The American Cyclopædia (1879)/Tyler, John

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The American Cyclopædia
Tyler, John
Edition of 1879. Written by Robert CarterSee also John Tyler on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

TYLER, John, tenth president of the United States, born in Charles City co., Va., March 29, 1790, died in Richmond, Jan. 17, 1862. He was the second son of John Tyler, who was a prominent revolutionary patriot, governor of the state from 1808 to 1811, afterward judge of the federal court of admiralty, and died in 1813. He graduated at William and Mary college in 1807, and in 1809 was admitted to the bar. Two years later he was elected a member of the legislature, and he was reëlected for five successive years. In 1816 he was elected to congress to fill a vacancy, and was twice reëlected. He voted for the resolutions of censure on Gen. Jackson's conduct during the Seminole war, and opposed internal improvements by the general government, the United States bank, the protective policy, and all restrictions on slavery. Ill health compelled him to resign before the expiration of his term. In 1823 and the two following years he was a leading member of the state legislature. In December, 1825, he was chosen governor by the legislature, and at the next session was reëlected by a unanimous vote. He succeeded John Randolph as United States senator in March, 1827, and was reëlected in 1833. In the presidential election of 1824 he had supported Mr. Crawford, who received the vote of Virginia. He however approved the choice of Mr. Adams in preference to Gen. Jackson by the house of representatives; but seeing in Adams's first message “an almost total disregard of the federative principle,” he sided in the senate with the opposition to him, consisting of the combined followers of Jackson, Crawford, and Calhoun. He voted against the tariff bill of 1828, and against all projects of internal improvement. During the debate on Mr. Clay's tariff resolutions in 1831-'2, he made a three days' speech against a tariff for direct protection, but advocating one for revenue with incidental protection to home industry. In 1832 he avowed his sympathy with the nullification movement in South Carolina, and made a speech against the force bill, which passed the senate with no vote but his in the negative, Mr. Calhoun and the other opponents of the bill having retired from the chamber; but he voted for Mr. Clay's compromise bill. In the session of 1833-'4 he supported Mr. Clay's resolutions of censure upon President Jackson for the removal of the deposits, which he regarded as an unwarrantable assumption of power, although he considered the bank unconstitutional. The legislature of Virginia having in February, 1836, adopted resolutions instructing the senators from that state to vote for expunging those resolutions from the journal of the senate, Mr. Tyler resigned and returned to his home, which about this time he had removed to Williamsburg. In 1836, as a whig candidate for vice president, he obtained the votes of Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina, and Tennessee. In 1838 he was elected to the legislature by the whigs of James City co., and during the subsequent session of that body he acted entirely with the whig party. He was a delegate from Virginia to the whig national presidential convention which met at Harrisburg, Dec. 4, 1839, and was nominated for vice president with Gen. Harrison as president, and elected in November, 1840. President Harrison died just one month after his inauguration, and the administration devolved on the vice president. Mr. Tyler requested the members of the cabinet to remain in the places they held under President Harrison. Three days later he published an inaugural address, which in its indications of political principle was satisfactory to the whigs, and he at once began to remove from office the democrats appointed by previous administrations, and to fill their places with whigs. In his message to the congress which convened in extra session, May 31, 1841, he discussed at considerable length the question of a national bank, at that period a leading feature of whig policy; and he intimated to several members his desire that congress should request a plan for a bank from the secretary of the treasury. Resolutions for this purpose were adopted by both houses, and Mr. Ewing sent in a bill for the incorporation of the “Fiscal Bank of the United States,” the essential features of which were framed in accordance with the president's suggestions and in deference to his peculiar views of the institution. The bill was finally passed by congress on Aug. 6, with a clause concerning branch banks differing from Mr. Ewing's, and sent to the president, who returned it with a veto message, in which he declared the act unconstitutional in several particulars. Thia veto created great excitement and anger among the whigs throughout the country. The whig leaders in congress, however, made yet another effort to conciliate the president and secure his assent to their favorite measure. A bill was prepared embracing certain features supposed to be acceptable to the president, and was privately submitted to and approved by him and his cabinet, and finally without any alteration passed by the house, Aug. 23, and by the senate two weeks later; but the president, who by some communications was made to believe that the bill was framed with the object of entrapping him into an act of inconsistency, vetoed it. Very soon after the promulgation of the veto, the cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Webster, the secretary of state, sent in their resignations, and published statements of their reasons for this step, reflecting severely on the conduct of President Tyler. The president filled their places by appointing Walter Forward of Pennsylvania secretary of the treasury; John C. Spencer of New York, secretary of war; Abel P. Upshur of Virginia, secretary of the navy; Charles A. Wickliffe of Kentucky, postmaster general; and Hugh S. Legaré of South Carolina, attorney general — all of them whigs, or at least opponents of the democratic party. Before the adjournment of congress, Sept. 13, the whig members published a manifesto proclaiming that all political relations between them and the president were at an end. The course taken by Mr. Webster, though condemned by some of the whigs, was justified by the greater portion of the people on the ground of the critical condition of our relations with Great Britain on the subject of the northeastern boundary, in regard to which he was at the time engaged in negotiations with the British ministry. After a satisfactory treaty was arranged and ratified (August, 1842), Mr. Webster resigned, and was succeeded by Mr. Legaré, who died soon after. In July, 1843, President Tyler reorganized his cabinet as follows: Mr. Upshur, secretary of state; Mr. Spencer, secretary of the treasury; Mr. Wickliffe, postmaster general; James M. Porter of Pennsylvania, secretary of war; David Henshaw of Massachusetts, secretary of the navy; John Nelson of Maryland, attorney general. Messrs. Porter, Henshaw, and Nelson were democrats, and the first two were rejected by the senate when their nominations came before it. In their places the president appointed William Wilkins of Pennsylvania, secretary of war, and Thomas W. Gilmer of Virginia, of the navy, who were confirmed, Feb. 15, 1844. On Feb. 28 Mr. Gilmer and Mr. Upshur, while inspecting the steamer Princeton, were killed by the bursting of a gun, and Mr. Calhoun of South Carolina was appointed secretary of state, and John Y. Mason of Virginia secretary of the navy. Under the management of Mr. Calhoun a treaty of annexation was concluded between the United States and Texas, April 12, 1844, which was rejected by the senate. But the scheme of annexation was vigorously prosecuted by the president, and at the very close of his administration brought to a successful issue by the passage of joint resolutions by congress, approved March 1, 1845. The other most important measures of his administration were the act establishing a uniform system of proceedings in bankruptcy, passed in August, 1841, and the protective tariff law of 1842. Toward the close of Mr. Tyler's term it became evident that he had lost the confidence of the whigs without having secured that of the democrats. In May, 1844, a convention composed chiefly of officeholders assembled at Baltimore and tendered him a nomination for the presidency, which he accepted; but in August, perceiving that he had really no popular support, he withdrew from the canvass. In 1861 he was a member of the peace convention, composed of delegates from the “border states,” which met at Washington to endeavor to arrange terms of compromise between the seceded states of the south and the federal government. Of this convention he was elected president, but nothing resulted from its deliberations. He subsequently renounced his allegiance to the United States, and gave his support to the confederate cause. At the time of his death he was a member of the confederate congress.