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John Tyler

Tyler, John (1790–1862), 10th president of the United States. Tyler, the first United States vice president to step into the presidency on a president's death in office, entered politics as a Democrat but was elected as a Whig. As president, however, he so opposed the Whigs' program that he was expelled from the party, burned in effigy, and threatened with impeachment. Most of his cabinet resigned in anger.

Early life

Tyler graduated from William and Mary College in 1807; studied law under his father, a former Virginia governor; then was admitted to the Virginia bar in 1809. At age 21, he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1813, Tyler married Letitia Christian; they had eight children.


Tyler served in the U.S. House of Representatives (1816–21), in the Virginia legislature (1823–25), as governor of Virginia (1825–1827), and as a U.S. senator (1827–36). A political conservative, Tyler believed in a narrow interpretation of the Constitution, and that the powers of the federal government should be strictly limited. In 1836, when the Virginia legislature instructed him to support President Andrew Jackson, who stood for a powerful federal government, Tyler resigned from the Senate instead. Although Tyler had broken with the Democrats, he had always opposed favorite measures of the Whigs. Even so, the Whigs, seeking to rally all anti-Jackson forces, nominated Tyler for the vice presidency in 1840. He ran with William Henry Harrison under the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.” The Whig ticket won. Within a month after the inauguration in 1841, however, Harrison died and Tyler became president. It was the first time a U.S. vice president succeeded a president in office.


Tyler soon angered his Whig supporters. When the Whigs presented a nationalist program, including a National Bank, Tyler vetoed the bill. When he vetoed another bill in September, his entire cabinet, except Secretary of State Daniel Webster, resigned. Tyler was expelled from the Whig party and there was an unsuccessful attempt to impeach him.

Under Tyler, the United States and Britain signed the Webster-Ashburton Treaty defining the Canadian border and committing both nations to police the illegal African slave trade. Tyler ended the Seminole War in Florida, backed Morse's telegraph system, reorganized the Navy, and signed the Preemption Act that helped settle much of the Midwest.

Tyler's determination to bring Texas into the Union reopened the slavery controversy, as the North opposed its entry as a slave state. With no hope of reelection in 1844, Tyler pushed hard to win annexation for Texas. On Mar. 1, 1845, after much debate and political wrangling, he signed the bill admitting Texas to the Union. Two days later, on his last day in office, he signed another bill, admitting Florida.


Tyler's wife, Letitia, had died in 1842. In 1844, he had married Julia Gardiner; the couple had seven children. Tyler retired to Virginia, but continued to take part in politics. In 1861, he led a peace conference in Washington, hoping to avert civil war. When the Senate rejected the Southerners' terms, he returned to Virginia and voted for itss secession. He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives in Nov. 1861, but died on Jan. 18, 1862, before taking his seat.


Additional topics

21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia21st Century Webster's Family Encyclopedia - Transcendentalism to United Church of Christ