great Britain.”  Of course, Jackson wrote that he had put down these notions, saying that Houston “could never become the dupe of England.”

Five days later Jackson wrote again.  Once again he appealed to personal friendship.  He also appealed to Houston’s pride.  “…if you will achieve this annexation your name & fame will become enrolled amongst the greatest chieftains… It will be an unfailing laurel in your ploom (sic).”

When Houston replied, he reiterated Texas’s desire to join the United States.  His main concern was the security of Texas during the negotiations.  What if the Senate should fail to ratify the treaty of annexation?  Texas would be left without a friend.  Jackson assured him “that 39 senators will vote for it.”  This was four more than needed.

However, when the Senate voted in June 1844, the treaty of annexation was rejected.  Jackson died the following June.  Tyler was out of office by then.  Although Texas had not yet officially entered the Union, Tyler and Congress had found a way to make that happen soon.

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler and Webster

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.  Daniel Webster was just the sort of man who might become President someday.  He was the leading Constitutional scholar of his day.  He had served in the U.S. Senate for many years.  His “Reply to Hayne” is generally regarded as one of the greatest speeches ever delivered in Congress.

Webster was Secretary of State when President Harrison died.  He and the rest of the Cabinet sided with Tyler in declaring him to be President and not merely “Acting President.”  Since Tyler had already taken an oath as Vice President, he resisted the idea of being sworn in as President.  Webster disagreed and convinced Tyler to take the Presidential oath.

Webster was an antislavery Massachusettsan.  Tyler owned slaves but believed that slavery was a doomed institution.  Together they worked to involve the United States in the international effort to stop the African slave trade.  When the Cabinet resigned en masse due to Tyler’s vetoes of the bills that would have created a national bank, Webster stayed on.  But when Tyler pushed for annexation of Texas, Webster resigned.  It was an amicable parting by two men of principle.  There can be no doubt that Tyler had great respect for Webster.  In 1843 he told him: “You have manifested powers of intellect of the highest order, and in all things a true American heart.”

Seven years later another Vice President would become President upon the death of his predecessor.   Once again Daniel Webster would be called upon to serve as Secretary of State, an office which he held until his death in 1852.

Tyler and Clay

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.  Henry Clay was just the sort of man who might be President someday.  He had already been nominated twice and lost, but that was before the Whig Party was formed.  Now that Harrison was dead and Tyler was his weak successor, Clay was bound to get the nomination in 1844.  Meanwhile, he would advance the Whig agenda from the U.S. Senate.

Clay had the misfortune to run against Andrew Jackson in 1824 and 1832.  In 1824 Clay finished last in a four-way race.  He threw his support to the candidate with the second most Electoral votes, thereby thwarting Jackson.  Clay was then appointed Secretary of State by President John Quincy Adams.  If Adams had won a second term, Clay would have been his natural successor.

It was Clay who insisted that Tyler was merely the “Acting President.”  After all, the president pro tempore of the Senate did not become the Vice President.  He merely assumed the legislative duties of the Vice President.  Why then should the Vice President accede to the office of the President?  The Constitution said only that the powers and duties of the Presidency would devolve to the Vice President, not the office itself.

However, Tyler refused to open any correspondence that was addressed to the “Acting President.”  It was obvious that Clay was not going to get his legislative agenda passed unless he recognized Tyler’s claim to the office of President.  Unfortunately for Clay, Tyler had his own legislative agenda.

 

 

 

 

 

Tyler and Harrison

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.  Tyler’s father had been friends with Thomas Jefferson, and Tyler himself had held many political offices; but despite being a member of the ruling class, Tyler was a man without a party.

Tyler was not really a Whig.  He did not favor Whig policy on protective tariffs or internal improvements or the need for a national bank.  He simply opposed the Democrats because of Jackson’s Unionist stand during the Nullification Crisis.  So, when Whig William Henry Harrison ran against Jackson surrogate Martin Van Buren, Tyler was happy to be on the ticket with Harrison.

Their campaign slogan was “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”  “Tippecanoe,” because Harrison had been the commanding general in this famous victory.  “Tyler too,” because the Whigs hoped to attract Democrat votes in the South.  This worked, at least for the 1840 election.

Harrison was the first Whig to win a Presidential election.  Unfortunately for him and for his party, he served only one month.  When Congress sent Tyler legislation that would have accomplished the Whig platform, he vetoed what Harrison would have signed.

Because Harrison served so short a time, Tyler was President longer than anyone who had never been elected to the office in his own right.  For the Whigs in Congress it seemed even longer.