Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/John Tyler

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TYLER, John (1790–1862), tenth president of the United States, was accustomed with pride, but with the support of conjecture rather than evidence, to claim relationship with Wat Tyler of the reign of Richard II. The earliest of his American ancestors was Henry Tyler, a reputed native of Shropshire, England, who in 1652 settled at Middle Plantation, Va., on the outskirts of what is now the city of Williamsburg. John Tyler was the son of Judge John Tyler, some time governor of Virginia, and was born at Green way in that State, 29th March 1790. In 1802 he entered the grammar school of William and Mary, where, though fond of fun and frolic and cultivating an inherited taste for the violin, he made good progress in his studies. After graduating in 1806 he entered on the study of law, and in 1809 was called to the bar, where his progress from the first was rapid. He became a member of the State legislature in December 1811. In 1813 he raised a company in defence of Richmond, in command of which he subsequently served with the fifty-second regiment at Williamsburg and Providence Forge. In December 1816 he was elected to the house of representatives at Washington, where he displayed much readiness and skill in debate as an uncompromising advocate of popular rights. In 1825 he was elected governor of Virginia by a large majority, and the following year was re-elected unanimously. In 1827 he was chosen a senator. He opposed Clay on the tariff question in 1832, delivering a speech against the protective duties which lasted three days; but he voted for Clay's Compromise Bill of 1833. He was the only senator who voted against the Force Bill on 20th February of this year, a singularity of conduct which somewhat damaged his reputation in Virginia. Although opposed to the establishment of the United States Bank, he supported the resolutions in 1835 censuring President Jackson for the removal of the deposits, on the ground that the procedure was unconstitutional. In consequence of a vote of the Virginia legislature instructing him to vote for the expurgation of these resolutions from the senate journal he resigned, 21st February 1836. His action led the Whigs to bring him forward as a candidate for the vice-presidency, but he only received forty-seven votes. For some time after this he ceased to take an active part in politics; removing in the end of the year from Gloucester to Williamsburg, where he had better opportunities for legal practice, he devoted his chief attention to his professional duties. At the Whig convention which met at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 4th December 1839, he was nominated again for the vice-presidency on the Harrison ticket, and elected in November 1840. On the death of Harrison, soon after his inauguration in 1841, Tyler succeeded him. His elevation to the presidency was thus accidental in a double sense, for he had been nominated for the vice-presidency to reconcile the extreme faction. His policy in office (see United States) was opposed to the party who nominated him and was on Democratic lines. In 1845 he was succeeded by Polk, and he spent the remainder of his life in retirement from active duties. He was nominated in 1861 for the lower house of the permanent congress, but died at Richmond on the 18th of the following January.

See L. G. Tyler, Life and Times of the Tylers, 2 vols., 1884.