tv First Ladies Influence Image CSPAN April 6, 2013 7:00pm-8:30pm EDT
first ladies" series. >> she was not happy her husband had been elected president. she never made it to washington. >> when he resigned, he and his wife and their family moved here to williamsburg. it was here that letitia tyler suffered a stroke. john tyler learned he was elected as vice president of william perry region william henry harrison. 10th here that he became
president of the united states, so she learned she became the first lady. >> she had another terrible stroke, and her husband goes into morning, and then he meets another young lovely in her 20's. >> i think of her as the madonna of first ladies. she posed as a model at a time that was frowned upon, by all accounts was bewitching. andhere were 90 slaves, they were her supervision. julia lobbied for her husband, and she supported him tremendously in everything she did. >> untimely death, a secret marriage, and outsize personality are stories of the
women we examined tonight. good evening, and welcome to the season series of first ladies. william henry harrison was in office, and a month later, he dies. theearn about time, we have chair of the history department, and she has been many times ons this series. nice to see you again. school children have all grown up with the phrase, tippecanoe tyler too. he was elected at age of 68, a record no president beat until ronald reagan. who was this?
>> i announce with a bit of pride he was from my home county, but he moved to ohio. he was a military man initially. he studied medicine for a short time and decided to join the military and shortly thereafter moved to ohio. he became the territorial governor of indiana and was a noted indian fighter. the term tippecanoe comes from the battle of tippecanoe, where he fought with his brother. as territorial governor, tyler was -- harrison was in securing land
for white settlers, and that clashed with native american interest, so i've done battle, harrison was considered the victor. -- at that battle, harrison was considered the victor. it carried him into public office. >> his wife was not happy about him being drawn back into politics. we have a quote from her that says, i wish my husband's friends have left him where he was, happy and contented. how was he drawn into politics again? let's talk about what type of political spouse he was. >> it is an interesting time, because it is the time of the second american party system. there are two distinct parties, the democratic party with andrew jackson as leader and the whig
party. william henry harrison becomes a member of the weak party after it was founded. he was the first candidate for the whig party after it was founded. he was the first candidate for that party in 1836. the democrats were divided enough they could win. >> anna harrison had been with him through a long political career. what do we know about her? >> we know she was a religious woman. we know she was a reluctance first lady. she did not get to be first lady and the white house, because the day her husband and other members of the family left to go to washington, she was too
ill to travel. the day she was all packed up and ready to join him in washington was the day she got notification he died. >> how did he die? >> that is an interesting question. the answer was always that he was not going to wear a top hat and topcoat to his inauguration, and he was exposed to cold weather and caught a cold and died. i think it is more complex than that. he was an older gentleman. he was exhausted by office seekers in the first month of his presidency, and i think all of that compromised his health, so he did eventually catch a bad cold that turns into
pneumonia, and as a consequence, he did die. >> anna harrison was the first first lady to have a public education. readhe certainly did political journals, but i do not believe she was a political person. i do not believe she would have the role other first ladies would later on, especially the person who follows her. the second person, john tyler's second wife, but at least during the time, even though she did not come to the white house, she did use her influence to get appointments for her nephews and sons and grandsons, so she have been political in
that way but not the way he would think of with someone like tyler. >> which we will learn more of tonight. and this comment, she must have had good genes. what was going on in the harrison family that it produced so many political leaders? >> they were one of the first families of virginia, so you would have had them be involved in the revolution. they have
a long history of political involvement. i think it is where they are located by the mid 1800's in the northwest territory, in this area that is opening up in the country, and these men are
getting politically involved because of its. >> our facebook page asks, is it true she helped raise her son who became president? any influence she had on her son who became president? >> her home burned, and she went to live with one of the sons. what influence she had, we do not know. grandma's to have an influence. >> there was only a
month in the white house, but there were some social things and had to happen. how did that role get fulfilled without first lady? womenre were two other who carry out her duties.
one was jane irving harrison, who was a widow. she was married to one of the harrison men, but he died. now william henry asked her to serve in that capacity, and she was assisted by one of her aunts. she gave her some guidance. she was not the official hostess, but she did give guidance. >> is it true dolly madison was around to offer advice? >> i think she offered advice whenever she got away with it. she would have been nearby from time to time. >> one last thing legacy was she was the first presidential window to get attention for her service. how did that happen? >> for husband died in office, and she needed the assistance,
so congress inappropriate $35,000 for her. >> which was not an on substantial amount of money. when he dies in office this is the first time this has happened. did it create a constitutional crisis? >> it certainly did. the constitution does indicate if the president is not there, those duties on the vice president, but it did not say what the status of that person would be. would he be carrying out the duties as vice president, as acting president, or as the new president, sir john tyler decided he was not going to let them thing too long about it, so he declared himself president, and he had congress pass resolutions declaring him
president. not everyone agrees with that, so occasionally mail came to new the white house addressed to the acting president or the vice president, and he had those documents returned unopened. >> who was tyler? >> he was born in virginia. he lived only a couple of miles down the road from the harrison a state. he was born in green way. he was an interesting president, because although he was elected on the ticket with william henry harrison, he had been a jacksonian democrats early on in his political career and had joined the whig party, but once he became president, he
abandoned the weak platform and angered them. >> we are going to learn more about the john tyler presidency and the women who served as his first lady. we are going to introduce you to the lives they had not been what we call colonial williamsburg. >> when john tyler resigned from the senate, he and his wife and their families moved here to williamsburg to establish a law practice. he reconstructed his law office. the house they live in was no longer here. they were situated in the center of the town. the court house is right across the street.
this is the beating heart of williamsburg, even in the 1830's, so all of the political activity, the social activity, they are living in the center of it in this fantastic 18th- century house. john tyler was resurrected in his political career. she is going to be operating out of the house. right here, letitia tyler suffered a stroke in 1839. that partly would paralyze her, although she was able to regain control of the family business while john tyler was getting involved in politics. it was in this space john tyler learned he was elected as vice president to william henry harrison, and it was also here in the spring of 1841 he was informed he became the 10th
president of the united states, and it was here that she learned she became the first lady of the united states. >> now we are back on set, and joining us is the gentleman you saw on the video. he is a colonial williamsburg historian. he is also an expert on the area where the tylers hail from. give us a sense of what kind of characteristics of a person of public life would bring from the office from having been there. >> i think when you are talking about virginia, you are getting over the american revolution, not letting go of thomas jefferson and the kind of revolutionary principles but are supposed to inform public conduct and public virtue, but by the time you get to john
tyler's career, those things start to coalesce into notions about states' rights, notions about what is the proper use of the constitution, notions about the extent of authority. you hear them talk a great deal about the principles of 1798, about the kentucky resolution and the ability of the states to override a unconstitutional actions, so these principles of the american revolution are being fought over, but also the kinds of things that come from the expectation of a public leader. they need to be virtuous. that is the only way you can make a good public policy. >> stephanie johnson wants to know where did they meet. >> they met where almost everybody meets at the time. in williamsburg.
they lived not that far from each other. john tyler is from charleston county in a place called green way, and letitia tyler is from kent county, which is only a stone's throw away, and we know they met in about 1811 or 1812. john tyler went to william and mary with letitia's brother. they were the same age. they were 21 and 22 when they met, and they fell in love very quickly. >> we have been incorporating your tweets. can also call us. we are hoping you texans call up, because this administration was responsible for the
annexation of texas. the tylers have a lot of children. >> it is what kept them apart for a great deal of their married lives. constitutionally incapable of being out of public office. he was addicted to it so left her at home to run the family, to run the business, and to continue to manage this incredible group of children they had almost from the very start. >> running their plantation would have been how large an operation? >> one of the issues is a are
always on the very edge of solvency, so they never live place more than 10 years. they are always moving around. they own between 30 and 35 slaves, and they are growing wheat and corn for about 600 acres to 900 acres, and that is between plantations. they then moved to the other side of virginia, so they are continuing to try to figure out a way during these striking economic changes to the country and go into what is going on in 1837, to find a way they can keep their heads above water, and with john tyler gone for so long and so often, six months out of every year while the is in public office, this leaves a lot of burden resting on letitia's shoulders.
>> this was a tough woman. she had a stroke and was paralyzed and continued to handle operations. >> that is indicative of the kind of life women live, even wealthy women. life was tough for them, but it was made easier for them by enslaved laborers, and they did use those to great advantage for them. >> what is known for their attitude at this point toward slavery?
>> we know quite a bit. john tyler is one of the staunchest supporters of slavery that ever inhabited the white house. he was vocal about it through most of his career, and he said, slavery is the greatest property a southerner can own. he believes it is the backbone of society. letitia we know less about. we know from a story that ends up in abolitionist press in the 19th century of a former enslaved man who had been a member of a christian family recalled that john taylor
may have been less kind to enslave men and women in the field, but when it came to the enslaved men and women in the household, he stopped right there. they were under letitia's protection. they were treated well. you could read into a story like that, but john tyler's views were consistent. letitia was different. >> here is 1840 view of america through the senses. the population reached 17 million in 26 states. we consistently see 30%. slaves #2.5 million, which is almost 15% of the population, and new orleans joins the list of the largest cities in the united states. we heard about the tylers and their attitude toward slavery. give us an indication of what was happening in 1840. >> this is a tremendous time of sexual tension. we like to think the country is divided regionally, that everyone in the north is anti slavery and everyone in the south is proslavery.
it is not that simple. people in the north benefited from slavery and the slave trade until it was ended. they now move into a different economic arena. they no longer need slavery, and slippery as a threat to them because of the free labor system in the north, and the kinds of the economy that is needed to preserve institutions in the north are different from those in the south, so what is happening in congress is both groups want to control legislation, because if you are in more industrialized regions,
we want certain parts of laws passed to preserve the economy. if you are more agrarian, you will need laws to support that. there is a tremendous amount of concern about the expansion of slavery. it is not so much the northerners are anti slavery because they are humanitarian. it is because of how slavery impacts them or how expansion impacts them. >> our first caller from michigan. >> and now i love the series. i would like to know what is the duration of both of the president's marriages, and how many children would he have as a result of those marriages? thank you so much.
>> i saw one book and referred to john tyler was the father of our country. >> i think they have 16 or 17 children. >> i did the total was 15. now there were 8 by letitia and 7 by julia. >> he was married to letitia for 29 years, and he was married to julia for 18. >> the tylers learn of the fact they are coming to the white house and he is the 10th president of the united states. her health is precarious. how does she carry out the role as first lady?
>> it depends on how you define the role. what is first lady? is it somebody married to the president, or do they have to fulfill these roles? she is by nature a retired person. she prefers a quiet life. now she does not like the kind of quiet activities of first lady who would normally associate with. even without her illness, i think it would have been a fairly quiet white house. that does not mean there are not other people to fulfill these roles. that means she has to have other people do it for them. it is a close-knit family. they have a lot of daughters living in the white house. she turned that over to them. >> gary robinson asked, what role did priscilla cooper have in the white house and after death?
andhe served as hostess, especially with the daughter, letitia, she is an interested person, because she was an actress at a time when it was not a good thing. it was not considered respectable, but the tylers and accepted her. letitia accepted her. she was very close to her. she would have been performing most of the functions. it is not so much that she was not doing anything. even though she was disabled, she is still giving orders from
her bedroom. she cannot go out the way her daughter can. >> do we have any evidence his daughter counseled him? >> yes. she said, stay out of it. as we talk about it, he could not stay out of politics. she gave up. as we mentioned over and over again, he respected her prudence and judgment that political issues he reserved those for conversations with his male friends. >> there were conversations about whether there should be appropriations for this vice- president but assumed the presidency and whether they should pay for his time in the white house, yet you ascertain they pay for so much. how did they do that?
appropriatenot money. the white house was and i absolute mess at that time. he must have used his own funds to entertain people, and they did entertain lavishly. >> how did they do that? >> you assume a lot of this is coming out of the salary. one of the people who was most extravagant was john tyler himself. he spends most of his life handing his family, trying to keep them outside of it, yet there are lavish entertainment, so for some they are taking a page out of the book. she will hold two formal dinner parties every week.
every other week she will do public receptions in the evenings. she will hold public parties every month that will have as many as 1000 people. she opened the white house on new year's eve. she opened the white house on july 4. she started the tradition on the south lawn. they are finding ways to do that. withmight be doing it mirrors, because congress does not appropriate a cent for the upkeep of the white house during his term as president. >> next, a call from marvin in los angeles. >> by next question has to do with the constitution. it says, the electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for two persons, for whom cannot be from the same state. if both of them came from the
same county, how can they be president and vice president? truecond part is, is it tyler was called his accidency because of the way he took over as president through the death of harrison? >> thank you for the question. >> first, they were born in charles city county. aty were not living there the time they were elected. harrison was in ohio. john tyler was in virginia but harrison was in ohio. the other question was about -- his accidentcy, which don't think he was called. >> one of the nicer questions. >> absolutely. the accidental president forced
his accidentcy because nobody expected john tile wore ascend to the presidency. >> what kind of issues did he face when he came to office? >> there are personal ones and then there are broader political ones. personal ones are that people didn't trust him. they didn't like him. they didn't expect he would be on in the first place. he wasn't even the first choice of being vice presidential candidate for the wig party. so they were fine with letting had go out and live in waynesburg while william harrison was in the white house. those are personal things he had to live with.
political issues, there's certainly the issue over the renewal of the bank of the united states. major issues also over the tariffs and protective tariffs and any funds, depending upon what part of the country you lived in on what was protected and what wasn't. the biggest one that's comes up to define the presidency is really about the expansion of slavery is the annexation of texas and what that means for the sense of the republic or weakness that you think it has on slavery. >> next, call from harold watching us in sioux city, iowa. >> thank you for taking my call. i really enjoy the program. my question is you had a number of talks about jackson and tyler and they both had slaves. how did those slaves fair after and during the civil war? and were those plantations burnt by the yankees? how did that come out? i will hang up and let you answer it. thank you. >> certainly, the union army is coming through twice actually, as a consequence of peninsula campaign.
and each time that the union army comes through, the enslaved population leaves. they take the opportunity to leave. what's happening in charles city on the tyler plantation, sherwood forest, is that julia has left, he's fled and gone to new york to staten island to live with her mother. so there are enslaved people left behind. and it is reported that some of them take over the plantation. certainly, the house is, there are some things that are done by the union army probably and perhaps by local people as well. the plantation is in a bit of a mess when the war is over, which is not that unusual for plantations in certain areas of the south at that time. they certainly do inflate -- enslaved people certainly do suffer during the war but they get their freedom as a consequence of it as well. so there's an incident where julia writes to president lincoln because one of her neighbors, who is a notorious
professionist is arrested by the army and it happens to be part of the union army who is under the control of general wilde, who is commander of the african brigade. and some of the people who are attached to that unit had been enslaved by this gentleman, william clockton. and they were allowed to beat him and julia is absolutely enraged at the idea. she is also concerned as well that her niece is left behind so she's concerned about her well being. but she actually writes to president lincoln and complains about it and she signs her letter, mrs. ex-president tyler. she loved to use that. >> we have not even introduced julia into our tale yet. tell us about the death of letitia tyler in the white house. >> she died september 10 in 1842. she had a massive stroke. >> did she die instantly?
thatere's no evidence there's any kind of lingering. that she dies fairly quickly. and it's -- it hits the family like a ton of bricks. >> what there a white house funeral for her? >> not that we know of. they kept things very private. in fact, she was buried at her home, the place in new kent county, rather then at greenway quarter, rather then anyplace else that they may have lived. she was buried at home with her parents. it was also a very, very quiet, very quiet event but it was mostly manifested in the kind of impact that it had on her children. they were devastated. >> what about the president himself? what was his reaction to losing his wife? >> at the time from his letters, we know that he was obviously emotionally attached to letitia. she had been a huge part of his life for a very long time and he loved her dearly. however, we also have evidence that he seen julia gardiner
tyler probably four months after her death. >> who is julia gardiner? >> who is julia gardiner, richard norton-smith called madonna of the period. julia gardiner is a -- she's a young woman from long island, new york, from east hampton from where in fact anna harrison had gone to school. she is from a very well-known, longstanding new york family, deep in the 17th century they owned gardiner's island and family still owns gardiner's island and her father was a new york state senator. they were in washington frequently for the social seasons. and she was well known at the white house and was well known to the daughters of the tylers was even known to come over not just for the parties but do things like quiet games of
whisk. so the family knew her quite well. she was quite beautiful and quite rambunctious and was very well educated both here and in europe. so it made her quite -- quite a troubling woman to be around. >> and she quickly caught the widow president's eye. >> she quickly caught the widow president's eyes. this moved shockingly quickly. >> when we have to establish the difference in age between the two. >> yes. yearsgardiner is 30 almost exactly younger -- was 30 years younger then john tyler and so when they got married, she was 24 and he was 54. >> one of the amazing things we told you how many children john tyler had. one of his grandchildren is still alive, and inhabits sherwood forest, which is the tylers' home in the virginia area. you're looking at a picture of
it now. he and his wife are residents of the house but make it available for tourists. harrison tyler is his name. he's 84. we visited him recently in sherwood forest, tylers' home, where told us the story of the fateful events that brought julia and john tyler together. >> so in march of 1844, the ship came to the anacostia naval yard in washington and sailed down the potomac. ft. they got to the belvedere to put a barge out into the bay. fired a cannon at the barge. doesn't report whether they hit it or not but everyone was pleased. the ship turned around and headed back to washington. the hard-core said let's fire it again.
they sent a request, let's stop the ship and fire the gun. but it was turned down. at that point somebody looked over and they're passing mt. vernon. so the request was changed to stop the ship and fire the gun in honor of our first president. they couldn't turn that down. but when the ship did face downstream the gunner fired the cannon. thegun instead of firing, right ditch blew out and killed seven people. among them son of gardiner, secretary of state, thomas gilner, secretary of the navy. everybody downstairs felt the ship when the gun exploded the ship jerked. so handsome young officers that were surrounding my grandmother, who was 23 years old at the time but very beautiful, my grandfather, he had been trying to get to her and talk to her and couldn't because of all of the handsome young male officers around. when the explosion occurred and ship shook, they rushed to go upstairs and do what it is they're trained to do and left her standing there. she knew her father was up there so she followed behind them. my grandfather is behind her to go up the steps of the deck. callinge running back out, don't let miss gardiner follow. her father is dead.
when she heard that, my grandmother fainted right back into the arms of the president. he caught her tenderly and gently. so the ship did go and dock and when it docked, he picked her up and carried her down the gang plank. as she was going down the gang plank, she came to. later she told her mother the first thing she remembered was going down the plank in the arms of the president and she struggled and her head, it felt into the quick of his arm and she could look up into his eyes and she wrote her mother saying, i realized for the first time that the president loved me dearly. >> we told you at the outset there would be a tale of the secret marriage. so tell the story. >> june 26, 1844. it's only four months after the disaster of the uss princeton. so julia's father only been dead four months. so there's still a period of mourning that should be publicly and appropriately observed but he has -- john even in thatured
rough period of time, secured the permission of her mother for them to get married. she was worried about his financial situation, whether or not he would be able to continue her into the manner that she was accustom and when he was able to do that sufficiently, she gave her permission. so they had a very, very small, private, secret wedding. at an episcopal church in new york city. only a handful of people there. one of his sons, a couple of his political friends and a few members of her family. but the public didn't know about it until the next day. >> the president disappears from washington, checks himself into a hotel in new york city and gets married. >> uh-huh. yeah. he's just going off to basically, he's going to take a little bit of a location and pops up in new york city.
and then it's in the new york city next day. by the way, the president has just gotten married to one of new york's most prominent families. >> what was the reaction at the time? >> people goss gyp -- gossips about it. it was too soon after his wife's death even though it was not so soon after the death. but they were very much concerned of the age difference. many people thinking it was unfair to julia that she was married to this man who was so much old 0er then she was. so a lot of people didn't like it. his daughters certainly did not. >> they thought it was too soon after. >> they were very loyal to their mother understandably. but there was one daughter who never got over it, letitia. and the other daughters made their peace. and the sons never seemed to have a problem with it. but that one daughter never reconciled with her stepmother. >> here is julia tile was quite a letter writer. here's one letter she wrote to her mother, secrecy of the affair is on the tongue and the admiration of everyone. everyone says it was the best- managed thing they ever heard
of. >> the secret was, yeah. >> let's go on to this because this could be rather self- revealing. the president says, i am the best of the diplomatists. i have commenced my auspicious reign and am in the quiet possession of the presidential mansion. this is a 24-year-old woman. what should we learn from this quote about her? >> she sees herself as queen of the land. she had spent some time in europe. after she had very notoriously posed for an engraving where she was advertising a product, a store actually. and that is something that respectable woman did not do during that period. so her parents had taken -- she and her sister to europe where they were introduced at the court of louis philip of france.
and she admired how the queen received her guests. and it was on -- she was seated, of course, and on a bit of a pedestal. so julia decided to do the same thing for a time. but she saw it very much as she was the first lady of the land and she was going to make the most of it. perspective,ily president asked, he had children older then his second wife. >> yes, his oldest daughter was several years older then julia. >> what was the family reaction? >> the family reaction, it was, at first, among the daughters, it was very negative and very -- that it took, letitia never reconciled to it. libby, it was three months before she even acknowledged that the marriage had taken place. for the youngest daughter that she -- she eventually came around. oldest daughter came around. but the sons were already familiar enough with julia that they were -- they were ok with it by then.
>> reading that quote, do we have the sense that this was a young woman with great aspirations or was this really a love match? >> i think that there's probably a little bit of both in that. tough for us to divide it out. mainly because the correspondence that exists between them and whatever happened in terms of their courtship, we know that john is head over heels for her. and we know that he's writing shakespearean sonnets to her. we know he's engaging in that kind of -- in that kind of very cavalieresque way of -- way of courting her. onh her, the -- it depends who you believe in terms of what were her goals are. in the end, she ends up being biggest supporter and biggest defender.
and thanks to very timely advice from her mother, was able to really put that -- was really able to put that into action. >> next is the question from claire in owings mills, maryland. hi, claire. >> hi, i just wanted to say a few years ago a couple of us went to the sherwood plantation and tyler's grandson was there and he spoke to us for about an hour he was very gracious. i wonder if you can just discuss a little bit about their connection with william and mary. thank you. >> their connection with william and mary goes back to the very beginning. you cannot separate william and mary from the tyler family at all, even to the present day of the tylers go there. harrison's father, lionel gardiner tyler was president of william and mary. his father john tyler had
obviously -- the president had bonn to william and mary and had been chancellor at william and mary. his father john had go to william and mary and the place is as tied with the tylers as the university of virginia is tied with thomas jefferson. >> another quote, which may give some indication of the match between the tylers. this is julia writing about the president again, alert to her mother. really, do you think there was ever a man so equal to any emergency? it was a sort of inspiration, for his ideas are expressed at the moment of any emergency with perfect fluency and effect. question from rachel davidson -- how did julia gardiner, a northerner, feel about becoming a slave owner upon her marriage to john tyler. >> that's an easy one. she comes from a family of slave owners. new york does not abolish slavery until 1813. there are slaves at gardiner
island earned by her family she's born 1820, she's as much born into the slaving culture as anyone living in the time. >> war their slaves then? >> there must have been. tylers would have brought slaves with them. we know when the peacemaker, the gun blew up on the princeton, one of the enslaved men owned by tyler was killed. so clearly he had some of his enslaved people there in the white house with him. >> now, talked earlier about julia's daughter doing this advertisement, she earned the moniker the rose of long island. andbrought the sense sensibility to her job, eight month as first lady. it is written in some books she actually had the services of what would be thought of a press agent. >> she's the hanna august. >> the president himself didn't have a press tie to publicity. >> not at all.
>> the more notorious, the better. she made it a point of cultivating the friendship of a reporter and she would report what was happening in the white house, news of social events and he gave her a lot of personal attention in the articles that he wrote about her. so she was out there in a way that, as i indicated before, respectable women did not do. but this is a new era. this is a time when the women's movement is under way and interestingly enough, you know, someone like julia tyler sort of fits in to a certain extent. she's very conservative in some ways but in terms of breaking through the traditional way that a woman should behave, she's doing it in a way that other women are not at that time. >> well, this seers is called
influence and image. so let's spend a few minutes on this image question with julia tyler. in addition to having loving publicity as you describe her and having someone help her with her press, she had these young women who traveled with her. they became known as the vestal virgins. who were they? how is she using them? >> well, it seem what's she did was develop her own court. and perhaps was not alone but the notion that a first lady could not possibly be seen alone, that there is -- she is representing and this is an interesting point by the development of the institution, that she's representing something much bigger and so she had these young women who were joining her. virginshem the vestal and a number of different things depending upon which newspaper you were reading but that she really believed that she was representing something much bigger then just being the wife of the president. and to do that t. requires display. it requires a very conscience shaping of image as an element of political communication.
which gets back to the point you just made. >> she receives her guests surrounded by these women all dressed in white. reactionas the public to this? did they love it or criticize it? >> she seemed to be able to do no wrong. she had her critics but a lot of people loved her. especially men. she also brought dancing to the white house. >> right. she brought the waltz. she brought the polka. she brought a number of things to the white house. but i think that when you're starting -- you're starting to get into the perceptions of that. it does work both ways, that -- especially with the growth of the abolitionist press. that the abolitionist press starts to see these kinds of things julia's doing in the white house, level of extravagance as being yet another example of the corruption of the slave party. how particularly it's been a distressed economic period, how can they possibly be doing that? the only way they could be doing that is they're gathering wealth and benefits from the
own other people. so in terms of the growth of that abolitionist press and the abolitionists send people just to keep an eye on the tyler white house and report back on things like this. that what julia is doing is in fact in some quarters very different to that broader image while in other quarters, it's very beneficial to supporting the idea of the presidency. >> here's what to an certain extent she redeems herself when she responds to the duchess of sutherland, who criticized slavery in america. she writes a letter back and says pretty much, you need to take care of business at home. you've got people from the lower classes there are who starving. so she doesn't say slavery is right. but she does imply that slavery
is not as bad as what's happening. >> joe in pennsylvania, you're on for our panel. go on, please. >> hi, i love your series. >> what's your question? >> i read somewhere john tyler played the violin and did any of his wives play any musical instrument? >> thank you. do we know. >> i haven't the faintest clue. he certainly played the vial anne and if you go to sherwood forest, you can see the violin. >> and julia played the guitar. >> she played the guitar. >> speaking of music and image making, it said she was the one to have the idea "hail to the chief" being played whenever he entered the room. >> it may have been mrs. polk. >> no evidence? >> yes. >> we will get to that next. advance here. she was obviously from the photographs of her just rather fashion conscience and wore beautiful outfits. did she become a trend setter for women at the time? >> i don't know.
>> had it become the point, do we know, women were beginning to watch what the first lady were and imitate these things? >> i think this gets into the development of mass communication of the period and really what your able to do in terms of emulating dress. that while engravings are certainly appearing in more and more newspapers, you're still relying mainly on the written word in order to get across the impression of any kinds of any kind of clothing. and in a particular way you might be able to set the trend if she's wearing a veil or dolly madison or something like that. but for the most part, it's not until much later when there are many more images that are able to show up in a more sophisticated, technologically speaking american press that you're able to get to the point where you have trends that can be identified in order to -- in order to move on. >> julia tyler was also very political and interested in her
husband's political career. we move on to the influence part of her role as first lady. again, each short month she was in this role, she was very much involved in a major policy issue that we've talked about or referenced already and that's the annexation of texas. we turn to sherwood forest, where the spouse of the president's grandson, talks about julia's lobbying for this policy. let's listen. >> she loved him politically, phenomenally, my dear, for her husband. she had soirees at the white house to lobby. tyler was immensely dedicated to the concept of the annexation of texas to the union. and during that period she was able to sway john c. calhoun, a kinsman of my mother's, from carolina and able to sway john c. calhoun to vote for the annexation of texas and she worked on him but don't know if she was successful or not but she took henry clay out to dinner. this is a woman without a chap
rhone, a president's wife, alone having dinner with him and she didn't mind at all. she wrote her mother a letter, which i think is priceless. she says, mother, mr. clay was a little insulting. when i told him that my husband wanted him to vote for the annexation of texas, he said to me, i am right, texas should not be annexed to the union, and mrs. tyler, i want you to know that i would rather be right then be president. and i replied, my dear sir, my husband is both. i truly think that the reply is almost better then the statement from clay which we hear so frequently. >> how significant was julia tyler's role in the ultimate decision to annex texas? >> well, she's keeping tabs of where people stand because she's going to congress. she's listening to the debates.
she's trying to twist the arms. i don't think she's that important to it. she's representing her husband's interests certainly. she's supports that. but whether or not she has influence over any particular congressman, i'm not so sure about that. >> do you have an opinion about that? >> she certainly believes she has a lot of influence. i'm with dr. medford, there are were much more complicated in the political area of the texas annexation issue that julia tyler would solve, especially the months after the election. people know james polk will be the next president. the treaty to annex -- the treaty to annex texas had already been defeated by the senate. and they have come up with a new, not terribly constitutional way to accomplish it if they're going to accomplish it at all so they have to go through the machinations of the joint revolutions through december 1844. but that involves much broader
political questions and in terms of where people are from -- in this political realignment and of america that's going on at the time. wigs are breaking down. obviously, the republicans have long broken down. anti-jacksonians. but she firmly believes that she's responsible. john tyler believes that she's responsible, when on march 1, 1845, he signs the joint resolution to annex texas. he gives her the pen, the pen that he sign it's with. and she put it around her neck and wore it as a trophy. >> let's take our next question. it is from haren in greenfield, california. >> hello. >> you're on. welcome. >> my question is about john tyler's second wife julia. in the years after he left the presidency, about the time when the civil war began, he was trying to stop virginia from seceding but he was unsuccessful. later he supported the succession movement in virginia and because of that he was
considered a traitor but he ied >> well, actually, we're bog to let that story unfold over the next 15 or 20 minutes. thank you for asking the question. we will move on there in a couple of minutes. let me ask about as you're talking about the evolving role of the first lady. we learned that the whole -- madison era, bringing her name up again, practiced the art of parlor politics and that was emulated by her successors. is this the first instance of a first lady get much more personally involved in a political issue that we know f? >> when you're talking about a main matter of public legislation, of public policy, i think it's tough to find another first lady who is so overtly engaged in kind of effort whether it's -- whether that level of influence is successful or is meaningful or not.
he's certainly being out there actively supporting her husband's position on annexation. she's talking to everyone she can about it. she's writing a great deal about it. she is holding all of the social events at the white house in order to influence that piece of legislation. so if we're talking about favorite lady as being involved in a matter of national public policy and being involved explicitly so, i think maybe you can take that to julia tyler. >> here's a question about first ladies and their perceived influence. jennifer sherman asked on twitter -- tyler having gotten to washington as first lady of the united states, secret service lingo, i think, elieved she had a lot of influence rightly so. based on first ladies seen thus far, do you think they all felt
this way, they were influential women as spouses of their influential husbands? >> i'm not so sure all of them wanted to be. that's the first thing. she's perhaps the first who really wanted to get involved in that way. he other women i think are willing to simply play the traditional role, although you have some woman who may be saying all kinds of things to their husbands. they're not making it public. we don't know exactly what we're saying for their husbands. in terms of that influence. but in terms of influencing outside of their own household, it's not likely they even care to serve in the next capacity, ost of them. >> next is a question from linda spiro or spyro? >> spyro. >> welcome. >> good evening. >> good evening. i would like to know how did it
affect his relationship with julia and their marriage with their children from letitia? how did the relationship affect them? thank you for taking my call. >> thank you very much. did the criticism from the daughters affect their marriage, i think that's the question? > no, there's no evidence that it did. in fact because the daughters came around relatively soon, except again for letitia, they real blame very big, fairly close-knit family all gathered there for the most part at sherwood forest. the civil war does a lot of that in bringing them more close together because the members of the family that are cast in other parts, like her son robert, who is in philadelphia, they have to come back to sherwood forest but
they do see, start to see julia not necessarily as a stepmother but they refer to her, some of them refer to her as a sister and certainly come to love her and appreciate her and accept her into the family as such so that her children and letitia's children, although there are considerable age difference, they do end up more than reconciled. they become very, very close. >> you spoke earlier with party politics, john tyler was castigated by the wigs essentially, thrown out of the party for some of his positions. so he was the man without -- president without a party when the next selection came around in 18 4. no chance of him being nominated. >> especially since he alienated the other parties. there was no one there to really support him. >> it was certain to be a one-term president. >> absolutely. >> and with his loss then, how did the tylers recognize their departure from washington? >> partied, of course, and champagne. tyler -- the last two weeks of the tyler presidency is really nothing but julia gardiner at her -- gardiner tyler at her absolute extravagant best. they start off with a party for like 3,000 people. two weeks later this have a party to celebrate james knox polk and annexation of
texas. and john tyler then says, you can no longer serve and the man was out a party. >> and they returned to sherwood forest. we're going to see a little bit of their life there next. before we do that, let's take a question from robin in norman beach, florida. hi, robin. >> hi, there. i'm following along at home with my first lady flash cards. >> perfect. >> i have a question with regard to fashion. was the bonnet or head dress so prevalent in earlier portrait for first ladies, with miss -- the first lady harrison, was that more matronly first ladies or personal preference? and for tyler, when would the first president wear what we would regard a modern neck tie, what year? thank you. > thank you. >> the development of the modern neck tie from the provad, i think you're starting to get -- you're starting to get well into the late 19th century by the time you're seeing something like that. the way that the fashion the
presidents and shock my istorian friends by even going into this subject. but the way that, that develops over time is really interesting in the 1820's and 1830's after james monroe leaves the white house. monroe is the last of the folks who are sort of holding on to the 18th century way of dressing. so year able to see much more modern dress progressively after that. >> on the women's side of fashion question, we follow rachel jackson also wearing sort of head bonnet as we did with anna harrison. was that city versus country, regional or was it changing companies? >> that had nothing to do with it but you see with julia tyler something very different. you see the beads in her hair. she has feathers in her hair from time to time. o she dresses very
differently. so it's probably more cosmopolitan with some of the first ladies because of the urban influence and age too. age does have something to do with it. >> anna harrison was if her mid--to-late 60's and julia tyler 24 years old when she came into the job so brought young sensibility with her. they left washington in 1845 and returned to their homes in the virginia tide water area, sherwood forest. by the way, how did it get its name >> it got its name because during one of -- during one of john tyler's breaks with the wigs, he was referred to as robin hood. so he embraced that and, therefore, called their home sherwood forest and julia embraced it too. she got there, she basically gave uniforms and gave uniforms to the enslaved men who rode the riverboat so she had bows and arrows as part of their -- as part of -- sewn on the collar as part of their uniforms.
>> let's return to sherwood forest and learn more about what the tylers' life was like after the white house. >> the tylers, john tyler was born in charles city county at reenway. and he purchased this house at the end of his presidential term. he came down here once before he retired from the presidency, brought with him julia gardiner. they were married. she said the hand of god and nature have been kind to my sherwood forest, but i can improve upon it. which she did. she had a look around the ceilings. she had moldings imported from italy. she had the mantel pieces brought in from italy and the nocker on the front door has -- you have to look hard to see it, it has sherwood forest on it but it's been meticulously polished through the years and that was one of her
contributions to the house. ulia and her mother were very, very close and we are exceedingly fortunate to have many letters written between julia and her mother from this plantation. in the hot summer weather. this house is only one room wide because want the breezes o go from the north to the south and from the south to the north. and so they would sit in the hall quite frequently and she sat in the open doorway that led to the south porch and wrote letters to her mother. and quite frequently she commented on the president, who kept his feet on the banister. and would read his newspaper and throw it on the floor, in the gray room is a table and it's the table upon which we are told john tile -- tyler sent julia tyler breakfast in her bedroom after he had been around the house. after his horseback ride, woe go to that table have breakfast with his wife, which he
personally would carry in on a ray because she was still in bed. and also her mother writes her, and as i understand from other people that visit you that you sleep until 9:00 in the morning. and that the president brings you breakfast in bed. and she says, please do not take advantage of an elderly gentleman who dotes upon you. in the afternoons, julia writes to her mother frequently what he's doing on this lantation. she reports almost every purchase of furniture in the house, her brothers, david and alexander, who were still at princeton came upon the suggestion of mrs. gardiner her buying agent. for instance, the mirror was rdered from a store called daudans and when it comes,
she's very distressed because the edges of it cover at the bottom the edge of the mirror face of the window facing. her mother writes her back and says don't be so picky on minutia. she did love to entertain and we do have the record of all which she had. in honor of her sister margaret, who came here very frequently, and the portrait here is a portrait of julia and margaret. she was two years younger then margaret and this portrait was painted obviously to represent gardiners allen because you can see the water in the background and they were very, very young hen the portrait was done.
anyway, the moral -- ball she had for margaret started at 9:00. then she said they danced the virginia real and waltz until the sun rose and finest champagne flowed unceasingly among one thing that julia did here for entertainment is they allowed all of the house servants' children to play continuously with the children of the big house. the matters, julia tyler speaks of her children playing with the children in the yard and she speaks of their dancing with the children in the yard. the supervision of a house servants and there were many. there were a total of almost 90 slaves. vacillating number between 61 and 92 on the plantation. so the house servants. i think there were 13 house servants here. and they were totally her supervision as was the care, the medical care of the other servants in the plantation. they were happy in this household. and she loved it. she refers to the melody of his voice. she always refers to his intelligence. she had a wonderful time here. >> and also the newlyweds then commenced raising the large
family that we talked about. seven children born to the tylers before he died in 1862. is that when he passed? >> i think. >> so a question, she refers to the slavery issue which we have come back to throughout the program and country itself is marching inexorable towards the civil war. what was john tyler's post white house role in that omentous period of time? >> well, in 1861 there was an attempt to stay succession and john tyler was very instrumental in that articular, that last-ditch effort to do that. there was a peace conference held in washington and he was very much -- in february of 1861. and he was very much a part of that. once that failed he decided to back the confederacy, to back succession and so when he died, he had been elected to the confederate congress. he was very much a
secessionist. and when he died, his coffin was covered with the confederate flag. and the north, the union, did not acknowledge his having passed. >> so we have a former president of the united states, who gets elected to the con fed rid congress. put that into perspective for us. >> it's really extraordinary. and john tyler, previous caller suggested that he really just tried to stem succession. i think not really sure how uch his heart was in the washington peace conference that met in the old willard hotel, especially after there was a meeting in the middle of the conference with abraham lincoln, in which abraham lincoln would not back off from his pledge to halt the
expansion of slavery. and the document he is all in when it comes to succession. and he's likening succession to 1776, that virginia has finally recovered all of the sovereignty that it had moved to the federal government in the constitution. and so they're back in the state that they were in 1776 in order to be able to achieve their independence. but then virginia for a brief period is again a sovereign, independent state. he's instrumental in the negotiations that bring irginia full bore into the confederacy. one of the interesting things about the washington peace conference is that that exact time that he's here in washington, ostensibly trying to ward off civil war, his granddaughter letitia is in the montgomery, alabama, dedicating the new capital of the confederacy by raising the new stars and bars over that building. >> we have been showing you some of julia tyler's letters and here's one she wrote to her mother about the civil war. she
wrote, the southerners are worn completely wrought up to it and would not be tampered with any longer. if such a thing should occur, it would be unfortunate for the north. not a good predictor what would appen. how did the civil war impact julia's life especially after john died? o what happened to her after john died? >> she leaves and she goes to -- to staten island to live with her mother and she spends he entire -- i think she actually goes to bermuda for a short period of time. yes, so she's not at sherwood forest. and, of course, she's impacted financially by the war because she loses her enslaved laborers, first of all, and she doesn't really -- she returns there to try to get it into some kind of order but she doesn't live there again, i don't believe. she spends the remaining years, i believe, in richmond. she has rented a home there and so she spends a lot of time in richmond but not in the county
anymore. > what is the public perception of her post war? >> in the south, quite good. in the north, not quite so good. she's still referred to in the south as the ex-president tress and something she insists pon. john tyler's memory is still revered in the south after the war as being somebody who's title legitimize the cause of the confederacy and julia gardiner tyler certainly is contributing kind of to this lost cause notion of something she refers to as holy southern cause. so she never -- there really sent demand of rehabilitation of her husband because in the south she doesn't feel like he needs to be rehabilitated except when it comes to getting her pension. which is something she desperately needs. they have two homes, sherwood forest and summer home near hampton, virginia and they -- hich actually goes through the
same kind of damage that sherwood forest goes through. she has to sell that property in order just to maintain sherwood forest, which again is mostly for them effectively to live in and spend a lot of the time fighting for her pension, which she doesn't get until 1881 when she's awarded $1,200 a year but the main argument against it is yes, she may have been first lady but your usband actually became a traitor to the united states so there's no reason why we should ever honor that. >> on the phone with us now is christopher leahy. he's an associate professor of history in new york and with his spouse is coeditor of the julia gardiner tyler papers. mr. leahy, how voluminous are
her papers? and what is the broad scope of what we can learn about this woman and the white house from them? >> well, her papers are very voluminous. there are two major collections. one at the sterling library at yale university and the other major collection at the college of william and mary. and we can learn pretty much everything about her life from the time that she marries john tyler in 1844 until just about the time that she dies in 1889. these are very rich source that cover every aspect of her life and her children's lives. >> we have been spending the past 45 minutes or so trying to paint a portrait of her. what does it feel like this added to that from her work with your papers? >> well, you know, i think that history tends to remember julia for the verolty and the fact she was a young first lady for the first eight months but i think that obscures her true character. remember, she lived 27 years after her husband died so she had another life, literally
another life after her husband passed way in 1862. and her papers reveal her to be a very strong woman, a ractical woman, a very serious, self-possessed, elf-assured, adaptable and very devoted to her family. she could be quite tenacious about her family, particularly her children if she felt their interests were being threatened. >> and what is happening with these papers? is there contemporary interest beyond your own is scholarship? talk to us about historical interest in julia tyler. >> well, the main problem with julia's papers is that she has penmanship only a mother could love. fortunately, my wife has become very adept at reading and going hrough the work, going through
he papers. they're very difficult to read, which i think is part of the reason why scholars have not really exploited them for the potential that they hold. i think our work hopefully will bring more of her actual experiences to life, particularly the post-presidential years and particularly the years after her husband passed away in 1862. >> how did you get interested? >> well, i did my dissertation on john tyler's pre-presidential career and i am currently at work on a manuscript, book manuscript on john tyler and it just seem a natural fit, natural progression from there once i got into the julia gardiner tyler papers, i realized i wasn't very good at reading them because of the penmanship and my wife very courageously, i think, dove into them and is transcribe them for me so i can o my work on the writing end. >> if someone is interested learning more, are any of the letters published online so they can read some of the letters for themselves? >> yes, i think there are some nline. again, very difficult to
read. she had a tendency to write -- she would write going left to right and then she would turn the paper and go left to right upside down so there's a very difficult process trying to read these. i don't know exactly if there are any online, how easy that would be for a researcher. >> thank you for telling bus your scholarship and we look forward is -- as your work progresses to learn more about this period of history through the writings of julia tyler. thanks for your time. >> thank you very much. >> we have just a few minutes. i would want to get a few more calls in. next one is from bill in fisher, indiana. hi, bill. >> hi, susan, enjoying your show very much and enjoying your two guests as well very much. i was wondering was julia a religious person? and i was wondering about her conversion to catholicism and how that influenced her later life. >> do you know? >> i think i will leave julia's document. >> was she religious, do you know? >> not really but she does join
the catholic church later in life and i'm not sure why she actually does that. perhaps the church gains more by that then she does because she's always been that tension between protestants and catholics in this country. even though we don't have an official religion, most people think of america as being protestant place. but the fact that she did have a former first lady joining the catholic church in such a public way, i think, sort of elevated the status of catholicism a little bit. >> when in her life did she do this? >> this was i think -- i know it was later in life. yes, much later. a few years before she died, i believe. >> and john tyler is not specially religious guy. even by -- even sort of by the fiscal standards, letitia was a ery strong episcopalian, his first wife. he really admired the strength of her faith in her. but john tyler was more of a -- more of a jeffersonian
epicurean then he was anything else. >> and brett fred is watching us in san francisco and you're on now, fred. >> yes, hi, thank you. i was -- the three most powerful men in washington at the time were, of course, clay, webster and calhoun. i was wondering if there were any -- even letitia but julia more importantly, what was her attitude towards those three men? >> thank you. >> she certainly would have been very comfortable with calhoun. not so much clay. even though tyler had supported clay at one point. but as tyler became more separated from the wig party then she was going in that direction as well. webster, i'm not so sure but certainly calhoun would have
been the person that she would have been closest to in terms of politically. >> at least webster had stuck in tyler's cabinet longer then any of the other original members of the harrison cabinet. but i think you're absolutely right. it does come down to where were they in terms of john tyler's politics as to exactly how she felt about them. >> this is margaret watching us from ft. river, new jersey. hello, you're on the air. >> hello. i'm enjoying this very much. i was wondering what president tyler died from? i read that he was elected a virginia representative to the confederate congress and that when he was attending the session, he died just a few minutes after midnight in 1862 and he was 71 years old. also, how old was he when he fathered his last child? >> all right. that's a question mr. stoermer, you know the answer to? >> he was 71. he was never sworn in as a member of the confederate congress. he was just about to be. so he was in richmond for that session. since it was early in -- in
'62, from what we know, he had caught a cold and died at that age. the last child that they had, i think that he was 68 -- >> because she was 2 years old when he died. >> yes. >> next was a question from darla in austin, texas. after this history lesson in your state's annexation. what is your question for us? >> any question is was the controversy over the annexation of texas only about slavery or were there any other considerations such as considerations about the location and geography of texas being so close to mexico? >> thank you very much, anna medford? edna medford? >> it was all about slavery. in the 1840's and '50's, you can't really separate the whole struggle over the expansion of slavery into the west. it's about texas. it's about kansas later on.
it's slavery front and center. >> now, we have been three, four minutes left and as we close out our discussion here. we had learned that julia tyler as a very young woman was very adept at publicity and creating an image for herself. gary robinson asked, how did the united states view her death or had she become private and largely forgotten by then? did she call upon those public relation skills to ensure her legacy? >> not really by the end of her life. she died in 1889. obviously there were a lot of other things going on in the country by then. she had been largely focusing on her family, focusing on her -- focusing on maybe a personal legacy in that sense in maintaining what the family could hold on to. something like sherwood forest so they can pass that on. in terms of the broader kind of working on that image later on n her life, so much of her energy was devoted to -- was
devoted to the pension fight. was devoted to other things. that was far from her mind by then. >> as we close out here, we talked about a few things she did to advance the role of first lady in this country. how should we remember her historically? >> as the vivacious person she was. quite a bit ambitious. and i think that her story conveys the possibilities for first ladies not all of them pursued her path but she was able to do some things that were significant. >> and what would you say about that question, what is her legacy? >> i say the jury is still out. i think one of the great things about this particular series is helping us re-evaluate what we mean by the first lady, by the institution of the first lady as part of the presidency itself and so you can see, again, the possibilities of a woman in that position. on the other hand, you can also see perhaps some of the
limitations as with letitia and number of women we talked about throughout this program. and so i think maybe by the end of this series we can get together again and talk about, well, what have we learned about what is the first lady and therefore see what julia tyler's legacy really is. >> what should we think about john tyler's presidency? what was his contribution to america? >> i'm glad you got that question. >> oh, my god, you know, i annot change my opinion of him. he's a person who turned his back on his own party. ok, that's one thing. he supported a cause that ctually was creating serious issues for a whole group of people, a whole race of people. he was more than willing to perpetuate slavery forever if possible. so i can't separate his legacy from that. >> and next week we will learn
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