John Tyler, Tenth President of the United States

Three side-by-side black-and-white photos of President John Tyler
John Tyler, 10th President of the United States.

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John Tyler was born on March 29, 1790 in Virginia. Not much is known about his childhood though he grew up on a plantation in Virginia. His mother died when he was only seven. At twelve, he entered the College of William and Mary Preparatory School. He graduated from the College proper in 1807. He then studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1809.

Family Ties

Tyler's father, John, was a planter and supporter of the American Revolution. He was a friend of Thomas Jefferson and politically active. His mother, Mary Armistead, died when Tyler was seven. He had five sisters and two brothers.

On March 29, 1813, Tyler married Letitia Christian. She served briefly as First Lady before suffering a stroke and dying while he was president. Together she and Tyler had seven children: three sons and four daughters.

On June 26, 1844, Tyler married Julia Gardner while he was president. She was 24 while he was 54. Together they had five sons and two daughters. 

Career Prior to the Presidency

From 1811-16, 1823-25, and 1838-40, John Tyler was a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. In 1813, he joined the militia but never saw action. In 1816, Tyler was elected to be a U.S. Representative. He strongly opposed every move towards power for the Federal government that he saw as unconstitutional. He eventually resigned. He was Governor of Virginia from 1825-27 until he was elected a U.S. Senator.

Becoming President

John Tyler was the Vice President under William Henry Harrison in the election of 1840. He was chosen to balance the ticket since he was from the South. He took over upon Harrison's quick demise after only one month in office. He was sworn in on April 6, 1841 and did not have a Vice President because no provisions had been made in the Constitution for one. In fact, many tried to claim that Tyler was actually only "Acting President." He fought against this perception and won legitimacy.

Events and Accomplishments of His Presidency

In 1841, John Tyler's entire cabinet except for Secretary of State Daniel Webster resigned. This was due to his vetoes of laws creating the Third Bank of the United States. This went against his party's policy. After this point, Tyler had to operate as president without a party behind him.

In 1842, Tyler agreed to and Congress ratified the Webster-Ashburton Treaty with Great Britain. This set the boundary between Maine and Canada. The border was agreed upon all the way to Oregon. President Polk would deal in his administration with the Oregon border.

1844 brought the Treaty of Wanghia. According to this treaty, America gained the right to trade in Chinese ports. America also gained the right of extraterritoriality with U.S. citizens were not under the jurisdiction of Chinese law.

In 1845, three days before leaving office, John Tyler signed into law the joint resolution allowing for the annexation of Texas. Importantly, the resolution extended 36 degrees 30 minutes as the mark dividing free and pro-slavery states through Texas.

Post Presidential Period

John Tyler did not run for reelection in 1844. He retired to his farm in Virginia and later served as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary. As the Civil War approached, Tyler spoke for secession. He was the only president to join the Confederacy. He died on January 18, 1862 at the age of 71.

Historical Significance

Tyler was important first of all for setting the precedent of his becoming president as opposed to just Acting President for the rest of his term. He was not able to accomplish much in his administration due to the lack of party support. However, he did sign the annexation of Texas into law. Overall, he is considered to be a sub-par president.

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Kelly, Martin. "John Tyler, Tenth President of the United States." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). John Tyler, Tenth President of the United States. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "John Tyler, Tenth President of the United States." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).