John Tyler was born on March 29, 1790 in Charles City County, Virginia. Tyler was one of eight children and was born into a wealthy family. His father was a tobacco planter and judge at the U.S. Circuit Court at Richmond, Virginia. By the time John was twelve he was enrolled at the College of William Mary and graduated at 17.
After college, John studied law with his father, who had been elected as Governor of Virginia (1808-1811). John was admitted to the Virginia state bar in 1809 and began practicing law in Charles City County . His political career began in 1811 when he was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates (Virginia General Assembly today). From 1816-1821 he served in the Virginia House of Representatives before returning to the House of Delegates. In 1825, he was elected Governor of Virginia and served for two years. From 1827 to 1836, John served as Senator. In 1840, Tyler switched political allegiance to the Whig party after it promised to make him the vice-presidential running mate of presidential candidate William Henry Harrison in the upcoming election. “Tipeecanoe and Tyler too,” was their famous slogan and Tyler was inaugurated as vice-president in 1841. Just a month after inauguration, William Henry Harrison died of pneumonia and Tyler ascended to the presidency. He would become the first president to ascend to the presidency because of the death of the president. Tyler ’s rise to the presidency was controversial and many detractors referred to him as “His Accidency,” because he “accidentally” became president. Nevertheless, Tyler insisted on taking on the full duties of the president.
Tyler, however, had plans to put his personal stamp on the presidency (much to the dismay of the Whigs). Although it was thought Tyler would strictly adhere to Whig policies and ideals, he repeatedly vetoed legislation introduced by Whig party members, including two banking acts proposed by the influential Henry Clay. As a result, the president was expelled from the Whig Party and became “the man without a party.” Furthermore, the entire cabinet appointed by Harrison resigned within a year of Tyler ’s ascent.
Tyler struggled in his presidency to be taken seriously and had a contentious relationship with Congress. Nevertheless, his presidency produced several positive outcomes. His Secretary of State, Daniel Webster, negotiated the Waterton-Ashburton Treaty that fixed the border between Maine and British Canada and that ended hostile relations between the two nations over the disputed borders. In addition, The “Log-Cabin” bill enabled a settler to claim 160 acres of land before it was offered publicly for sale, and later pay $1.25 an acre for it. In 1845, the Republic of Texas was annexed and granted statehood, making it the nation’s largest state. On his last day in office, Florida was admitted as a state.
After his presidency, Tyler retired to his plantation in Charles City County . He renamed his land “ Sherwood Forest ,” as a final jab at the Whig Party that had expelled him. During the Civil War, he sided with the Confederacy and even became a member of the Provisional Confederate Congress. Tyler died in 1862. Because of his support for the Confederacy he was the only President whose death was not mourned in Washington . Furthermore, he is considered the only president to have died outside of the United States (his death occurred when Virginia had seceded from the Union.). During his life he married two women, Letitia Christian, who died in the White House in 1842, and Julia Gardiner, whom he married after the death of his first wife. Tyler would have fifteen children in all, eight with his first wife and seven with his second. He is buried in Richmond, Virginia.