Jacki: John Tyler

John Tyler, by Gary May

John Tyler is one of those forgotten presidents. He was the first vice president to take over after the death of a president and to be perfectly honest, he didn’t really do much in office. He got himself really hooked on Texas and slavery and tried to get stuff done in those departments. Because of the forever-villian Henry Clay, he didn’t succeed there or really anywhere else.

The real problem was that he had very different beliefs than William Henry Harrison, who he took over for. In fact, at one point his entire cabinet (minus one!) just walked into his office and quit. He was even nearly impeached. During his term, his party dumped him and he had to start his own party. Wild, right? Why don’t they teach this stuff?

Also, he married a 23 year old while he was in office. He was 55. Seriously. They had a bunch of kids (I want to say like 7 or 8?), including one when Tyler was 70 years old.

He didn’t run after his term was up, he just headed back home to Virginia. While he was there, the Civil War started and he ran for and got elected to the Confederate Congress.

One little tidbit at the end of the book said that John Tyler was born the year that Washington was inaugurated and his last child died when Truman was president. I guess that that is one benefit of marrying someone less than half your age, huh?

Anyway, I really thought that John Tyler was super interesting. I think part of it was the fact that he never really aspired to be president, and had William Henry Harrison not died in office, he never would have been. They called him the Accidental President and it was way interesting to see how someone who had not really wanted the position did with it. The answer was not very much at all.

Because I thought John Tyler was going to be pretty boring and forgettable, I just read a little, skinny book about him. It was another one from the American Presidents series, which has been really hit-or-miss for me so far. What I really enjoyed about this book was that the author seemed to just tell Tyler’s story. He wasn’t trying to push an agenda and he wasn’t obsessed with Tyler. It was just really factual and unbiased. That was refreshing.

I thought that the little political skirmishes got to be a bit much, but if you are into that kind of stuff I’m sure that you’d be way interested. He was, however, a president, so I guess I can forgive him for talking too much about politics ;)

Seriously though, pretty good book on a really interesting guy. I may try to go back and read a little bit more about him (and Henry Clay! He keeps popping up!) when I complete the challenge.

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