John Tyler (29 March 1790 – 18 January 1862) was the tenth President of the United States (1841–1845), after being the tenth Vice President of the United States (1841). A native of Virginia, Tyler served as a state legislator, governor, U.S. representative, and U.S. senator before being elected Vice President in 1840.
John Tyler is not one of the famous or better-known American presidents. If known at all, it usually is because of the catchy political slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler too," which was the rallying cry in the 1840 campaign of presidential candidate William Henry Harrison and his vice-presidential running mate, John Tyler.
He assumed office after the death of President William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), who passed away from pneumonia after just a month in the White House. Nicknamed "His Accidency," Tyler was the first vice president to become chief executive due to the death of his predecessor.
In a bid for reelection, Tyler worked to annex Texas, against the wishes of abolitionists who feared that it would become another slave state. Tyler's Democratic rival, James Polk, blunted the issue by also endorsing Texas statehood. Tyler pushed ahead though, introducing Texas annexation to Congress as a joint resolution requiring only a majority vote of each chamber of Congress, thereby dodging the two-thirds majority required to ratify a treaty. This approach succeeded in achieving Texas's incorporation into the Union.
After Tyler vetoed a bill to resurrect the Bank of the United States, his entire cabinet resigned in protest, with the exception of Secretary of State Webster, then in the midst of sensitive negotiations with Great Britain. During his second year in office, the Whigs, led by Henry Clay, expelled him from the party and tried to have him impeached. The Whigs had to settle for one of their committees passing a resolution of censure against the President.
A strong supporter of states' rights, Tyler was a Democratic-Republican; however, in 1840 he ran for the vice presidency on the Whig ticket. As president, Tyler clashed with the Whigs, who later tried, unsuccessfully, to impeach him.
When the first southern states seceded in 1861, Tyler led a compromise movement; failing, he worked to create the Southern Confederacy. He died in 1862, a member of the Confederate House of Representatives.
Serving in the House of Representatives from 1816 to 1821, Tyler voted against most nationalist legislation and opposed the Missouri Compromise. After leaving the House he served as Governor of Virginia.
Tyler's social life provoked scandal -- just months after the death of his first wife, he married Julia Gardiner, who at 22 was thirty years his junior and younger than some of his children. The marriage prospered, and it was Julia who introduced the custom of playing "Hail to the Chief" upon the arrival of the president.
Tyler's major foreign policy achievement was the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with Great Britain. Without a proper demarcation between the United States and British North America (later Canada), skirmishes had broken out along the Maine-New Brunswick line. British Foreign Secretary Lord Ashburton and Daniel Webster worked out the details of a border that bisected the Great Lakes and granted open navigation on those waters to both countries.
Tyler’s administration managed to accomplish a great deal in spite of its political difficulties. It settled a long-standing dispute over the boundary between the United States and Canada and signed the first commercial treaty with China. It reorganized the United States Navy, established the Weather Bureau, and ended the Seminole War. Tyler’s last and probably most important achievement was to facilitate the annexation of Texas.
Two grandsons of President John Tyler — who was born in 1790 and served as tenth president of the United States — are still alive today.
Tyler had 15 children during his lifetime, making him one of the most prolific presidents in American history. Today, he has two living grandchildren, Lyon Gardiner Tyler, Jr., who is 87 and lives in Tennessee, and Harrison Ruffin Tyler, 84, who lives on Sherwood Forest Plantation, a national historic landmark in Virginia.