John Tyler, the Accidental President

Overview

In this biography of the 10th President of the United States (1841-1845), Crapol challenges the one-dimensional descriptions of John Tyler as a single-minded states' righter, an unwavering spokesman for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, and a faithful disciple of the republican vision of the founding fathers. Dubbed "His Accidency" because he stepped up from VP to President upon the death of William Henry Harrison, Tyler was nonetheless a strong proponent of the idea of America's great "national ...

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Overview

In this biography of the 10th President of the United States (1841-1845), Crapol challenges the one-dimensional descriptions of John Tyler as a single-minded states' righter, an unwavering spokesman for a strict interpretation of the Constitution, and a faithful disciple of the republican vision of the founding fathers. Dubbed "His Accidency" because he stepped up from VP to President upon the death of William Henry Harrison, Tyler was nonetheless a strong proponent of the idea of America's great "national destiny" and helped increase the executive power of the President. Lasting effects of Tyler's career include the precedent of the VP becoming President upon the President's death; the country's first trade treaty with China; and the annexation of Texas. He was later known as the "traitor President" for joining the Confederacy after he left the Presidency.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Most historians have dismissed John Tyler as an inept failure. In this remarkable study, Crapol, professor emeritus at the College of William and Mary, argues that Tyler was in fact a terrifically strong president who helped strengthen the executive branch. Tyler was William Henry Harrison's vice president. Before Harrison's death in 1841, presidential succession was murky: did the vice president become president, or was he merely a temporary stand-in until an emergency election could be held? Tyler decisively seized the office, setting a precedent that is followed to this day (and was codified in 1967 in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution). Yet Tyler's story, argues Crapol, is ultimately a "tragedy." Tyler's commitment to territorial expansion, which found its keenest expression in the annexation of Texas, was driven in part by his contorted thinking about slavery. The to-the-Virginia-manor-born president believed the contradictions of slavery would be best resolved not by abolition but by extending it into new territories, thus diffusing the slave population. That Tyler died a traitor to the Union, just about to assume his seat in the Confederate Congress, is the final, sad irony. This balanced, fascinating volume will introduce a new generation of readers to an oft-ignored president. (Oct. 9) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
John Tyler who became president after William Henry Harrison died after one month in office remains one of our most obscure chief executives, still seen by most historians as hapless and ineffective. Now Crapol (American history, emeritus, Coll. of William and Mary; James G. Blaine: Architect of Empire) has written a revisionist history of Tyler's presidency, arguing that Tyler was a strong leader who set important precedents, some of which we take for granted (e.g., that the vice president should become president after the death of the chief executive and that he take a separate oath of office). Crapol contends that Tyler was the main architect behind the Texas annexation at the end of his term, his final anti-Whig act that propelled North-South party alignments, and that it was he who pushed for a great American empire in the Pacific with American influence in Hawaii and trade with China. His gravest flaws: his support of slavery and his belief that additional American territory would diffuse the slave population. Crapol's claims seem balanced because he makes them based on the historical record. This book is important in crediting Tyler with the ways in which he imbued the presidency and American expansion with greater power; it will compete with the projected Tyler entry in Times Books' "American Presidents" series. Highly recommended for public and academic libraries. Bryan Craig, Jefferson Madison Regional Lib., Charlottesville, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
"The best study yet of Tyler's presidency and his important legacies. . . . Any study of late Jacksonian America must now include Crapol's brilliant study."—Pacific Historical Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807830413
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 10/9/2006
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 344
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Edward P. Crapol is William E. Pullen Professor of American History, Emeritus, at the College of William and Mary. He is author of James G. Blaine: Architect of Empire and editor of Women and American Foreign Policy: Lobbyists, Critics, and Insiders.

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