John Tyler was the tenth United States President (1841-45). He was the first President born after the Constitution was adopted. He was a maverick Democrat who refused to truly give allegiance to any political party. He was the Vice President of William Henry Harrison and became President upon Harrison's death. This was the first time that the Succession Amendment had to be used.
John Tyler was born on March 29, l790, in Charles County, Virginia. He graduated from William and Mary College in 1807 and was admitted to the Virginia Bar in 1809, after which he began the practice of law. When he was twenty-one years old, Tyler was elected to the Virginia Legislature. He married Letitia Christian in 1813, and then went on to serve as captain of a militia in the War of 1812. In 1816, at the age of 26, he was elected to the US House of Representatives, where he served for four years before returning for a short time to the Virginia Legislature. Like his father, he served as Governor of Virginia. Two years after that, he was elected to the US Senate, where, for political reasons, he opposed Andrew Jackson's policies on states' rights and voted to censure the President. He had fifteen children; the most of any President.
John Tyler was a consistent supporter of states' rights and favored a strict interpretation of the Constitution. This often put him in an awkward position. He actually resigned his Senate seat in 1836 rather than yield to his state legislature's position to reverse his censure vote on President Jackson.
In 1840 the Whigs nominated Tyler to run as William Henry Harrison's Vice President. Their memorable campaign slogan was "Tippecanoe and Tyler too!" A mere month after the inauguration, Harrison died of pneumonia. A President had never before died in office, so at William Henry Harrison's death, many thought Tyler should be merely an "acting President." He, however, firmly established the right of the Vice President to succeed completely to the presidency. He claimed all presidential rights and began his administration by vetoing a National Bank Bill. Being the first non-elected President, Tyler was widely resented and dubbed "His Accidency" by his political enemies. He was ridiculed in his day but is regarded today as a man of great courage.
In spite of his vote against Jackson, Tyler did believe in states' rights, and he vetoed two bills because of this belief. Fiercely independent, he would not support either party's program, infuriating everyone and bringing himself into great conflict with both Congress and his own cabinet. All but one of the members of the Cabinet resigned. He replaced them with people who believed in strong states' rights views. He was the first President that Congress ever tried to impeach. The effort was unsuccessful; but in 1845 Tyler did become the first President to have a veto overridden by Congress.
Tyler was expelled from his own party. The Whigs and Democrats both refused to recognize him or his leadership. Despite the lack of support, he was able to establish a United States Weather Bureau and bring an end to the Second Seminole War in Florida. At the end of his term he had intended to seek the Presidential nomination, but the Democrats wanted James Polk. When Tyler returned to private life, he continued to defend states' rights, but stood firmly against secession and was a delegate to the Washington Peace Conference in 1861. After hearing Abraham Lincoln's inaugural address, however, Tyler changed his mind and urged Virginia to secede from the Union. Just prior to his death in November of 1861, he was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives.