tv The Presidency Christopher Leahy President without a Party CSPAN October 10, 2021 2:01pm-2:57pm EDT
culture. so glad you could join us today. as always like to start rethinking our members who made this program possible. your support is essential for making these events happen so we deeply appreciate that. and onto today's speaker, they were very pleased to have with this doctor christopher leahy who is professor college of new york. he will be talking to us about his book president without a party the life and john tyler. john tyler is the nation's own president to be kicked on his own political party. tyler's use of the veto destroyed the legislative
chances to win the election in 1844. trade by his contemporaries in many historians as an idea devotion to state with construction on the constitution compromise, doctor lengthy instead argues tyler largely added bipartisan approach to nation problems. it was his status as a president without a party injection of legs and democrats museum of music industry especially grammar for giving us the opportunity to speak before you today. i also want to thank the guest of the virginia museum for their interest in john tyler
currently at my life's work. i do have slides to accompany the lecture, which always makes my students happy to find out. so, i will hook up the slideshow right now. so, many years ago when i was deciding upon a dissertation topic i came upon john tyler. of course i had a little bit of knowledge about tyler has a history major in college i became fascinated by how someone could actually get kicked out of their own political party. what did someone have to do too have his political party
resort to the very drastic very extreme measure of kicking him out of the ranks. that became the animating aspect of why i was interested in him. my dissertation dealt with his life and political rear career before he became president. certainly keeping an eye on him being a president without a party really guided my research and my writing for much of the last several years before the book got published. so when tyler was banished from the ranks of the whigs in september 1841, he really established henry clay shown here on the left as his number one enemy. clay was essentially the senate majority leader that title did not yet exist is essentially the senate majority leader for half of tyler's presidency. you see on the right here a
political cartoon going back to the corrupt bargain election of 1824 work clay is selling jackson's lips shut so he will shut up about clays involvement. he had a long career and presidential politics, and congressional politics he had been speaker of the house but he had come into office in the senate before tyler became president. really determined to shift to the course of the society and in fact had persuaded president william henry harrison to call a special session of congress to deal with the financial panic that had been going off and on since 1837. clay really became his chief enemy. it was clay who had apparently coined the phrase to describe john tyler and mark how he ended up in the white house.
this slide i think hence at least the ability of a man that one female visitor to the white house said possess none of the condescension one usually expected in the virginia gentlemen debonair swab there showing himself when he wanted to tyler could be charming and gracious. but his relationship with henry clay often put him in a foul mood. i detailed several instances in the book where a lot of this graciousness and affability really disappeared as tyler attempted with dealing as a president without a party. the title of the book indicates my focus on tyler as the tenth president revolves around his banishment from the whigs. i spent a significant amount of time examining what happened, how it happened and
why it mattered. today however i want to focus our attention on one of the themes of the book, john tyler's addiction to politics. this is an important aspect of his life and career that is been overlooked by biographers and other historians. this is not to say other politicians either in tyler's era or our own have failed to demonstrate a virtual addiction to politics, success in the political arena after all particularly at the national level necessitates a public official give their all to their career if they hope to have staying power. this is also not to say tyler's addiction to politics involved in addiction in the clinical sense of the term although i did have moments during the course of my research and writing when i thought this might be true. but my book shows is that tyler calculated his self worth and his masculinity but
success in the political arena particularly in the national arena. once you've been bitten by the politics bug he could never give it up. even when he realized it was harming his marriage, his relationships with his children and his finances. also failed to realize how much addiction to politics tarnishes historical reputation which is particularly ironic given ultimately chose a career in politics because it offered him the best chance to achieve historical renowned and leave a lasting mark. looking at tyler's addiction to politics also allows us to calibrate the impact of his father on his life and career. his father was the most important person in his life. judge tyler shown here on the right was a minor figure in the founding of the nation played a significant role as a federals at the virginia
convention called in 1788 of the ratification of the constitution. judge tyler had served in the virginia house of delegates and had even been elected speaker on several occasions. you can see judge tyler supported a rather prominent nose but she passed on to his son the future president. anyone who tried to describe john tyler usually began by noting his prominent nose variously referred to aquiline a lot of the sources. john quincy adams notes john tyler's nose and a couple of his entries in fact you could even say at some point john quincy adams almost became obsessed with john tyler's nose among other things about the accidental president of the present without a pardon. but judge tyler passed on much more than his physical characteristics. key to understanding him and
key to understanding how his addiction to pollock six developed. tyler it was very close to his father. his mother died when he was seven years old and the young boy took it hard as you might expect. he developed >> ailments and his father worried about him both because he was sickly and a nervous child small and frail. the turning point of sorts occurred when the future president was about ten years old the story at the very least it's probably embellished. i kept it out of the book critic edited out of the book the incident involved a scottish schoolmaster taught john tyler and several other boys in the neighborhood school not far from greenway seemed to take special delight
and wrapping his students in knuckles when they forgot their lessons for tyler and fax it later in life it was a wonder he did not with all the sense out of his scholars. one day the boys in school had enough john tyler led the others and tripping and tying them up with rope. on the left-hand side of the slide is with the scene may have looked like before the boys got the better of mcmurdo. this is a great image it's not exactly mcmurdo with john tyler and his fellow students. i think it captures the spirit of what the schoolhouse must have looked like. after tying their nemesis up the boys exited the school in triumph leaving the schoolmaster writhing on the floor. two hours later he was freed by a passerby and immediately stomped toward the tyler home fully expecting to told judge tyler about the role his son played in the event he would
receive swift punishment. instead mcmurdo arrived at the house, knocked on the door, spoke with judge tyler told him what happened whereupon judge tyler banished him from the house screaming as he kicked them out the door the state motto of virginia that's always the tyrants. we can assume the incident with mcmurdo happened as i described it here. judge tyler was pleased because it's sickly, frail, nervous son had asserted himself and shed the residence he had exhibited since the passing of his mother. in any event john tyler's relationship with his father grew stronger they grew very close. in fact tyler was apparently closer to his father than any of his siblings. tyler was one of eight children's had five sisters and two brothers. he was the sixth in line he was the sixth unborn child for the relationship with his father nurtured a burgeoning interest in politics judge
tyler schooled his son the limited government ideals of thomas jefferson as well as the virginia and kentucky resolutions were passed in 1798 proposed in 1798 by thomas jefferson and james mattis in an effort to try to prevent the federalist from trampling on the rights of the states in the run-up to a possible war with france. the ideals of thomas jefferson and limited government and really relayed to him and talk to him often about the republican american revolution for judge tyler also instilled a belief in the virtue of public service. it's also a bit associated with this, one point judge tyler had written to jefferson saying good and able men had better govern and be covered.
so certainly judge tyler and later john tyler took at the heart members of their society men who were occupying their place in society had an obligation to be the ones who led the political system. i like the left-hand side of this slide county election it really shows the hurly-burly of politics. use eat drink being applied to see the rough-and-tumble of politics. very masculine very mail dominated context. it's interesting for all of his gentility tyler did take pride in cultivating the gentility father had deemed important throughout his life that despite this tyler found himself quite comfortable in the round of the nitty-gritty of politics. by the time tyler entered the preparatory division the college of william and mary at the age 12 he fully expected
politics to be his calling. this slide shows on the left of the wren building at william and mary which is i believe the oldest college building still in existence today. the only college building still standing in the united states. it was here were john tyler took his college courses. william and mary became a formidable place for you to go to study politics and political economy. by the time tyler graduated at age 17 there was no doubt he would enter the realm of politics. now it's interesting if you read the few letters that survived between judge tyler and john tyler while he was a student at william and mary you really get a sense and appreciate how seriously tyler took his education. the two men, tyler and his father passed letters back and forth it talked about the bill
of rights constitutional debates and the things his father had experienced firsthand in virginia. you really get a picture of a precocious young man who is doing everything he possibly could to set himself up for a political career. bishop madison was a firm believer in the jeffersonian government is his duty to impart to the jeffersonian lessons onto the students who were under his direction. john tyler became a favorite of bishop madison. bishop madison asked young john tyler to read one of the graduation orations on the day he graduated in july of 1807. the other thing that comes out
of tyler's relationship with his father at this time it comes out of his relationship with bishop madison and william and mary is by the time he graduated at the age of 17 he was brimming with self-confidence. almost full of himself, very confident he'd certainly moved past the reticence and the attributes he had had when he was ten, 11, 12 years old. very much confident in himself. confident in his ability confident in his intellect, he had been largely classically trained. trained in subjects like greek and latin, ancient history, politics, political economy is very much equipped with both what he got at home and also what he got in college to pursue the career in politics he so earnestly wanted. his father was good for his self-esteem as was bishop madison in other words.
tyler once had dinner with thomas jefferson not long after he graduated from william and mary. jefferson impressed upon him that a successful politician, particularly an virginia needed to establish himself in the legal profession. in fact a legal career jefferson said to the young man was a virtual prerequisite to a political career. so, much like there's no doubt he would attend william and mary became pretty apparent is going to pursue a legal career. shortly after he graduated his father and another tyler relative took him on his legal apprentice. a little bit later when judge tyler was elected governor of virginia could no longer supervise his son's legal studies, edmund randolph stepped in. randolph had been attorney
general under george washington and really presented young tyler with a challenging way to approach the law. tyler passed the bar in 1809 at the age of 19. now this is interesting because in virginia the law at the time they do had to be at least 21 years of age to pass the bar exam. to even sit for the bar exam. but apparently the examiner could not ask tyler how old he is. perhaps his father's connections allowed them to look the other way. but in any event he was 19 tyler passed the bar exam print did not set a practice right away. kind of took some time to develop further habits, study habits he participated in some moot court proceedings around richmond honing the oratorical skills you need in the courtroom. he was still thinking really in terms of politics. the picture here, the image on
the right hand of the slide shows tyler at approximately age of 21 when he won his first political office, a seat in the virginia house of delegates. right away tyler threw himself into the fray. he was not content to be a backbencher. he did not want to build on some sort of political apprenticeship. he did not want to defer to his betters and his elders who had been in the legislature for some time. he immediately jumped in with an issue that could allow him to build a name and a reputation. what he did is he introduced the resolution centering virginia senators richard brent because they had disobeyed the virginia legislature which had instructed them to vote against the recharter of the bank. this is an interesting entrant interesting episode in tyler's
life. brimming with self-confidence, but his resolutions failed. table the resolutions which in effect killed them and adopted another set of resolutions. they adapted someone else's resolution. tyler realized at that time colleagues did not care too much to his daddy was. they did not care he was full of himself he had a lot of self-confidence. and really, for the first time in his life tyler was told something he had done did not pass muster. he wasn't crushed by it but it did take him back. maybe this political life is going to be a little more difficult than i thought at the outset. in 1813 tyler took another step in the phase of his political life is political
advice this eight march 29, 1813, judge tyler had died a few months before which made it easier he inherited property from his father he also inherited debts the house were john tyler had been born. tyler is, i hope i'm back. we had some technical difficulties, i apologize for that. i think we left off with my analysis of john tyler's marriage to leticia christian from new kent county. i made the point this is another step in his political
process. because i'm marrying well to enhance the political standing get the sense of tyler, even at the early stage of his political career he has wrestles his outpatient he must get along joint national political career. he's like the person were talking to scanning the room for someone more important to talk too. so maybe that's what happens to me when i am at parties. winchell surpasses god as a compliments and politics but he going to be a judge this as
a stepping stone to a career he certainly wanted to surpass his father house would take advantage of gratuitous timing. i'm very popular congressman died, tyler saw an opportunity and stood for election. after election against john clanton and another candidate anders stevenson to become a legal rival a friendly rival at the time won the close election was had to washington. he never been to washington before when he got there he was shocked by what he saw. washington still bore the effects of the war of 1812 but they done to the capitol
building tyler was quite shocked of seeing washington and what it looked like in the wake of the destruction during the war. the destruction he saw reinforced something else his father had introduced to him as a young man. he seemed to operate under the assumption as both a congressman anything good for the british was not good for the united states. he nursed a grudge if you will looking at the destruction the british had brought about during the war of 1812. he quickly got over that got over the initial shock of seeing the way the buildings look is not in the actual capitol proceedings were done and another building a much more cramped building across town. tyler, much like he had done
in the virginia house of delegates did not wait for an invitation to enter the fray. he did so immediately by pouncing on the compensation issue. the previous session of congress had passed a compensation bill that provided a significant raise for congressman. once the word got out once the news of the compensation bill got out to communities all across the united states the reaction was swift. people disliked the congressman decided to give himself a raise in the wake of the financial difficulties of the war of 1812. the cry against the compensation bill was wide and deep. so tyler adopted the there was
a sense some of the older colleagues were a little taken aback this guy had come in and instantly decided to take them to task for what they had done at the previous session. tyler got into a verbal spat on the floor of the congress with a new york congressman but all and all tyler held his own. he was put in his place a little bit recognized he had work he also recognized he probably changed at least a little bit of the tenor of the debate. it was repealed and he would claim this and try and when he went back to his constituents in virginia. during his congressional career whose anti- protective
tariff he opposed the national bank persona of him self the strict construction of the constitution developing his reputation as an all republican in good standing. this is the way he developed his political career. it took a toll on his marriage. while he was in congress he had three young children at home. his wife, never tired reminding them how much she disliked his political career. how much she wanted it home. but at least for a time tyler
did not want to give it up. but it was a crisis over slavery that will play a significant role in 1819 the territory of missouri had applied for statehood to the u.s. congress and a debate quickly developed over whether slavery would be allowed in the territory. when they go to confidant at the time he served in congress he really told curtis a lot of what he was thinking and a lot of what he thought about washington politics.
at one point as the missouri crisis over the missouri debates are occupying a more acrimonious place in politics he was amazed and told curtis he was a maze men were speaking of the union with perfect nonchalance. breaking up the union rather than taking slavery out of missouri. tyler found all of this quite demoralizing. in the midst of the debates will be the compromise also suffered a debilitating illness. it took to his bed for about a week. he was quite shaken never had felt anything like that before he had sensations of paralysis in his arms a tingling in his head and face. really alarmed him he was
experiencing devastating physical symptoms. the missouri crisis had been demoralizing to him politically you had a serious illness he was also broke his financial difficulties were coming out into the open and least in respecting his family. and leticia wanted him home. so he retired 1821 he went home to virginia, telling people he would have no more of national politics. now at retirement for politicians and the early century, especially for southern politicians was itself a political act. it allowed politicians to portray themselves as disinterested statesmen who could walk off the political stage at any time they saw fit. the principal demanded they leave. even as he retired though, tyler was setting himself up for a return to politics. of course he kept this from leticia.
here is where you really begin to see the addiction the all-consuming desire for politics. one month after he retired, tyler was writing letters to political associates throughout virginia telling them he'd be willing to get back into the political battles if the occasion required it. here he is using his retirement as a way of the political act to enhance and further his political career. even while he's telling leticia and portraying he's happy to be home. he's still very restless. there's never any doubt he would return to politics. he won election to the house of delegates again this seemed to be the pattern for tyler. he starting with the virginia house of delegates. in 1825 he was elected governor of the commonwealth of virginia.
this had to have some important psychic meaning to john tyler. his father had been governor this image here on the left shows tyler at the age of 35 or 36 when he became governor of virginia. tyler hungered for a return to national politics. in 1827 after his reelection as governor he defeated the incumbent john randolph receipt and the united states senate. shown here on the right but by the mid- 1820s randolph erratic behavior a lot of
people followed politics to become very nervous about him very nervous about his future defendant virginia in the south and the u.s. senate. to support randolph for another term which he does, he does this in 1827. the full impact of his addiction to politics is felt by his family. his children are growing up without their father.
his daughter mary had a pretty good relationship with her father. we see a lot of letters that pass between tyler and mary going back from virginia to washington washington to virginia. tyler took 18 interest in what his daughter was reading. recommended all the things he read when he was young. we definitely wanted her to develop a fertile mind. his oldest son, robert tyler was born in 1816 had a pretty decent relationship with john tyler. he was a student at william and mary like his father. did well at william and mary but there is still a distance between the two of them or formality almost. the fact they did not see each other that much will robert was growing up. john tyler junior was born in 1819 no doubt took his
father's absence of the hardest. young john, and eventually became an alcoholic, suffered through a troubled marriage that was largely his doing. before and after despaired of that one point thinking he was going to be dead they found that his son and namesake would be dead. with his children, leticia who found it extremely difficult to deal with her husband continuous absences. there is an anecdote from may of 1831 that is particularly telling in this regard. in may at 1831 after the congressional session had ended, john tyler returned home to virginia.
i barely put his back down when he informed leticia he had been invited to a political meeting in richland. we would be leaving tomorrow and be gone a few days. while that night, leticia got very ill. so ill in fact she could not get out of bed. virginia senator who was supposed to meet him in richmond at his political meeting. he wrote, leticia was so very ill upon my receiving the invitation i was left with one course to pursue and that was to decline its acceptance. it seems apparent from other letters from this one and others that tyler had spoken while they were together in washington about leticia's health situation. he variously turned to her health situation is delicate
troubling, it was clear leticia suffered what one scholar called eight marriage trauma that developed because of the constant separation she faced with her husband being in washington for five or six months of the year. tyler obviously recognized what was going on. recognize he was the cause of this marriage trauma. recognized his behavior his political behavior was responsible for having his wife manifests systems of the marriage trauma through interest. yet he still wanted to maintain his political career. he relied on his daughter mary to act as a caregiver in his absence to her mother. he instructed her to take care of her mother with warm baths, try to treat her migraines and all the things he would have done had he been there he made sure he entrusted to his daughter mary.
mary really became a very key figure probably indispensable figure in making sure john tyler maintained his political career. he resigned from the senate in february 1836 rather than vote to expunge the censure of andrew jackson. the whig party led by henry clay in the senate had passed a resolution of censure that took president jackson to task for moving the bank deposits that inaugurated the bank more in jackson's second term. when the democrats regained control of congress they passed what was known as the expunging resolution. but they aim to do was expunge the censure from the senate journal to literally get it out of the record of the senate journal. tyler was instructed to vote for the expunging resolution by the virginia legislature. he refused, he resigned in
february 1836 out of principal. but he returned to politics yet again a year end a half later. he was elected to the virginia legislature for the third time. again we see a pattern of looking at a way to try to continue his political career by using the legislature as a springboard. he got himself nominated as vice president at the whigs at their convention their national convention they nominated william henry harrison. then of course we defeated martin van buren in november 1840. harrison, as you know died 32 days into his term. tyler became president the image on the right is a romanticized picture of this passing an elevation to
presidency. harrison had declared his intention to serve only one term as president. tyler almost desperately wanted a second term. he did not make a claim he would only serve one term. after being banished spent much of his time trying to put himself in the position to secure election of his own right in 1844. most notably by pursuing and getting the annexation of texas. tyler became the first president to marry while in office on june 26, 1844 he married a new yorker 30 years younger julia gardner in a ceremony in new york city. on the rights of the slide is muslim i fear favorite characters the 1844 political campaign. ralph pennsylvania abner the six or $25000, $25000 as a
presidential salary at the time. or you have tyler sing is not going to run for president anymore he's going to chase with the farmer calls the gardener's daughter. marriage definitely became in a way took him out of the politics release a brief period of time. and march of 1845, john and julia tyler retired to sherwood forest not far from where tyler had grown up. still, tyler thought about returning to politics. he toyed with the differing for the u.s. senate in 1848 if you can believe that. his correspondence entertained ideas about being the democratic nominee for president in 1856 and 1860. that put this in a little more context at least at one point in the late 1850s tyler's
family but he would die from one of his illnesses. here you have a man who was habitually unhealthy who is still thinking at least at some level he might be able to secure the democratic nomination for president. when abraham lincoln's election in november 1860 brought secession and civil war tyler decided he had to get back into politics. i like the image on the left shows monroe during the civil war. the ignore focus area is where john tyler and juliet honeymooned in the summer of 1844. tyler became the chair of an ill-fated peace conference in washington february 1861. it was at this time he was in washington that tyler met president-elect abraham lincoln. he came away from lincoln very impressed. lincoln was quite unimpressed with john tyler he returned the favor. once virginia seceded from the
union in 1861, tyler won election to the provisional kind congress and eventually sought election to the permanent congress, he won. this is the best example of how politics retains its hold on him. how he was addicted to politics. he died before he would take a seat in congress he died january of 1862. but he should have stayed out of it. i'm very critical of him for the decision to get back into politics. critical because it really tarnishes historical reputation beyond repair. he was starting to enjoy a little bit more of the statesmen like settlement the american people had for him. a lot of bad feelings that had developed on him being banished from the whigs ranks had seceded in historical memory a little bit. getting involved in the politics again , coming up of retirement and part of the confederate government ruined all of that.
he renounced his citizenship, renounces dedication to the constitution that he had been sworn to uphold and affect's more importantly his decision to reenter politics in the confederate government had negative repercussions for his family. particularly julia, later in her life julia sought a pension from the federal government as a president a widow. during her campaign which was very difficult to required a lot of legal maneuvering, a lot of help a lot of aid from politically wealthy individuals in washington, newspapers never seem to tire that she was married to the trader president. i think it's right to be hard on john tyler for this decision to enter politics one last time late in 1861. i think there is an anecdote for me later president that
could really speak to what politicians like tyler thought about and how politics really consume them. the later president is john f. kennedy. in 1963 assume sizing up his potential rivals the potential republican nominees for president in 1964 he talked about barry goldwater's name was being mentioned significantly. he talked about nelson rockefeller. he thought about rockefeller and he could not really understand what rockefeller was doing. about a year earlier rockefeller had left his wife tamir a yet much younger woman. i woman it was said in the press she stole from her husband. he had seemingly sacrificed everything for the woman he loved. because of the scandal that
ensued because he was marrying the woman he loved. thinking about this and declared no man would ever love love more than politics. i think john tyler probably would have understood exactly the sediment john f. kennedy mentioned at that time. i appreciate your attention today. if you have not bought my book , this is the title of the book, this is the cover of the book. and before i go i just wanted to make sure i give you an indication of coming attractions. my wife and i have a book a biography of under contract with the university press of kansas and her manuscript is due is in october a few months away. so i will be happy to take any questions that you might have. and i appreciate your
attention. >> thanks chris. again folks apologies for the brief delay due to technical difficulties. questions, one thing that comes to mind we have seen other figures in politics historically and in contemporary times like tyler is one of the things that makes this fascinating as historians is the detective work goes into understanding. i'm wondering what you might have uncovered in your research made it clear that he left in his hand in his own
well, he does refer to his father, particularly early in his political career about emulating his father house father had given effect set on this course. i think the situation after he retired in 1821 where he is talking about, the way he put it as he owed a duty to his family to return to virginia to earn more money as a practicing attorney. yet even as he is saying that within a very short period of time after he returns home, he is writing political associates in effect repudiating his retirement. in effect think i don't really mean, i don't want to stay out of politics. there is a sense you get read the letters preclude the ones that pertain to politics. this is something that tyler is about constantly.
he has a money problems he has significant money problems. he doesn't worry about his children come he worry about his wife. it's not to say he's not completely unfeeling about these things. reading his correspondence you really get a sense this is a man who defines himself by his political career and success in the political arena. whether it was unwittingly or not he does reveal himself as he's talking about, as is writing about what he intends to do with his political career. >> you mentioned might have been possible difficult with alcohol any evidence to believe he might've had some type of clinical addiction? >> no i don't think so.
he wasn't much of a drinker. he would drink champagne and modest amounts that usually gave him a the next day. and if anything after white house parties or whatnot. other than his near compulsion to be in the political game he does not show the clinical aspects of addiction as a son with later. obviously he does not the language of the 21st century to characterize what he's doing, how he's acting or even how his son was acting. i don't think he necessarily, tyler himself, necessarily does exhibit any clinical sign. >> you mentioned briefly about his role in annexing texas. i wondered if you would expand on that a little bit more than what it was for that?