John Tyler became President of the United States after the death of President William Henry Harrison. Harrison served only thirty days as President of the United States, before dying from the ailments related to a bad cold. Tyler was the first Vice-President to ever take over for a President before a President’s term ended. There was debate about how Tyler should be addressed and what his powers were. In the weeks surrounding Harrison’s death, Tyler took the oath as President and secured support from the cabinet and the Congress to be the actual President of the United States. It set a precedent that dictated such transitions until the 25th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States provided such. President Tyler paid a high cost for setting such a precedent. Months after his rise to the Presidency, he was disowned by the Whig Party. Thus, Tyler became a rare President to serve without official party affiliation.
Not having party affiliation did not prevent President Tyler from having a meaningful role as President. There are so many things about the Presidency today that we take for granted that pioneers like Tyler established. Tyler was the first President of the United States to send a diplomatic mission to China. President Tyler oversaw the resolution of one the last disputes with Great Britain, the Maine/Canada border issue, thus paving the way to the close friendship the two nations now enjoy. President Tyler applied the Monroe Doctrine to Hawaii, thus setting up the situation in which the once island nation would become part of the United States. President Tyler ordered the army to set up bases from the frontier of the time to the Pacific Coast, setting up America’s claim from sea to shining sea. In the last days of his Presidency, President Tyler signed measures bringing Texas and Florida into the United States. The annexation of Texas was by Congressional Resolution, not a treaty, something unheard of in those times.
President Tyler had negative precedents as well. As the first President to wield the veto for policy matters, Tyler was the first President to ever have a veto overridden by Congress. Tyler also had four Supreme Court nominees defeated by Senate, the most by any President. Indeed, the Supreme Court process was so difficult for President Tyler he left office on March 4th, 1845, with a vacancy still left on the court.
After the Presidency, President Tyler returned to private life. Yet, his sympathies for the South were ever present. Tyler’s appointment of John C. Calhoun, of South Carolina, to the post of Secretary of State showed Tyler’s feelings on sectional matters as President. In 1862, John Tyler, the former President of the United States, would show those views distinctly via his election to the Confederate Congress. Though he would only live a few months to serve in the Confederate Congress, he stands as the only President of the United States to serve as an elected official in another national government.
Tyler’s tough stance on the Presidency would led his opponents to call him “His Accidenticy” Tyler’s decision to be a part of the Confederate Congress would cause others to call him a traitor. Indeed, it was not until the 20th Century that Congress would choose to honor his burial site as a burial site of a former President.
As we honor and observe President’s Day and think of the likes of Washington, Lincoln and the Roosevelts, let us not forget John Tyler. Tyler was a complicated man with true faults, but as President, he set many of the precedents we now take for granted from a President. Tyler, as an elected Vice-President who became President due to the death of another President, took over the office full forced and, with no political party backing, used every ounce of its power to continue the United States on a course of growth.