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Why John Tyler May Be the Most Reviled U.S. President Ever

January 16, 2020 in History

By Christopher Klein

His party expelled him. His cabinet resigned. What made America’s 10th president such a political pariah?

If a Mount Rushmore for America’s most unpopular presidents is ever created, John Tyler would be a leading candidate to have his likeness carved into stone.

“Popularity, I have always thought, may aptly be compared to a coquette—the more you woo her, the more apt is she to elude your embrace,” said America’s 10th president. Playing hard to get, though, also failed to garner Tyler popular affection. The maverick president’s fierce independent streak succeeded only in alienating politicians on both sides of the aisle.

Six years after Tyler left the Democratic Party over differences with President Andrew Jackson, the rival Whig party nominated the former congressman, senator and Virginia governor in 1840 as William Henry Harrison’s running mate. After the victory of their “Tippecanoe and Tyler too” ticket, the 68-year-old Harrison became the oldest president in the country’s short history. Tyler, deeming the vice president’s duties largely irrelevant, returned home to his Virginia plantation.

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READ MORE: How the Battle of Tippecanoe Helped Win the White House

Questioning Tyler’s legitimacy: ‘His Accidency’

Just 31 days after the inauguration, however, Tyler was stirred from his sleep by a rap on the door and given the news that Harrison had become the first American commander-in-chief to die in office. Upon returning to the nation’s capital, Tyler took the presidential oath, angering strict constructionists who argued that the Constitution only specified that, when a president died, the vice president would inherit presidential “powers and duties”—not the office itself. Former president John Quincy Adams wrote that Tyler was “in direct violation both of the grammar and context of the Constitution,” and eight senators voted against a resolution recognizing Tyler as the new president.

Those questioning Tyler’s legitimacy nicknamed the president “His Accidency.” Fellow Whigs would soon call him much worse.

The new president scoffed at his first cabinet meeting when Secretary of State Daniel Webster informed him that Harrison had agreed to abide by the majority decision of the cabinet on any policy matter—even if he was personally opposed. “I can never consent to being dictated to,” Tyler informed his cabinet. “I am the president, and I shall be responsible for my administration.” He made it clear …read more

Source: HISTORY

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