HistoryJohn Tyler

Brief Biography of John Tyler

portrait of John Tyler
On March 29, 1790, John Tyler Sr. and his wife Mary Armistead gave birth to John Tyler in Greenway, Charles City County, Virginia. John Tyler Sr. was an owner of a bountiful plantation and also a renowned politician. He grew up with eight siblings, and all of them received the best education during their time.

He grew up close to his father. He enjoyed playing the violin and hunting.

John Tyler was an alumnus of the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1817. When he was only 17, he studied law and prominent lawyers he worked for apprenticed him in Richmond. In 1811, at the age of 21, John Tyler started his political career. With the help of his father, who the governor, he became part of the Virginia legislature.

At the age of 23, he married Letitia Christian in 1813. They had eight children. They are Mary, Robert, John, Letitia, Elizabeth, Anne, Alice, and Tazewell.

Soon after they got married, the War of 1812 broke against Great Britain. He supported the military action through a speech to the House of Representatives. John Tyler organized a militia company when the British captured Hampton, Virginia. He was able to defend Richmond and promoted as a captain. Since the action died off, the company dissolved two months later. He received land properties in Iowa for his military service.

Soon after, John Tyler’s father died in 1813, and he inherited vast sums of properties and even slaves. He then resigned his legislative seat in 1816 to serve as the Governor’s Council of State, a group of advisers.

In September 1816, U.S. Representative John Clopton died, leaving a vacant vacancy for Virginia’s 23rd congressional district. John Tyler competed against his political ally, Andrew Stevenson. Because of John Tyler’s political connections and captivating campaigning skills, he won the election. The served as a Democrat-Republican, a political party during the Era of Good Feelings. Thomas Jefferson founded it in the early 1790s.

During his time as a legislator, he voted against nationalist legislation and strongly opposed the Missouri Compromise.

In 1827, he represented Virginia in U.S. Senate until 1836. He does not support the policies of President Andrew Jackson regarding the abolishment of Bank of the United States as well as the Indian Removal Act. He resigned in 1836 to refrain the demands of Virginia legislature instructions, which is to reverse the censure vote. He then became affiliated with the Whig Party who opposed Andrew Jackson.
John Tyler became the running mate of Whig’s presidential candidate, William Henry Harrison, in 1840. The strategy was to put John Tyler as their vice presidential nominee to gain Southerners’’ vote.

William Henry Harrison won against Martin Van Buren, who became unpopular to the citizens because he mismanaged monetary policies, which led to financial crises. William Harrison and John Tyler both won, getting approximately 53 percent of the vote. At the age of 68, William Harrison died a month on April 4 due to pneumonia.

Because of the president’s sudden death, there was confusion about whether the vice president will assume the full power and the salary of the president, or he will remain in the vice president’s office and act as president. The U.S. Constitution does not have concrete proceedings regarding presidential successions. Nevertheless, John Tyler ascended to the White House and inaugurated on April 6, 1840. Dubbed as the “Accidental President,” he was younger than the previous presidents. John Tyler was only 51 years old during his presidency.

As John Tyler started his office, all of his cabinet members resigned because he vetoed the bills designed to create a new national bank. The Whigs tried to impeach him in 1843 but failed. He was a man without any political party; somehow, he managed to gain achievements as a president.

In September 1842, his first wife, Letitia, died of a stroke.

John Tyler signed the Pre-Emption Act in 1841 and benefited Western settlements. It allows an individual to stake a claim on 160 acres of public land and to buy it from the government. His administration also ended the Seminole War in Florida, which started before Martin Van Buren descends his presidential seat. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty settled the dispute for the boarders. Also, he approved the Treaty of Wanghia together with China, which allowed America to access Asian ports in 1844. Before he left the office, he signed the bill annexing Texas. It became officially part of the Union as the 29th state in December 1845. He also signed Florida as the 27th state on his last days as a president.

On June 26, 1844, John Tyler married young Julia Gardiner. He was 54 years old, while Julia was only 21 at the time of their marriage. Together with his second wife, Julia Gardener, had seven children. In total, he had 15 children from his two marriages. He was a devoted husband and did his best to give the best for his big family; however, he was in debt because of the extended nature of their family.

He attempted to run for another term as an independent candidate; however, due to lack of support, James Polk, who was a democratic candidate, won against him.

After serving as the president, John Tyler then moved to his inherited 1,200 plantations in Virginia. He renamed it the Sherwood Forest because of his fondness to the folk legend, Robin Hood. Together with his second wife, Julia Gardener, they raised their children.

He was occasionally requested to deliver speeches, spend time at parties, visit or visit other wealthy families. As he withdrew from politics, he got fewer visitors and not sought for advice.

As the American Civil War preludes, it ignited the fear of attempting to free the slaves. As a slave owner, John Tyler was threatened by slave rebellion; that is why his community organized a troop and was chosen to become the captain of the home guard troops. He believes that slavery is a state’s right, and the federal government does not have the means and authority to abolish it. There are no documents on how John Tyler treated his slaves’ well-being and if there is physical violence towards them.

In 1861, John Tyler stepped out of his retirement and became the presiding officer of the Virginia Peace Conference, held in Washington, D.C. It sought to prevent civil war from breaking out and wished to compromise the issue. Since the convention did not work, the only option left was to secede from the Union, thinking that splitting from it will prevent war. After the conference was rejected, the attack on Fort Sumter in South Carolina happened, which started the Civil War.

John Tyler became part of the Confederate House of Representatives in November 1861; however, he died on January 12, 1862, due to stroke. In Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, he was buried near the gravesite of the former president, James Monroe.

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