John Tyler was born on March 29th, 1790 in the state of Virginia, since it was after the ratification of the Constitution he became the first Vice President officially born in the United States. He came from a wealthy family that was early settlers of Williamsburg. His father was a well respected judge who had served on multiple political committees and even as Governor, and had roomed with Thomas Jefferson in college.
Tyler was raised on the family plantation; since his mother died when he was young he was raised by the household slaves. He went to college at William And Mary and followed in his father’s footsteps studying the law. He clerked with his father, who was a state judge at the time, and passed the bar when he was 19. Tyler established his first law practice in Richmond.
Tyler was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1811. During that time he supported States Rights and voted to censure the Federal Senators who voted in favor of the National Bank against the wishes of the state. During the War of 1812 he strongly supported action against the British and even formed a militia to defend Richmond although the British never attacked the city.
In 1816 he resigned from the legislation and joined the Governor’s Council of State, an advisory board on elections. During that year John Clopton died leaving a vacancy in the House of Representatives. Tyler ran for position as a Democrat-Republican and won a close election, he took his seat in Congress at the end of the year. During his time in Congress he voted against anti slavery bills including the Missouri Compromise, his main worry was that Virginia would eventually outlaw slavery. By 1820 he decided to resign sighting health problems but in reality he felt his votes were wasted and he was unhappy with his salary. He returned to his Virginia plantation and started up his law practice again.
By 1823 Tyler became bored with the routine of his life so he ran and won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. During his time he tried to change the state’s Presidential caucus system, which would favor Tyler’s candidate William H. Crawford, but his efforts were rejected. He did manage to save William and Mary from either closing or being moved to Richmond. In 1825 he was elected Governor of Virginia but became disappointed to find the position was mostly symbolic and even lacked veto powers. His only real action as Governor was to deliver the eulogy at Thomas Jefferson’s funeral.
In 1827 the state legislator began to argue over who should represent Virginia in the Senate, before the 17th Amendment the state governments appointed Senators. Although Tyler didn’t want the position he was eventually persuaded to enter his name. The state Senate decided that there was little difference between him and John Randolph, the other candidate, except that Tyler was more agreeable and he won the election.
Once in the Senate Tyler continued his support of States Rights often voting against funding bills for national projects. He also found himself at odds with President Jackson, leader of the Democrats, and opposed what he called the Spoils System of federal appointments but voted in favor of Jackson’s veto of the Second Bank of the United States. Tyler eventually found himself at odds with the Democrats over the Nullification Crisis and the dissolution of the National Bank. Tyler decided to leave the Democratic Party and joined with Henry Clay’s new Whig party. When the Democrat controlled Senate ordered Tyler to support a bill that would expunge Jackson of the Congressional Censure over the bank matter he decided that he was better off retiring and in 1836 he left Congress.
Although Tyler planned on returning to a peaceful life he soon found himself in the middle of the 1836 election. The newly formed Whig party was too divided to back a single candidate so they nominated a variety of candidates, including Tyler, in order to split up the Electoral College and force a decision into the House of Representatives. In the end Van Buren managed to win the Northern states and was elected President, Tyler was relieved because he didn’t want to get involved in national politics again.
Once again Tyler planned on returning to the plantation life but in 1838 he was once again elected to the House of Delegates. The State Senate considered electing Tyler to the Senate in 1840 but the vote was tied and in the end the seat remained vacant until the next election in 1841.
Following the Panic of 1837 the Whigs saw Van Buren as a vulnerable Presidential candidate so the top party leaders began jostling for the nomination. Tyler was sent to the convention but as an unofficial observer, the state legislation was unhappy with him after he made no effort to be appointed to the Senate. The Whigs decided that their best choice was William Henry Harrison and to balance out the ticket they nominated Tyler, a southern slave owner, as the Vice Presidential candidate. During the campaign Tyler only gave vague answers on many issues including slavery and States Rights, later people claiming he had been elected by concealment. The Democrats claimed that Harrison was a drunkard who lived in a log cabin, instead of denying these charges Harrison claimed them to be true, that he was a man of the people and even build a log cabin on wheels to tour in. This led to the ideal of a Presidential candidate coming from a humble birth even though both of the Whig candidates had been born in wealthy estates to powerful families. Harrison won the election and Tyler became the first Whig Vice President.
Tyler traveled to Washington for the inauguration and to preside over the appointment of the new cabinet. The next day he returned to his plantation in Virginia. However, William Harrison decided to deliver a long speech at his inauguration despite a pouring rain storm. He developed a cold that turned into pneumonia and 31 days later he was dead. Tyler was informed of Harrisons declining heath but decided to remain in Virginia until Fletcher Webster arrived at his house informing him of the death of Harrison and that he had become the President. Tyler became the first to ascend to the office as a result of the death of a President. Tyler is also the shortest serving Vice President at 31 days and only spending 2 hours doing his official duty.
After the death of Harrison Congress began to argue over the ascension of the Vice President, would he be the President or remain the Vice President and only assume the duties of the office. In order to head off the argument Tyler took the Oath of Office in his hotel room shortly after arriving in Washington. Although Congress made several attempts to pass a bill clearly defining Tyler as the “acting President” and diminish his powers they could never come to an agreement. Tyler found himself battling with Henry Clay, the leader of the Senate, for the remainder of his term. Harrison’s cabinet also resigned after Tyler informed them that he would listen to their advice but he would not allow a vote on what actions the President should take.
The battle between Tyler and Congress eventually reached a point that they attempted to file impeachment charges against him over his veto of several bills, the members of Congress felt that he could only do so if he felt the bills were unconstitutional. Although he had many enemies in the Legislative branch they couldn’t come to an agreement so no formal charges were filed. In order to wield power over Tyler Congress rejected four of his cabinet appointees, something that had never been done before.
Although Tyler was in a constant war with Congress he did manage to pass several major bills and make several treaties with foreign nations including the Webster-Ashburton Treaty which permanently established the border between Canada and Maine. He also extended the Monroe Doctrine to Hawaii that would eventually lead to the U.S. claiming the islands as a U.S. Territory. He also spent the majority of his Presidency trying to make Texas a state; he even used the spoils system he had previously despised. He persuaded Congress to annex Texas as a territory that would eventually lead to statehood in 1845.
In 1844 Tyler was attending a party aboard the recently christened USS Princeton. During the party the captain fired off the main deck gun several times to entertain the guests. Later he was persuaded to fire it off a third time but something went wrong and it exploded. Tyler had remained below deck with his son and his life was spared although many other guests were killed in the blast including members of the Cabinet and the Senate. Had Tyler been killed there would have been another Constitutional crisis when the Speaker of the House became President.
After battling with the Whigs for four years Tyler knew he couldn’t win reelection so he first tried to recreate the Democrat-Republican party and then joined with the Democrats. He campaigned on the platform of making Texas a state but once he secured the promise of James K. Polk he decided to drop out of the race and throw his support behind the Democratic Party. The Democrats in Congress dropped their opposition to Tyler and passed a resolution accepting Texas as a state and in February the bill became a law.
After leaving the Presidency Tyler attempted to return to plantation life again but just as before he found himself drug back into national politics. In 1861 he retuned to Washington as part of the Virginia Peace Delegation. He attempted to negotiate a peaceful settlement to prevent a war but soon felt the deal was written in a way to favor the Northern states and recommended voting against it. He was elected to the Virginia Secession Convention and began supporting the Confederation splitting from the Union. After Virginia announced it’s secession he was elected to the Provisional Confederate Congress and then to the Confederate House of Representatives, however he died before he could take his seat.
Since Tyler had formerly broke with the Union he was the first former President to not be formally recognized by Washington during his funeral. Instead he was given a former funeral by the Confederacy that was overseen by President Jefferson Davis and had a Confederate flag draped over his coffin, making him the only U.S. President not honored with the U.S. flag. He was buried near former President Monroe and a large obelisk was raised as his tombstone.
After Tyler became President the office of the Vice President remained vacant until the election of 1844.
Thus ended the life of the tenth Vice President. Although he was only in office for a month he had a major impact on the Vice Presidency by establishing the ascension into the office of the Presidency. He was the first in several categories, the first Whig Vice President, the first to take office after the death of a President, the first President to face impeachment charges and the only to be buried by a government outside of the United States. Had Harrison lived Tyler would be mostly forgotten by history but fate had a different plan for him.
But, keep in mind, that if you write in Ocular Nervosa for Vice President and the President dies, I promise to name a new Vice President and then resign from office as soon as they take the oath of office.