HistoryJohn Tyler

John Tyler’s Childhood and Career

Portrait of Young John Tyler

On March 29, 1790, John Tyler was born to John Tyler Sr. and Mary Armistead at his family’s plantation in Charles City County, Virginia. His father was a wealthy tobacco planter, tended by many slaves, a state politician, and a close friend of Thomas Jefferson. He grew up with eight siblings, and all of them received the best education during their time. He enjoyed playing the violin and hunting as a young child.

Throughout his life, he suffered frail health. He was thin and as prone to diarrhea.

When John Tyler was seven years old, his mother died due to stroke. He attended local schools and transferred to the preparatory branch of the College of William and Mary at the age of twelve. John Tyler took a collegiate program at the College of William and Mary University in Williamsburg, Virginia. He graduated at the age of seventeen in 1807.

He read Adam Smith’s “The Wealthy of Nations” and shaped his economic views. He also acquired a lifelong passion for learning the works of Shakespeare.

His father and his cousin, who were both lawyers apprenticed him, he also worked for a prominent law firm in Richmond for a brief time and was able to be admitted to the bar in 1809.

In the same year, his father became the governor-elect of Virginia. John Tyler, together with his father, moved to Richmond. As a novice lawyer, he smoothly landed with an elite law firm headed by the nation’s first attorney general, Edmund Randolph. He then realized that he could not settle in a courtroom. After two years, John Tyler used Edmund Randolph’s influence to become part of the Virginia House of Delegates. He was erroneously admitted to the bar because he was very young and was only 19 years old.

He started his political career at the age of 21. He immediately made a name for himself by leading a campaign to criticize legislators who support the new Bank of the United States. John Tyler realized that it is a potential broadening of nationalist power. As he was making a mark in politics, his father died, and John Tyler inherited large sums of property and the slaves.

After serving in legislature for two years, he married Letitia Christian. Described as reserved and quiet, she is not inclined to be the wife of a politician. She was a devoted wife and mother. She looks after their seven children and oversees their home, while John Tyler’s political career escalates.

Shortly after their wedding, the War of 1812 broke out against England. John Tyler expressed his support in military action in a speech he delivered to the House of Delegates. He organized a small militia group called the Charles City Rifles to defend Richmond from further British invasion. Ranked as the Captain, his troops did not encounter any combat for two months; that is why the group dissolved. John Tyler received a land grant in Iowa for his military service.

He resigned in the legislature in 1816 to serve as one of the eight advisers called the Governor’s Council of State, which was elected by the General Assembly. Due to the death of U.S. Representative, John Clopton in September 1816, it opened an opportunity for him to enter Virginia’s 23rd congressional district; however, his friend and political ally, Andrew Stevenson was also eyeing for the position. John Tyler’s political influence and charm during the campaign won him the seat since John Tyler, and Andrew Stevenson shared the same political outlook. He served as a Democratic-Republican, a major political party during the Era of Good Feelings, in the Fourteenth Congress on December 17, 1816.

John Tyler sticks to his strict constitutional beliefs; that is why he rejected the majority of Congress’s proposal of pushing the federal government to fund infrastructural improvements such as ports, railways, and roadways. He is appointed to participate in the five-person committee and audit the Second Bank of the United States in 1818.

The admission of Missouri to the Union was a significant issue of the Sixteenth Congress. It contends whether slavery would permit to the new state. Many acknowledged the evils of slavery and prevented it from expanding. John Tyler, a slave owner himself, firmly believed that the Congress does not have the authority to regulate slavery and use the free or slave state as the basis of admission to the Union. Throughout his service in the Congress, he opposed bills that restrict slavery in the slave state territories.

He returned to private law practice after he refused to seek the nomination again in 1820 due to his frail health. He realized that his opposing political outlook against Congress did not affect the popular culture in Washington, D.C. He also considered the low salary as a Congressman since he needs to finance his children’s education.

After two years of hiatus, he sought for state politics again. John Tyler moved to Richmond and proposed a series of administrative and financial reforms. As his political career starts to blast off back, he served as a governor again.

As his time as a governor was uneventful, he promotes states’ rights as well as opposed to the concentration of federal authority. He made numerous proposals, especially funding the public school system; however, no significant actions taken. He became a rector and chancellor of the College of William and Mary. He was also the president of the Virginia Colonization Society while serving as a governor.

John Tyler resigned his governorship on March 4, 1827, to assume his Senate term. He was not fond of the two candidates for their platform of increasing the power of the federal government; however, he was drawn to Andrew Jackson to address his political and personal interests.

As John Tyler’s relationship with his party started to become turbulent, he understands that his senate career is about to end. He received suggestions to become the running mate of William Henry Harrison. The Harrison-Tyler ticket won.

In the first few weeks of Harrison’s presidency, he suffered pneumonia and died on April 4, 1841. Due to 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” or “His Accidency” since he was younger than the previous presidents. John Tyler was only 51 years old during his presidency.

As he served in the office, all his cabinet members resigned because of their opposing outlooks.

Grieving after the death of Letitia, it did not take him a while to get over it and was attracted to a young lady named Julia Gardiner. He was deeply in love with his new wife and had seven children with her.

As he descends out of the office, he made signed significant policies.

The Tylers moved to John Tyler’s inherited plantation in Virginia. On his last days, he served as part of the Confederate House of Representatives and died on January 12, 1862, due to pneumonia.

Tags
Back to top button
Close