6 Mar 2012
JOHN TYLER, the tenth President of the United States. He was born in Charles City Co., Va., March 29, 1790. He was the favored child of affluence and high social position. At the early age of twelve, John entered William and Mary college and graduated with much honor when but seventeen years old. After graduating, he devoted himself with great assiduity to the study of law, partly with his father and partly with Edmund Randolph, one of the most distinguished lawyers of Virginia.
At nineteen years of age, he commenced the practice of law. His success was rapid and astonishing. It is said that three months had not elapsed ere there was scarcely a case on the docket of the court in which he was not retained. When but twenty-one years of age, he was almost unanimously elected to a seat in the State Legislature. He connected himself with the Democratic party, and warmly advocated the measures of Jefferson and Madison. For five successive years he was elected to the Legislature, receiving nearly the unanimous vote or his county.
When but twenty-six years of age, he was elected a member of Congress. Here he acted earnestly and ably with the Democratic party, opposing a national bank, internal improvements by the General Government, a protective tariff, advocating a strict construction of the Constitution, and the most careful vigilance over State rights. His labors in Congress were so arduous that before the close of his second term he found it necessary to resign and retire to his estate in Charles-city Co., to recruit his health. He, however, soon after consented to take his seat in the State Legislature, where his influence was powerful in promoting public works of great utility. With a reputation thus constantly increasing, he was chosen by a very large majority of votes, Governor of his native State. His administration was signally a successful one. His popularity secured his re-election.
John Randolph, a brilliant, erratic, half-crazed man, then represented Virginia in the Senate of the United States. A portion of the Democratic party was displeased with Mr. Randolph's wayward course, and brought forward John Tylor as his opponent, considering him the only man in Virginia of sufficient popularity to succeeded against the renowned orator of Roanoke. Mr. Tyler was the victor.
In accordance with his professions, upon taking his seat in the Senate, he joined the ranks of the opposition. He opposed the tariff; he spoke against and voted against the bank as unconstitutional; he strenuously opposed all restrictions upon slavery, resisting all projects of internal improvements by the General Government, and avowed his sympathy with Mr. Calhoun's view of nullification; he declared that Gen. Jackson, by his opposition to the nullifiers, had abandoned the principles of the Democratic party. Such was Mr. Tyler's record in Congress, - a record in perfect accordance with the principles which he had always avowed.
Returning to Virginia, he resumed the practice of his profession. there was a split in the Democratic party. His friends still regarded him as a true Jeffersonian, gave him a dinner, and showered compliments upon him He had now attained the age of forty-six. His career had been very brilliant. In consequence of his devotion to public business, his private affairs had fallen into some disorder; and it was not without satisfaction that he resumed the practice of law, and devoted himself to the culture of his plantation. Soon after this he removed to Williamsburg, for the better education of his children; and he again took his seat in the Legislature of Virginia.
By the Southern Whigs, he was sent to the national conventions at Harrisburg to nominate a President in 1839. The majority of votes were given to Gen. Harrison, a genuine Whig, much to the disappointment of the South, who wished for Henry Clay. To consolidate the Southern Whigs and to secure their vote, the convention then nominated John Tyler for Vice President. It was well known that he was not in sympathy with the Whig party in the North: but the Vice President has but very little power in the Government, his main and almost only duty being to preside over the meetings of the Senate. Thus it happened that a Whig President, and, in reality, a Democratic Vice President were chosen.
In 1841, Mr. Tyler was inaugurated Vice President of the United States. In one short month from that time, President Harrison died, and Mr. Tyler thus found himself, to his own surprise and that of the whole Nation, an occupant o f the Presidential chair. This was a new test of the stability of our institutions , as it was the first time in the history of our country that such an event had occurred. Mr. Tyler was at home in Williamsburg when he received the unexpected tidings of the death of President Harrison. He hastened to Washington, and on the 6th of April was inaugurated to the high and responsible office. He was placed in a position of exceeding delicacy and difficulty. All his long life he had been opposed to the main principles of the party which had brought him into power. He had ever been a consistent, honest man, with an unblemished record. Gen. Harrison had selected a Whig cabinet. should he retain them, and thus surround himself with counselors whose views were antagonistic to his own? or, on the other hand, should he turn against the party which had elected him and select a cabinet in harmony with himself, and which would oppose all those views which the Whigs deemed essential to the public welfare? This was his fearful dilemma. He invited the cabinet which President Harrison had selected to retain their seats. He recommended a day of fasting and prayer, that God would guide and bless us.
The Whigs carried through Congress a bill for the incorporation of a fiscal bank of the Untied States. The President, after ten days' delay, returned it with his veto. He suggested, however, that the would approve a bill drawn up upon such a plan as he proposed. Such a bill was accordingly prepared, and privately submitted to him. He gave it his approval. I was passed without alternation, and he sent it back with his veto. Here commenced the open rupture. It is said that Mr. Tyler was provoked to this measure by a published letter from the Hon. John M. Botts, a distinguished Virginia Whig, who severely touched the pride of the President.
The opposition now exultingly received the President into their arms. The party which elected him denounced him bitterly. All the members of his cabinet, excepting Mr. Webster, resigned. The Whigs of Congress, both the Senate and the House, held a meeting and issued an address to the people of the United States, proclaiming that all political alliance between the Whigs and President Tyler were at an end.
Still the President attempted to conciliate. He appointed a new cabinet of distinguished Whigs and Conservatives, carefully leaving out all strong party men. Mr. Webster soon found it necessary to resign, forced out by the pressure of his Whig friends. Thus the four years of Mr. Tyler's unfortunate administration passed sadly away. No one was satisfied. The land was filled with murmurs and vituperation. Whigs and Democrats alike assailed him. More and more, however, he brought himself into sympathy with his old friends, the Democrats, until at the close of his term, he gave his whole influence to the support of Mr. Polk, the Democratic candidate for his successor.
On the 4th of March, 1845, he retired from the harassment of office, to the regret of neither party, and probably to his own unspeakable relief. His first wife, Miss Letitia Christian, died in Washington, in 1842; in June 1844, President Tyler was again married, at New York, to Miss Julia Gardiner, a young lady of many personal and intellectual accomplishments.
The remainder of his days Mr. Tyler passed mainly in retirement at his beautiful home, - Sherwood Forest, Charles-city Co., Va. A polished gentleman in his manners, richly furnished with information form books and experience in the world, and possessing brilliant powers of conversation, his family circle was the scene of unusual attractions. With sufficient means for for the exercise of a generous hospitality, he might have enjoyed a serene old age with the few friends who gathered around him, were it not for the storms of civil war which his own principles and policy had helped to introduce.
When the great Rebellion rose, which the State rights and nullifying doctrines of Mr. John C. Calhoun had inaugurated, President Tyler renounced his allegiance to the United States,and joined the Confederates. He was chosen a member of their Congress; and while engaged in active measures to destroy, by force of arms, the Government over which he had once presided, he was taken sick and soon died. (photo sketch)