Saturday, June 2, 2007

Number 10: John Tyler

Years in office: 1841-1845

Pre-service occupations: U.S. senator, governor (Virginia), vice president

Key events during his administration: annexation of Texas (1845), Florida admitted to the Union (1845), Webster-Ashburton Treaty (1842), Tyler (Pacific) Doctrine (1843), Treaty of Wangxia (1844)

Nicknames: His Accidency, the Acting President and the Vice President Acting as President

Presidential rating: Successful (but…) and largely unpopular


When President William Henry Harrison died on April 4, 1841, the country entered constitutional turmoil. What was supposed to happen? Would Vice President John Tyler now become president? Would a new election be held? Would Tyler merely be a caretaker president until the next scheduled election? It was new territory, and the country wasn’t sure what to do.

Fortunately for the country, John Tyler was certain, prepared and made sure that he—and he alone—was the president for the remainder of Harrison’s (now Tyler’s) term.

As the first man to assume the presidency after the president died in office, Tyler performed a service to the nation that cannot be undersold. If Adams and Jefferson established the peaceful transition of power between political enemies, Tyler established, or more correctly affirmed, the constitutional continuation of executive authority when the president dies in office.

Today, presidential succession is only thought about when a running mate is selected, but in 1841, many Whigs and Democrats did not recognize Tyler as president. Some members of congress wanted Tyler to be a figurehead while the secretary of state or even congress ran the executive branch. But Tyler would have none of it, and properly asserted his authority. Since 1841, power has transferred smoothly amid times of crisis eight times, thanks to Tyler. (* See note at bottom.)

Nowadays, Tyler is a forgotten president. If he’s remembered, it’s for what he did in 1841, the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler, Too,” or for the notion that he is the only “traitor” president because he was elected to the Confederate Congress. He’s also regarded as a failed president, which I believe is a crime of history.So, what of his presidency? How did the Virginian planter handle the affairs of the executive once the major crisis was solved?

A childhood among greatness

John Tyler spent his formative years among a who’s who of Virginian and early American politics. His own father, also named John, was a well-respected politician and early agitator against the slave trade (but not against slavery). Among the elder Tyler’s contemporaries were Jefferson, Madison and Bishop James Madison, onetime president of William and Mary College and something of a kingmaker in Virginia politics.

Young John absorbed much from these men, and he developed a keen sense of America’s destiny, which he shared in powerful oratory throughout his political career. Although Tyler never left the American seaboard—ever, in fact—he came to believe that America had a special destiny to fulfill. Being around such men as Bishop Madison and Jefferson helped hone that vision into a burning desire to take America to the far coast and beyond.

This vision would be codified as “manifest destiny,” and would be identified with Tyler’s presidential successor, James K. Polk, but I believe that Tyler deserves as much credit for the vision of American continental greatness as Polk and Jefferson.

America was destined for greatness, Tyler believed, and he would articulate this belief better than most politicians in the early republic. Whether as a Senator or Virginia’s governor, Tyler articulated a great America, a worldly America, a nation that led instead of followed. Biographer Edward P. Crapol marvels that Tyler appeared so worldly and cultured for a man who never once left the eastern seaboard.

Tyler explained his ideas for America in a visit to New York City in 1843:

“For how can the example of a democratic America be resisted? Do you not perceive that a light is breaking forth everywhere? That this same free America has already civilized a continent, which when we were boys was almost all in a wilderness state?” (Crapol, p.190)

A little flowery, sure, but he meant every word.Tyler also developed a strong sense of republicanism; and how could he not, considering his childhood heroes. But as president, he often betrayed his pure Jeffersonian republican ideals in favor of expanding executive power—even into areas that could justly be called unconstitutional—all in the name of securing America’s destiny.

The “accidental” president

When William Harrison died, Tyler got his chance—earlier than expected—to implement his ideals for American greatness. But Harrison’s sudden death and Tyler’s ascension to the presidency left Whigs very nervous—especially the number one Whig, Henry Clay. Kentucky’s favored son believed he should have gotten the nod in 1840, so he was not happy that the ex-Democrat Tyler was now president. Clay was mildly relieved that Tyler retained Harrison’s all-Whig cabinet, but was put on guard when Tyler announced that he would be no mere “cipher” for the Whig-controlled Congress and would pursue his own course and policies.

Clay’s worst fears were realized when Tyler vetoed key Whig legislation, including a new national bank. Whigs were so upset with Tyler that they expelled the president from the party in 1841, and most of the cabinet resigned that September except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster. Now he was not only an ex-Democrat, he was also an ex-Whig.

Tyler “came back” to the Democrats when he appointed John C. Calhoun as secretary of state to replace the dead Abel Upshur, who had replaced Webster after the latter resigned in 1843. The appointment of Calhoun, with his well-known defense of slavery and the South, helped further drive Whigs north and the base of Democrat power to the South.

Worse, many people in and out of politics never recognized Tyler as president, referring to him as “His Accidency” or “the Acting President” or even “The Vice President Acting as President.” Tyler would return unopened any mail, no matter how important, that failed to address him properly as president.

But President Tyler wasted no time in asserting his authority, however, and making his stamp on the national and international scene.

Slavery’s president

The chief hallmark of John Tyler’s presidency that most historians point to was his defense of slavery. John Tyler realized at a politically early age that slavery was a big problem; that it was, in Jefferson’s words, “a wolf held by the tail,” dangerous to hold but too dangerous to let go. Tyler wasn’t especially fond of slavery, but he accepted the “superiority” of white over Negro as the natural order, as did most whites back then.

As a U.S. senator, slave owner Tyler became ill at the sight of slaves dragged in chains and put on the auction block in the nation’s capitol. He promoted legislation to ban the practice in D.C., but it failed. Like his father, Tyler had a moral obtuseness concerning slavery: The slave trade—trafficking in humans—was despicable, but slavery itself was just hunky-dory.

Also as a U.S. senator, he became aware of just how delicate and troublesome slavery was when the nation experienced the first public convulsion over human bondage with the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Tyler, prescient that slavery could rend the nation, came up with a unique solution: Expand the nation by creating more slave states, thereby dispersing slavery over a much wider space. Slavery would then gradually die out as it did in the northern states. As ridiculous as this idea sounds, Tyler actually believed it could work, as it also fit in with his dreams of an America destined to stretch from coast to coast.

Defending America as a slaveholding republic became a cornerstone of his administration, which is one of the reasons why some historians tend to dismiss him as a failure and a sop to the Southern states.

No president defended slavery more than John Tyler. Although it was American policy to “defend” the institution of slavery on the foreign scene, Tyler did it stronger than anyone else.

Part of it has to do with his status as a Virginia slave owner. Although both he and his father looked askance at the slave trade, slavery itself was acceptable. To us, it’s a distinction with no difference. But to men such as Tyler, real equality between (white) men was maintained as long as slavery existed. (** See note at bottom.)

Mostly, however, his defense of slavery was wrapped in his belief in the Jefferson-Madison “extend the sphere” model of republicanism, where territorial expansion and the viability of the republic intertwined. Abolitionism posed a gigantic threat to this model of America’s destiny. Abolitionists detested Tyler probably more than any other antebellum president because he was a prominent and unapologetic slaveholder. Tyler returned their detest, for he viewed abolitionists as troublemakers who would rend the Union over slavery, thus denying the great nation its great destiny. Although he never went so far as Andrew Jackson did in fighting abolitionists (Jackson permitted Southern states to interfere with the U.S. mail by removing abolitionist literature), Tyler snubbed them and would not receive them at the White House.

In fact, part of Tyler’s Anglophobia, explained below, was tied to abolitionism. He believed that abolitionism was an English plot to disrupt the Union by attacking slavery, as evidenced by prominent English anti-slavery orators who came to America early in his term. It was a fanciful imagining at best, but it played into Tyler’s fears, and he used it to great effect to add to the anti-British sentiment during 1841-42.

Of course, like all early presidents, the glaring contradiction of America as a beacon of liberty while simultaneously being a slaveholding nation was never discussed in official channels, or even acknowledged. (This led to awkward situations, such as the refusal to recognize Haiti, another free republic, because it became a republic through a slave revolt. The United States would not recognize Haiti until 1862.)

Diplomatic “war” with England

As mentioned, Tyler was an Anglophobe. The term fits, because Tyler did fear English world domination. In the 1840s, as the saying goes, the sun never set on the English empire, and Tyler feared that the British were attempting to eke away at potential and real American holdings in Maine, the Pacific coast and rim, the Caribbean and even the republic of Texas. While his and secretary of state Webster’s Anglophobia was just a tad bit stretched, England was America’s chief antagonist, and there were several affairs with England that needed strong resolution, and fast.

War fever, or more correctly, a reluctant resignation that war with England was nigh, ruled in American politics during the first two years of his term. Although the prospects of a third war with the former mother country were not pleasant, Tyler and his Navy Department, under the highly capable Abel Upshur, used the scare to press Congress for modernization of America’s coastal defenses and Navy. Not all of Tyler’s and Upshur’s wish list was accepted, but the beginning of the transformation of the Navy from exclusively sail-powered to sail and steam-powered began under Tyler and Upshur, and they deserve much credit. (Upshur created the U.S. Naval Observatory and the regularization of the officer corps, including the introduction of the rank of rear admiral and admiral.)

Tensions with England were already high over the trial of a British citizen held in America. In a bold but curious move, President Tyler threatened to withhold British Ambassador Fox’s passport if the citizen was found guilty and until the matter was resolved. But the man was exonerated. Later, however, relations with England took a sharp turn downward when slaves revolted on the American ship Creole, murdered their master and sailed the ship to a British Caribbean protectorate. The British authorities there let the mutineers and the other captive slaves go free, much to the outrage of the South and joy of northern abolitionists. Coupled with the British sinking of the Caroline in Canadian waters during Van Buren’s term, continued occasional impressments and a few other “outrages,” the South turned to slave owner Tyler for swift justice.

It didn’t come fast enough, and subsequently Tyler’s stock fell in their eyes. Tyler seemed to vacillate, but he really wasn’t. Instead, he and Webster played a very crafty game of diplomacy with England. Secretary Webster and his counter-part, Lord Ashburton, hammered out an agreement during the hot summer of 1842 that came out quite favorable to the United States. England basically apologized for the attack on the Caroline, promised no repeated of the Creole affair, agreed on a mutually beneficial Maine-New Brunswick boundary, and understanding that impressments would finally stop, and also agreed to a joint cooperation to patrolling the shores off of Africa to stop slave traders. This last part surprised abolitionists, who had written Tyler off as an evil “imbecile.”

It was a huge diplomatic triumph for Tyler (and Webster) and although Tyler’s hotheadedness created some later misunderstandings on the wording, Tyler deserves much credit for blustering while seeking a peaceful resolution.The only point of contention not included in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty was the status of Oregon, which both nations jointly occupied. Tyler, in a brilliant bit of political chicanery, pulled Mexico and Britain into a scheme of land and money swapping that was designed to be rejected. (America would pay Mexico for two choice California ports, America would give Britain favorable land in Oregon in exchange for leaning on Mexico for the deal.) Tyler’s scheming was more designed to force England to the table again. It didn’t work out the way Tyler wanted, and the Oregon matter wasn’t solved until Polk’s term.

More manifest destiny—to the Pacific

All early presidents had their eyes focused westward, but none more than Tyler. His successor, James Polk, is usually the one most associated with manifest destiny because of the Mexican War and the fact that he added the most territory to the United States. But I believe the mantle jointly belongs to Tyler, and biographer Edward P. Crapol seems to agree.President Tyler gained two diplomatic triumphs that are long lost to history: recognition of the independence of Hawaii and the Tyler Doctrine, and the opening of China to American trade.

The Hawaiian Islands, then also known as the Sandwich Islands, became a Christian nation with a constitution, and the monarch, Kamehameha III, sent emissaries to Washington to seek recognition. The emissaries, William Richards, a Calvinist missionary, and Timoteo Haalilio, who was “almost as dark as an Ethiopian,” arrived in D.C. in 1842. Haalilio became the toast of D.C. But after several frustrating meetings with Webster, the two threatened to go to England first. That got them an audience with President Tyler, who authorized recognition of Hawaii—and what was accepted to be United States protection of Hawaii and the American missionaries there against foreign interference. In other words, Tyler extended the Monroe Doctrine to include Hawaii!

In the second instance, Tyler, at the prompting of American merchants, and fueled by the recent British success in the Opium War with China, sought a trade partnership with the Celestial Empire. In 1843, he and outgoing Secretary of State Webster sent a man named Cushing to China to open diplomatic and trade relations, with $40,000 authorized by Congress. Cushing proved to be a terrific choice, because he learned to be patient and respectful with his Chinese counterpart. In the end, Cushing secured a trade and ports deal with China that was better than what the British had won. The wisdom of seeking trade with China should not be dismissed, as exports to China (tobacco, cotton and grains) went from $9.5 million in 1845 to $22.5 million in 1860.

But sadly, Tyler received no credit for these moves. In fact, I was totally unaware of the “opening of China” to trade. As a schoolboy, I only heard of the “opening of Japan”—which, incidentally, Cushing sought to do, but Tyler’s administration ended before it could happen. But Tyler would later claim the “seeds” of opening Japan were planted in his term.

Domestic affairs, spies and impeachment

Much of President Tyler’s focus was on America’s borders and international sphere of influence, and with good reason. But when he turned to domestic affairs, he made a lot of people mad. The Whigs expelled Tyler from the party because he went against their agenda, chief of which was the recreation of the national bank. He vetoed the bank because he believed it went against states rights. He also declined to support the Whig Congress’ tariff, but two years later, did support a limited tariff for northern manufacturers, but Whigs gave him little credit.

Whigs were so upset with Tyler over his vetoes of the bank and tariff that they claimed that Tyler has “misused” the veto, which was a ridiculous charge. Instead, they were misusing the concept of impeachment. The first-ever articles of impeachment were drawn up in the House, but the attempt failed, as they never made it out of Rep. John Quincy Adams’ committee.

Still, the attempt stung. And why wouldn’t it? Tyler was being persecuted for not being a Whig. (Sounds a little familiar, doesn’t it?) However, if Congress had known what Tyler was doing with “secret service” funds, it might have been able to impeach him on something very tangible. President Tyler, when executing his foreign policy, often employed spies and special diplomats who operated in secret and were paid for out of a “secret service” executive fund. Tyler and Secretary of State Webster were, in fact, using federal funds to wage a secret propaganda campaign inside Maine to get its citizens to believe that they themselves were behind the impetuous for a peaceful resolution with England over the Maine-New Brunswick border. Why was this unconstitutional or border-line unconstitutional? Because of the money involved, and the fact that the executive branch was waging a covert propaganda campaign on Americans. But the issue never came to light while Tyler was president.

Tyler used spies and unofficial “ambassadors” in other capacities throughout his presidency, especially in England, and especially in the defense of slavery. One “General” Duff Green, with a bankroll of executive money, served as “slavery’s ambassador” to England, doing what he could to disrupt antislavery sentiments, much to the disgust of America’s actual minister to England.

He often stretched the Constitution in ways that he professed to abhor before he held the office. But once he held the reins of power, and had the opportunity to enact his vision of national destiny, he shoved aside his republican ideals in favor of the bigger goal.

Back on the domestic front, Tyler and Whigs did come to an interesting agreement on the purchase of land: Under the “log cabin” bill, which Tyler signed, a man could lay claim to 160 acres before it was offered publicly for sale, and then pay $1.25 an acre for it.But his stand on defending slavery naturally alienated abolitionist New England. Conversely, because Southern Democrats didn’t think he was doing enough to defend slavery, and because he had left the Democratic party, he was not their favorite man, either. So Tyler was a “man without a party.” “His Accidency” was scorned and disrespected from all sides, and was not popular.

Partially because of how he attained the presidency, Tyler abstained from making many changes to federal offices for two years. It was only when the bug to become president in his own right grew strong that Tyler began working on party building, but by 1843, it was largely too late in the game for that. Nevertheless, he did the usual purging of postmasters and other office-holders—another betrayal of his pure republican principles. He also commissioned a fawning biography of his life that he “urged” postmasters to buy and deliver.

But strangely enough, when Tyler made the one extended trip of his presidency outside of Washington and Virginia, he was treated as royalty. In Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City, the Tyler party was feted in grander style than any other president had been. Tyler was canny enough to recognize that it probably wasn’t so much for him as it was for the office of the presidency, considering a presidential visit back then was still something extraordinary. Still, even abolitionist Boston treated him with respect, although the real toast of the town was Daniel Webster, just recently departed from the State department, in town as part of the massive 75th anniversary celebration of the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Regardless, Tyler took the outpouring as a good sign that he was on the road to re-election. And he would use Texas to seal the deal.

Texas, ho!

The Mexican War, in modern memory, is always associated with Tyler’s successor, James Polk. But President Tyler bears as much responsibility because, although Polk brought on the shooting war, Tyler made the final drive for the annexation of Texas. That act precipitated war with hapless Mexico, and Tyler knew full well that it would. I’m not trying to establish Tyler as a villain; rather to make sure that it’s understood that the Mexican-American War, which began in 1846, had its roots in Tyler’s administration.

America had long sought to acquire Texas. Some believed it was rightfully ours since the Louisiana Purchase. John Quincy Adams was blamed for “losing” Texas in the Adams-Onis Treaty back during Monroe’s administration. Jackson had his eye on Texas when his protégé, Sam Houston, won Texas’ independence in 1836. Jackson’s second protégé/mentor (a weird relationship), Martin Van Buren, demurred on annexing Texas. It finally fell to the ex-Democrat/ex-Whig Tyler to push through acquiring Texas for the Union, and he did so with relish.

Daniel Webster was no fan of annexing Texas, so Tyler actually put off the Texas matter until the issues with England were put to rest. After all, he and Webster formed a good team. But when it came time to pursue Texas, Tyler—and Webster—knew it was time for him to go.

His interim secretary of state, Hugh Legare, a longtime Tyler confidant and Texas advocate, died suddenly while the president was in Boston. The personal blow put a damper on Tyler’s re-election plans, and he ended the tour and did not head to Ohio and Michigan as planned. But he found another Texas/expansionist stalwart: the brilliant Navy secretary, Abel Upshur.Upshur entered into a secret negotiation with his Texas counterpart, over the objections of the English and Mexican foreign ministries, who believed (correctly) something was afoot. Mexico even said that if the United States were to annex Texas, war would result. Tyler and Upshur were not deterred.

Tyler allies in the Senate also gave brilliant speeches explaining why Texas’ annexation was not merely a sectional (e.g., slave power) matter, but one of national importance. One senator from Mississippi even gave the absurd argument that Texas would serve as a funnel for blacks to leave the country to Mexico and Central and South America, playing up on racial fears.

The well-liked and smooth Upshur secretly secured the necessary two-thirds votes in the Senate without Tyler’s arch-nemesis being aware of it. Texas seemed a little wary of the deal, though, having been burned once by the Van Buren administration. But at that point, annexation—and Tyler’s re-election—seemed assured.

Then tragedy struck. In February 1844, the day that Upshur’s counterpart agreed to annexation, Tyler, Upshur and several guests were cruising the Potomac on the USS Princeton, the Navy’s most advanced steamship. The recently widowed president, smitten with Senator David Gardiner’s daughter, Julia, lingered below deck with her to hear his song sing a song—which probably saved his life. A cannon misfired and exploded, killing Upshur, the secretary of the Navy, Senator Gardiner and several others.It was the worst calamity to befall any administration: two cabinet members killed, and a third dying mere months before. (One happy note: Tyler had gallantly rushed a fainted Julia from the scene, carrying her from the ship. Four months later, over the wagging tongues of gossips and bores, Tyler and Julia were married, and she stayed with him until his death 22 years later.)

In addition, without Upshur, Tyler’s Texas plans began to fall apart—and arguably ended his chance for re-election. Tyler tried pursuing another four years, but Tennessee’s James K. Polk, an up-and-coming star in the Democratic Party and a staunch disciple of Jackson, seemed to have a better chance at the Democratic nomination than Tyler—or Van Buren, who was making another run at it. (The Whig nomination for Tyler was, of course, out of the question, and it went to Clay.) Rather than engage in a bruising fight with Van Buren and Polk, who shared many of the same views as Tyler, the president decided that another four years just wasn’t going to happen, and he bowed out. But he continued to seek Texas.

Texas’ annexation played a large role in the campaign of 1844, and when pro-annexation James Polk won rather handily over Whig Clay and third party candidate Van Buren, President Tyler gained the impetuous he needed to ram legislation through Congress.

Tyler first submitted the annexation treaty to the Senate, but without Upshur it failed to gain the requisite two-thirds majority. Northern members worried at the potential disruption of the balance of power, and there was no way the new secretary of state, John C. Calhoun, would or could convince them otherwise. As many as four new slave states could be carved from Texas, it was argued. The president then turned to an unusual and unprecedented parliamentary trick: he sought a joint resolution from Congress that required only a simple majority. Was it constitutional? Some argued that it wasn’t, including old Albert Gallatin, Jefferson’ secretary of the Treasury, who had told Jefferson not to worry about the constitutionality of the Louisiana Purchase! But it passed rather handily over the loud objections of Whigs. Congress gave Tyler what he wanted, and annexation was proclaimed in Texas. Tyler himself was unable to officially welcome Texas into the Union as president, as the state did not come in until December 1845, nine months after he left office.

But the triumph was definitely his.


John Tyler left the White House in March 1845 on just about the highest note of any president: Texas was coming into the Union, and he had scored another triumph with the China treaty.

He retired to his Virginia plantation with Julia, returning briefly to Washington to defend Daniel Webster from corruption charges. (Webster was exonerated.) But the elder statesman and defender of states’ rights came back into the public light again in February 1861 to sponsor the Virginia Peace Convention, which sought a compromise to war. Tyler, who long sought to hold the Union together, advocated secession when Virginia rejected his suggestions. He then served in the provisional Confederate Congress and was elected to the formal Confederate Congress, but died in early 1862 before taking his seat.

For those reasons, he is considered a traitor—but no more of a traitor, I think, than Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, who are still highly revered among many people. (Is there something less honorable about being a political traitor than being a military traitor? I wonder.)

Final Assessment

How did the Virginian planter handle the affairs of the executive once the major crisis was solved? Better than expected, and better than he is given credit for.And in fact, John Tyler, for all his moral obtuseness, may be the most important of the “forgotten” presidents. After all, many successive presidents have evoked Tyler’s passion for America’s special and unique destiny, including Lincoln, Grant, Wilson, FDR, JFK, Reagan, and George W. Bush, who did so in his second inaugural in 2004.

Tyler used executive privilege in ways that were dangerously close to being flagrantly unconstitutional. Had they been known to Congress, he could have been rightly impeached for using “secret service” executive funds to meddle in state affairs and fund private spy operations.

Tyler often turned his back on his stated republican ideals in the name of expanding executive powers. Biographer Edward Crapol and noted historian Arthur Schlesinger argue that the imperial presidency, which began in Jackson’s term only to temporarily disappear, began anew in Tyler’s term, and there is a lot of truth to that:

“A number of President Tyler’s contemporaries thought his doctrine of executive power undermined the republican principles he formerly held so dear. For example, the editors of the prestigious and influential National Intelligencer, Joseph Gales and William W. Seaton, charged that Tyler’s executive actions violated the constitution because he assumed powers never intended to be employed by the chief executive. They claimed that the prerogative power that that Tyler exercised had no legal standing or constitutional standing. The editors were correct. John Tyler had come to embrace and champion the broad executive prerogatives he found so objectionable when wielded by his predecessors.” (Crapol, p. 281)

But overall, his vision for an America that spanned the continent and influenced commerce and trade well across the Pacific and around the world was powerful, and started to come to fruition at the very end of his term. President Tyler rarely gets credit for the many far-reaching diplomatic triumphs of his administration, and that’s a shame. Historians overlook just how influential Tyler was in his four years, and instead concentrate on his defense of slavery, his assumption of office, and his “traitor” status.

He’s usually ranked in the “below average” or “near failure,” around 35 of 44 presidencies. I strongly disagree. If I were ranking Tyler against the other presidents, I would place him “above average.” His diplomatic achievements alone place him far above many of the rest.

So, this is what I was getting at when I wrote above that Tyler was “Successful (but…)” True, he had a lot of achievements, but he often played too loose with the Constitution to achieve his goals. He was by no means a failure, though.

Final assessment: Successful (but…) and largely unpopular.


An excellent book is Edward P. Crapol’s John Tyler: The Accidental President (2006), which takes a more generous view of Tyler’s presidency than previous works. Also useful is The Presidencies of William Henry Harrison and John Tyler (1989) by Norma Lois Peterson, part of the University of Kansas’ American Presidency Series.

* Succeeding a president who died, was assassinated, or resigned were: Fillmore (Taylor), A. Johnson (Lincoln), Arthur (Garfield) T. Roosevelt (McKinley), Coolidge (Harding), Truman (F. Roosevelt), L. Johnson (Kennedy), and Ford (Nixon).

** I had a long talk with my wife about this. It’s actually, thankfully, very hard for someone like me to wrap my mind around such piffle. I understand on an intellectual level how someone could think themselves superior to another, and therefore be master and slave. But emotionally, I can’t. I don’t think it’s just because I’m Christian and I am a “slave” to the real Master, Jesus Christ. I think it’s because I came of age in post-Martin Luther King America, where that kind of raw racism is dying. It’s not dead, as race hustlers of all kinds try to keep it alive. But it is dying. And thank God.


All images are public domain and found in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division unless otherwise noted.

1. Portrait of John Tyler

2. Official White House portrait of John Tyler (White House Historical Association)

3. Tyler Receiving the News of Harrison’s Death. Supposedly that is Daniel Webster’s son delivering the news to an already prepared John Tyler.

4. Wood carving of John Tyler created in 1841.

5. The very crafty and capable Daniel Webster served as Tyler’s secretary of state until 1843.

6. First Lady Letitia Christian Tyler, who died during Tyler’s term.

7. Texas in 1845. Rights for this map are found here.

8. Tyler’s second wife, Julia Gardiner Tyler, whom the president married in 1844, making Tyler the first president to marry in the White House. She outlived him by several decades; after Congress gave other presidential widows pension, she fought and won a pension for herself, despite her husband’s status as a “traitor.”

9. The elder statesman: a daguerreotype of John Tyler near the end of his life.

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