Skip to main content

tv   The Presidency Christopher Leahy President without a Party  CSPAN  November 8, 2021 1:13pm-2:06pm EST

1:13 pm
our weekly series highlights politics and legacies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. up next, christopher leahy talks about john tyler, the first vice president to succeed a president who died in office and who was ejected from his own political party. >> hello, again, everyone. welcome to another at-home edition of our better lecture series at the virginia museum of history and culture. so glad you could join us today. as always, we like to start by thanking our members who made this program possible. your support is essential to making these events happen. so we deeply appreciate that. on to today's speaker.
1:14 pm
today we're very pleased to have with uso dr. christopher leahy, history at college in new york and he'll talk to us about his book "president without a party the life of john tyler." john tyler is the nation's only president to be kicked out of his party. in 1841 angry that tyler's use of the veto destroyed the legislative stagenda, members o the wick l party held a ceremon at the capital and formally banished him from their ranks. tyler's communications affected him personally and impacted his agenda and destroyed his chances to win election in 1844. betrayed by t his contemporarie and many historians as an ideologue and strict construction of the constitution made him a w failed president, .
1:15 pm
leahy argues that tyler favored an approach to the nation's problems and thatt it was his status as a president without a party and rejection by the democrats. please welcome dr. christopher leahy. >> thank you so much. to start, i want to thank the virginia museum of history and culture and especially graham doser forf giving me the opportunity to speak before you today. i also want to thank the guests of the virginia museum for their interest in john tyler, for theirr interest in my book and for their attention today. i'm very pleased to be here today to speak to you about what is at least currently my life's work. i do have slides to accompany the lecture, which always makes my students very happy to find out.ay
1:16 pm
so i will hook up the slide show right now. so many years ago when i was deciding upon a dissertation topic i came upon john tyler. and, of course, i had a little bit of knowledge about tyler. i wasou a history major in college, i was a graduate student in history. but i became fascinated by the question about how someone could actually get kicked out of their own political party. what did someone have to do to have his political party resort to the very drastic, very extreme measure of kicking him out of theirer ranks. that really became the animating aspect of why i was interested in him. myti dissertation dealt with hi life andhy his political career before he became president. but certainly keeping an eye on him being a president without a
1:17 pm
party really guided my research and my writing for much of the last several years. before the book got published. l so, when tyler was banished from the ranks in september of 1841, he really established henry clay t, shown here on the left. as his number one enemy. clay was the senate majority leader, that title didn't yet formally exist but the senate majority leader for half of tyler's presidency and youll se onon the right here political cartoon going back to the corrupt bargain election of 1824 where clay is sewing jackson's lips shuty so he will shut up about clay's involvement. clay had a long career in presidential politics and he had
1:18 pm
been speaker of the house but had come into office in the senate before h tyler became president. reallyn determined to try to shift the course of american society and the economy and, in fact, had persuaded president williamoc henry harrison to cala special session of congress to deal with the financial panic thatci had been going on off an on since 1837. clay really became tyler's chief enemy and it was clay who had apparentenly coined the phrase describe john tyler and to mock how he ended up in the white house. this slide, i think, hints at leastas that a man that one feme visitor to the white house said possessed none of the condescension one usually expected in a virginia gentleman.
1:19 pm
kind of debonair, little swab there. when he wanted to, tyler could be charming and gracious. but his relationship with henry clay and the congressional wig often put him in a foul mood. i detail several instances in the book where a lot of his graciousness really disappeared as tyler attempted to deal with being a president without a party. as the title of the book indicates, my title on tyler as the 10th president and i spent a significant amount of time examining what happened, how itp haened and why it mattered. today, however, i want to focus their attention on one of the themes of the book. i john tyler's addiction to politics. this is an important aspect of his life and career that has been ntoverlooked by biographer and other historians. this is not to say that other politiciansen o either in tyler
1:20 pm
erais or our own have failed to demonstrate a virtual addition to politics. success in the political arena after allad particularly at the national level necessitates that a public official give their all to their career if they hope to have staying power.s also not to say that 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 a research and writing when i thought this might be true.ts what my book shows is that tyler calculated his self worth and ty defined by success in the political arena, particularly the national arena and once he had been bitten by the politics bug, he could never give it up.r even when he realized it was harming his marriage, his relationships with his children and his finances.
1:21 pm
he also failed to realize how muchon it would tarnish his reputation. which was ironic he chose a career in politics because it offered him then best chance to achieve historical renowns and leave a lasting mark. looking at tyler's addiction to politics also allows us to calibrate the icimpact of his father on his life and career. his father was certainly the most important person in his life. judge p john tyler shown here o the right a played a significan role as an antifederalist that was called in 1788 to debate the constitution. judge tyler had r served in the virginia house ofad delegates a had been elected speaker on several occasions. you can see that he had a nose
1:22 pm
that he passed on to his son. began his prominent nose referred to in a lot of the sources. john quincy adams notes john tyler's nose in a couple of his diary 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 president without a a but judge tyler passed on much more to his son than his physical characteristics. tyler's relationship with his father is key to understanding him and key to understanding how his addiction to politics developed. t h tyler was very close to his father. his mother died when he was 7 years old and the young boy took it hard, as you might expect. ha he developed stomach ailments and his father worried about him both because he was sickly and because he was a nervous child. small and frail.vo
1:23 pm
a turning point of sorts occurred when the future president was about 10 years old. the t story seems apockerateful and probably embellished and i actually kept it out of thero book. i edited it out of the book and cut it out of the book during the copy editing phase. the incident in question involved a scottish school master mcmurto who taught john tyler and several other poys bo ad little neighborhood school nt far from his home. mcmerto took special delight in wrapping his students' knuckles when they forgot their lessons. tyler said later in life it was a wonder that he did not whiff all the scent out of his scholar. one day the boys in the school had enough. john tyler led the others in tripping mcmerto and tying him up with errope. now, on the left hand side of
1:24 pm
this slide is what the scene may have s looked like before the bs got the better of mcmerto. this is an image and not exactly mcmerto and john tyler and his fellow students, but it accaptus the spirit of what that schoolhouse must have looked like. after tying their nemesis up, the boysr exited the school in triumph leaving t the school master on the floor. twoho hours later, he was freedy a passerby and immediately stomped towards therb tyler hom expecting once he told judge tyler about the role his son played in the event that he would receive swift punishment. instead, mcmerto arrived at the house, knocked on the door and spoke with judge tyler and told him what had happened where upon judgeyl tyler banished him from the house as he kicked him out of the a door. the state motto of virginia..
1:25 pm
we cans assume that the inciden with midcmerto happened, judge tyler was pleased because his sickly,as frail, nervous son ha asserteds himself and shed the red sentence he had exhibited since the passing of his mother. in any event john tyler's relationship with his father grewew stronger. close.ew very in fact, tyler was apparently closer to his father than any of his siblings. tyler was h one of eight childr. he had five sisters and two brothers. he was the sixth in line. the sixth born child. the relationship with his father nurtured a burgeoning interest in politics. thomas jefferson, as well as the virginia and kentucky resolutions that were passed in 1798 or proposed rather in 1798 by thomas jefferson and james mattison in an effort to prevent
1:26 pm
the federalists from trampling in the run to the states in a runoff to the possible war with judge tyler impressed upon his son the ideals of thomas jefferson and limited government andth really relayed to him and talked to him often about the virtus of the republicanism of the american revolution. judge tyler also instilled a the virtue of public service. there's also a bit associated with this, at one point judge tyler had written to jefferson saying that good and able men had better govern than be governed. certainly judge tyler and later john tyler his son took it to heart that members of their society, the people who were men who were occupying their place in w society had an obligation be the one who led the political system. i like the left-hand side of
1:27 pm
this slide.i george isid the county election because it really shows the hurly-burly of politics you see. drinks being applied and the rough and tumble of politics. obviously a a very masculine an very male-dominated context and it's interesting that for all of his gentility and tyler did take pride in cultivating the gentility thatti his father had deemed important throughout his life that despite this gentility, tyler found himself quite comfortable in the realm of the nitty-gritty of politics. by the timee tyler entered the preparedatory division of william and mary at age 12, he fully expected that politics would be his calling.o this slide shows on the left the building at william and mary, which isof i believe the oldest college building still in existence today. the oldest college building still standing in the united states.olle it was here where john tyler took his college courses.
1:28 pm
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 that he would enter the realm of politics. now, it's interesting if you read the few letters that surviveded between judge tyler d john tyler while he was a student at william and mary. you really w get a sense and appreciate how seriously tyler took his education. a a the two men, tyler and his father passed letters back and forth that talked about the bill of rights andrs engaged in constitutional debates and things that his father had experienced firsthand in politics in h virginia. and you really get a picture of a percocious young man who was doing everything he possibly could to set himself up for a political career.hodo tyler also
1:29 pm
benefited from the president of william and mary, bishop james madison who was the cousin of the fourth president of the united states. bishop madison was a firm believer in the jeffersonian and impart these i lessons on to th studentsfe who were under his direction. john tylerer became a favorite bishop madison. bishop madison actually asked youngg john tyler to read one o graduation orations on the day that he graduated in july of 1807. the other thing that comes out of tyler's relationship with his father is his time and comes out relationship with bishop madison and william and mary is that byel the time he graduatedt the age of 17, he was brimming with raself-confidence. he was very, almost full of himself. he was, youri know, very confidt he had certainly moved past the
1:30 pm
reticence and confident in his abilities and confident in his intellect. he had been largely classically trained andal trained in subjec like greek and latin and ancient history, politics, political autonomy. this was a young man equipped with what he got at home and also what he got in college to pursue thehe career in politics that 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 and jefferson impressed upon him that a successful politician, particularly in virginia, needed to establish himself in the legal inn fact, a legal career jefferson said to the young man
1:31 pm
was a virtual l prerequisite to political career.. so, much like there was really no doubt that he would attend william and mary like his father, like jefferson, like james monroe. tyler iss one of three presidens who have attended william and mary. it became pretty apparent that he was going to pursue a legal career andy shortly after he graduated from the college of william and mary, his father and another tyler relative took him a h little bit later when judge tyler was elected governor of virginia and could no longer supervise his son's legal studies, edmund randolph stepped in.rae he had been attorney general under george washington and really presented young tyler with a very challenging way to approach the law. tyler passed the bar in 1809 at the age of 19. now, this is interesting because in 1 virginia the law at the ti said you had to be at least 21
1:32 pm
years of age to pass the bar exam. to even sit for the bar exam. but b apparently the examiners d not ask tyler how old he is, perhaps his father's connectionp them to look the other way. but in any event when he was 19, tyler o passed the bar exam. didn't set up a practice right away.ct kind of took some time to develop further habits, study habits. he participated in some moot court procedures around richmond the oratorical skills he would need in the courtroom. but he was still thinking really in terms of politics. the picture here, the image here on the right hand of the slide shows tyler at approximately the 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 back benture.
1:33 pm
he didn't want to build on some kind of political apprenticeship. he did not want to defer to his elders who had been in the legislature for some time. he immediately jumped in for an issue that would allow him to build a name and a reputation. what he did is he introduced the resolution censoring virginia senatorsol richard brent and william brant r giles because ty had disobeyed the virginia legislature which had instructed them to vote against the recharter of the national bank.v so this is an interesting episode in tyler's life. as i said, he graduated from college a bit full of himself brimming with self-confidence, but his resolution failed. the legislatureut immediately tabled the resolutions which in effect killed them. legislature adopted another set of resolutions. they still censored the two senators but adopted someone else's resolution.
1:34 pm
tyler realized at that time that his colleagues didn't really care whoe his daddy was and the didn't care that he was full of himself. that he had. a lot of self-confidence. and really for the first time in his life, tyler had been told that something he had done did not passs muster. he wasn't crushed by it, but it did take him aback. it did make him think that maybe this political life is going to beim a little bit more difficul than i thought at the outset. in 1813, tyler took another step in the phase of his political life, his political rise. heis married well. this is latisha christian, a young woman from new kent county that tyler married on his 23rd birthday. judge tyler had actually died a few months before, whichch real made it easier for tyler to get married since he inherited some
1:35 pm
property frome his father. he also inherited debt from his father. he became a young man of some means and eventually john and latisha would live in this house here, greenway, the house where john tyler had been born. tyler ishe -- okay, i hope i'm back. we had some technical difficulties. i apologize for that. i thinkdi we left off with my analysis of john tyler's marriage to o latisha christian from new kent county and i made the point that this is another step in his political process becauseis marrying well and enhancing his contacts in other parts of virginia, particularly southside virginia, really became another way that tyler enhanced his political standing and contributed to building a career for himself. but youin get the sense that tyler, even at this early stage
1:36 pm
of his political career, was defined by s a constant quest t win election to the next highest office. he found himself in his element in the virginia legislature but he was restless, he was impatient and wanted to get on to a political career. like the person you're talking to at a party who's always scanning the room for someone more important tohe talk to. or maybe that is just what happens to me when i'm at parties. there was a sense a he was motivated by his father's example. but that he wanted to surpass his father's accomplishments in politics. he certainly wasn't going to be a judge. he did not have that much interest in the law using law b only as a stepping stone to a political career, but he certainly wanted to surpass his father and become a political figure of national renown. he was also quite adept at taking advantage of fortuitous
1:37 pm
timing. a verytu popular congressman wh represented tyler's district died. he saw an opportunity and stood for election. after an election of kauften and another legal rival, friendly rival at the time he won the election and was headed to washington. he had. never been to washingto before. when he got there, he was shocked by w what he saw. washington saw more the effects of the war of 1812, what the british had done to the capital building and to the executive mansion and tyler was quite shockedd upon seeing washington and seeing what it looked like in the wake of the destruction that was rocked by the british during the war. the destruction that he saw reinforced something else that his father had h instilled upon
1:38 pm
him as a young man. that was dislike of all things british.h. in fact, tyler seemed to operate under the assumption both as the congressman and as president that anything that was good a f the british was not good for the united states. kind of nursed a grudge, if you will, looking at the destruction that the british had brought about during the war of 1812. but he quickly got over that, got over the initial shock of seeing the way the buildings looked and the capital was not in the actual capitol. the proceedings were conducted ings a much more cramped buildi across town but tyler had done in the virginia house of delegates didh not wait for an invitation to enter the fray. heid did so immediately by pouncing on the compensation issue. now, the previous section of congress, the congress before john tyler got elected, the congress had passed a compensation bill that provided
1:39 pm
a significant raise for congressmen. once the word gotigig out, onces of thees compensation bill got t to communities all across the united states, the reaction was swift.he people disliked the fact that the congressmen had voted to raise, give themselves a raise. particularly in the wake of the financial difficulties of the warf of 1812. the compensation bill or the salary grab as the enquirer called it was wide and deep. so tyler adopted the position that he was going to take the stance that was best for the people. he sought to have the compensation bill repealed and jumped right into the debate. gave two speeches on the compensation matter before the congress and there was a sense that some ofre his older colleagues were a little bit taken aback by the fact that this guy had come in and instantly decided to take them to task fornd what they had don.
1:40 pm
tyler got into a little verbal spat on the floor of the congress with a new york congressman named thomas grovener but all in all, tyler held his own. he was put in his place a little bit. he recognized that he still had work to doce to acquire the stature that would give him respect but he recognized also that hewo probably changed at least a little bit of the tenor of the debate. the compensation act was repealed and tyler could at least claim this in triumph when he went backd to his constituens in virginia. during hison congressional care, tyler risharpened his commitmen to free trade, which meant that he was anti-protective tariff. he opposed the national bank. and he opposed federally sponsored internal improvement. he is really crafting a persona for himself or of himself as a politician and the old republican tradition of virginia
1:41 pm
politics. republicans favored limited government and strict construction of the constitution and states rights. he was developing his reputation as an old republican in good standing. this is going to be the way that he, of course, developed or allowed himself to develop a political career. but being in washington took a toll on his marriage. while he was in congress, he had threel young children at home. his h wife never tired of reminding him how much she disliked his political career and how much shehe wanted him home. but at least s 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 forcing tyler to retire from congress in 1821. in 1819, the territory of missouri had applied for
1:42 pm
statehood to the u.s. congress and a debate quickly developed over whether slavery would be allowed in the territory. now, tyler did take part in some of this and was actually quite shocked. he related to his confident, his brother, henry curtis. curtis really became his go-to confidant while he served in the congress. they would have a falling out over financial issues among other things. the time he served in congress he told curtis a lot of what he was thinking and a lot of what he thought about washington politics. at one point as t the missouri crisis and the missouri debates are occupying an ever more acrimonious place in washington politics, tyler was amazed and toldor curtis that he was amaze that men were speaking of the disillusion of the union with perfect nonchalance. ital appalled tyler that men we
1:43 pm
talking about breaking up the union rather than the southerners rather than taking slavery out of missouri. tyler found all of this quite demoralizing. and in the midst of the missouri debate, what would become the missouri compromise. in the midst of the debates, he suffered a debilitating illness. he took to his bed for a week and quite shaken and never felt anything like that before. he had sensations of paralysis in his arm, tingling in his head and in his face. really alarmed him that he was experiencing such, in many ways, devastating physical symptoms. so, the missouri crisis had been demoralizing to him politically. he had a serious illness. he was also broke, financial difficulties were coming out into the open at least with respect to his family and latisha wanted him home.
1:44 pm
he retired. at the age of 31, he went home to virginia telling people that he would have no more of national politics. now, retirement for politicians in the early 19th century, especially for southern politicians was itself a political it allowed politicians to portray themselves as disinterested owstatesmen who could just walk off the political stage at any time that they saw a fit and principal demanded that they leave. even as he retired, though, tyler was setting himself up for a return to politics. of course, he kept it from latisha.hi here's where you really begin to see the addiction. the all-consuming desire to be inee politics. onee month after he returned home, oneon month after he retired, tyler was writing letters to political associates throughout virginia telling them that he would beia willing to g back into the political battles the occasion required it.
1:45 pm
so, here he is using his retirement as a way, as a political act too enhance and further his political career. even while he's telling latisha and portraying to his children that he's happy to be home. he's still very restless. there's never any doubt, however, that he would return to politics.'s s he won election to the virginia house of delegates again and thisse really seems to be the pattern for tyler. he's inlooking, of course, for more national political exposure, but he starts again with the virginia house of delegates. and then in 1825, he was elected governor of the commonwealth of virginia. and this had to have some important psychic meaning to john tyler. his father had been governor. this image here on the left shows tyler about the age of 35 or 366 when he became governor f virginia. image on the right is the governor's mansion in richmond.
1:46 pm
latisha actually liked this political office because it allowed tyler to stay in virginia with her and the children. tyler hungered for a return to national politics. in 1827 after his re-election as governor, he defeated the incumbent john randolph for a seatr in the united states senate. johnte randolph shown here on t right was a a faithful adherento the old republican principles of state rights and strict instruction. but by the mid 1820s, randolph's erratic behavior and mere curule temperment had caused a lot of politicians and a lot of people who followed virginia politics become very nervous about him. very nervous about his future defending virginia and the south and the u.s. still, there was a lot of support for randolph throughout virginia and it's interesting when you look at the subtle
1:47 pm
campaign that tyler waged to unseat randolph. at one point he is declaring his public intention to support randolph for another term. behind the scenes he is really steaming with western politics and politicians from the western part of virginia to try to enhance his candidacy so that he can randolph. he does in 1837. it is during his senate career that the politics is felt by his family. his children areol growing up without their father and this affects them in different ways.u tyler's oldest child, his daughter, mary, had a pretty good relationship with her father. you see a loth of letters that passed between tyler and mary going back from virginia to washington, washington to virginia. tyler took a keen interest in what his daughter was reading, recommended that she read as
1:48 pm
many newspapers as she could find. pope, addison, shakespeare and all the things he read when he was young. he definitely wanted her to develop a fertile mind. his oldest son, robert tyler, who was t born in 1816 had a pretty decent relationship with john tyler. he was a student at william and mary, like hisio father. did well at william and mary. but still a distance between the two of them. a formality almost. probably to thebe fact that the didn't see each other that much while robert was growing up. johnr tyler jr., who was born i 1819or no doubt was the one who took his father's absence the hardest. young johnn eventually became a alcoholic, suffered through a troubled marriage that was largely his doing and really had a lot of trouble both before and after tyler's presidency that john tyler really despaired of. at one point thinking he was
1:49 pm
going toed end up dead. that they would find out that son, namesake, would be dead. so there'se a lot of contention within the relationships that tyler shared with his children. but it's latisha especially who found it extremely difficult to deal with her husband's continuous absences. there is an anecdote from may of 1831 that is particularly telling in m this regard. in mayha of 1831 after the congressional session had ended, john tyler returned home to virginia and had barely put his bags down returning after being gone for five and a half months had barely put his bags down when he informed latisha that he had been invited to a political meeting ine richmond and he woud beti leaving tomorrow and that would likely be gone a few days. well that night latisha got very ill. so ill in t fact that she could not get out of bed.
1:50 pm
tyler wrote the next day to his friend and fellow senator, virginia senator littleton to meet him in richmond at this political itmeeting. he wrote, ill upon my receiving the invitation that i was left but one course to pursue, and that was to decline its acceptance. now,ec it seems apparent from other letterse from this one an others thatar tyler had spoken littleton while they were together in washington about letitia's health situation. he referred to her health situation as delicate, troubling, it was clear that letitia suffered what one scholar has called a marriage trauma that developed because of the constant separation that she faced with her husband being in washington for five to six months of every year. and tyler really obviously recognized what was going on, recognized that he was the cause
1:51 pm
of this marriageng trauma, recognized thatis his behavior, political behavior was responsible for having his wife manifestav symptoms of the marriage trauma through illness. yet, he still wanted to maintain his political career. het relied on his daughter mary tore act as a caregiver in his absence to her mother. he instructed her to take care of her mother with warm baths and tried to treat her migraines and all the things that he would have done had he been there. he made sure that he entrusted to his daughter mary. soe mary really became a very ky figure probably an indispensable figure in making sure that john tyler maintained his political career. tyler resigned from the senate in february of 1836 rather than vote to expunge the censure of
1:52 pm
andrew jackson. the wig party led by henry clay haden passed the resolution of censure that took president jackson to task for removing the bank deposits which inaugurated the bank war t in jackson's secd term. but whened the democrats regain control of congress, they passec what was known as the expunging resolution. and what they aimed to do was expunge the censure from the senate journal, to literally get it out of the record of the senate journal. tyler was r instructed to vote r the expunging resolution by the virginia legislature. he refused. he resigned in february of 1836 out of principle. but he returned to politics yet again a year and a half later. he was elected to the virginia legislature for the third time. again, we see this pattern of looking at a way to try to continue his political career by
1:53 pm
using the t legislature as the springboard. he got himself nominated as vice president by the wigs at their convention in december of 1839, their national convention that nominated william t henry harrison. and of course tyler defeated the incumbent martin van buren in november ofrt 1840. harrison, as you know, died 32 days into his term. tyler became president. this image on the right is a romanticized image of tyler receiving news of harrison's passingma and his elevation to e presidency. harrison had declared his intention to serve only one term aste president. tyler almost desperately wanted a second term. he did not make any claim that he would serveed only one term. and after being banished from
1:54 pm
the wig ranks in september 1841 spent much of his time trying to put himself in the position to secure election in his own right in 1844. most notably, by pursuing and succeeding in getting the annexation 1 of texas. tyler became the first president to marry while in office on jund 26th, 1844, he married the new yorker 30 years younger, julia gardner in a ceremony in new york city. and on thers right of this slid of my favorite caricatures or political cartoons of the 1844 presidential campaign. pennsylvania avenue, the stakes are $25,000. $25,000 is the presidential salary at the time. and here you have tyler who's saying that he's not going to run for president anymore, that he's s going to chase what the farmer therere calls the gardener's sedaughter. so marriage definitely became something in a way that took him out of thee politics for at leat
1:55 pm
a o brief period of time. in marchri of 1845, john and jua tyler retired to sherwood forest not far from where tyler had grown up. still, tyler thought about returningst to politics. he toyed with the idea of running for the u.s. senate in 1848, if you can d believe that. his correspondents indicate that he even entertained ideas about being the democratic nominee for president in 1856 and 1860. now, to put this into a little bit more context, at least at one point in l the late 1850s, tyler's family thought he would die from one of his illnesses. so here you have a man who is habitually unhealthy who was still thinking that at least at some level he might be able to secure the democratic nomination fore president. when abraham lincoln's election insi november of 1860 brought secession and eventually civil war,gh tyler decided he had to c
1:56 pm
back into politics. i like this image ono the left that shows fortress monroe during the civil war. fortresss monroe, the norfolk area, is where john tyler and julia honeymooned in the summer of 1844. tyler became the chair of an conference in washington in february of 1861. it was at this time while he was in washington for the peace conference thatt tyler met president-elect abraham lincoln. he came away from lincoln very unimpressed. lincoln was quite unimpressed with john tyler. he returned the favor. once virginia receded from the union in april of 1861, tyler won electionun to the provision confederate congress and eventually sought election to the permanent congress. he won. this is the best example of how politics retained its hold on him, how he was addicted to politics. now, he died before he could take his seat in the congress. hehe died on january 18th, 1862.
1:57 pm
but he should've stayed out of it. i'm very2. critical of him for this decision toi' get back int politics. critical because it really tarnished his historical reputation beyond repair. he was starting to enjoy a little bit more off the statesmanlike sentiment that the american people had m for him. a lot of the bad feelings that had developed over him being banished from thea wig ranks while he served as president had receded in historical memory a little bit. getting involved in politics again coming out of retirement and becoming part of the confederate government ruined all of that. he essentially renounced his citizenship, renounced his dedication to the constitution that he had been swornit to uphd and defend while president. more importantly, i think, his decision to re-enter politics in the confederate government had negativeat repercussions for hi family, particularly julia.
1:58 pm
laterep in her life julia sougha pension from the federal government as a president's widow, andal during her campaig to secure the pension, which is very difficult, required a lot of legal maneuvering, a lot of help, a lot of aid from politically well connected individuals in washington, newspapers never seemed to tire of reminding everyone that julia tyler was married to the traitor president. so i think it's right to be very hard on john tyler for this decision to enter politics one last time late in 1861. i think there's an anecdote from a later president that could really speak to what politicians like tyler thought about him, how politics really consumed them. the later president is john f. kennedy. and in 1963, as he was sizing up his potentials rivals for the presidency, the potential republican nominees for
1:59 pm
president in 1964, he talked about barry goldwater, whose name was being mentioned significantly. he talked about nelson rockefeller. and he thought about rockefeller. and hee thought -- he couldn't really understand what rockefeller was doing. about a year earlier rockefeller had leftt his wife to marry a mucher younger woman, a woman w it was saidou in the press thate stole from her husband. there were young children involved. but rockefeller had seemingly sacrificed everything to be with the woman he loved. really, he probably gave up any chance of winning any nomination because a scandal ensued because he wasas marrying the woman he loved.. he declared that no man would ever love love more than politics. i think john tyler probably would've understood exactly the sentiment that john f. kennedy
2:00 pm
mentioned at that time. i appreciate your attention today. if you have not bought my book, i want this slide b burned into your memory. this is the title of the book. this is the cover of the book. and before i go, i just wanted to make sure that i gave you an indication of coming attractions. my wifeiv and i have a book, a biography of h julia gardner tyr which is undery contract with te university press of kansas. and our manuscript is due in october just a few months away. so i will be happy to take any questions that you might have. and i appreciate your attention. >> thanks, chris. and, again, folks, apologies for the brief delay due to technical difficulties. we do have a few minutes for questions. you can submit your questions on
2:01 pm
facebook or youtube. and one thing that comes to mind, obviously, we've seen other figures t in politics, bo historically and in contemporary times driven like tyler. and i think one of the things that makes us fascinated with his stories is the detective work that goes into understanding what makes someone like that tick. and i'ms wondering what you might've uncovered in your research that gave you some clue to this and maybe perhaps, more importantly, was there anything that he left in his own hands, in his own writing that might've showed what drove him? >> well, he does refer to his father, particularly early in hisoe political career about mae emulating hisar father and how s father had, in effect, set him on this course. but i think the situation after he retired in 1821 where he's
2:02 pm
talking about how -- and the way he put it was he owed a duty to his h family to return to is virginia, try to earn more money as a practicing attorney. yet, even as he is saying that, within very short period of time after hein returns home, he is writingur political associates,n effect, repudiating his retirement, in effect, saying that i don't really mean it, i don't really want to stay out of politics. so i think there's a o sense th you get when you read the letters, particularly the letters that pertain to politics is that this is something that tyler thinks about constantly. he has money problems. he has significant money problems. he certainly does worry about his children. hero worries about his wife. it'san not to say that he's completely unfeeling about thost things. but reading his correspondence, you reallyes get a sense that ts is a man who defines himself by
2:03 pm
his political career and success in the political arena. so, whether it was unwittingly or not, he really does reveal himself as he is w talking abou as he is writing about what he intends to do with a his politil career. i >> you mentioned that you thought it might've been possible that he had some type of -- that his son had difficulties with alcohol. he believed he a might've had se type of clinical addiction? >> no,om i don't think so. he wasn't much of a drinker. he would drink champagne in modest amounts, which usually gave him. a headache the next day, kind of funny things after white house parties and what not. you know, other than his near compulsion to be in the political game, he certainly
2:04 pm
does not exhibit morehe of the clinicalal aspects of addiction that his son would later. and i think obviously he didn't know -- he doesn't have the language of the 21st century to try to really characterize what he's doing or how he's acting or even how his son was acting. but i don't think thatas he necessarily tyler himself necessarily does exhibit any n kind of clinical signs. >> you mentioned briefly about his role in annexing texas. i wonderex if you might expand that a little bit more about what his driving and motivating factor for that was. it t appears we might have technical difficulties again on chris' end. folks, i apologize for that. so we might need to wrap up since we're very close to ending.
2:05 pm
but, again, thanks to dr. leahy for his fascinating lecture on john tyler. ♪♪ >> browse through our latest collection of c-span products, apparel, books, and accessories. there is something for every c-span fan, and every purchase helps support our nonprofit operation. shop now or any time at our weekly series "the presidency" highlights the politics, policies and legacies of u.s. presidents and first ladies. up next, what do thomas jefferson, abraham lincoln, franklin roosevelt, lyndon johnson, and richard nixon have in common? they face not just political opponents but americans who hated them. what were their reasons? an american historical association panel tries to answer that question. >> i'm the founding


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on