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John Tyler John Tyler

President John Tyler

John Tyler, born in 1790, was a lawyer and career politician in his native state of Virginia. As a U.S. senator in the 1830s, Tyler opposed Andrew Jackson and his faction and found an uneasy place in the emerging Whig hierarchy, successfully running for vice president alongside William Henry Harrison. When Harrison died after just a month in office, Tyler assumed the role of president and waded into what had come to be called the “Texas Question.”

The divisive issue of slavery prevented the creation of political consensus in the nation, and, as a result, the easy annexation of the Republic of Texas. Recognizing that he would not be reelected to office, Tyler spent his tenure engineering several political maneuvers to get Texas annexed to the United States, a goal he considered a great benefit to the United States. When his sponsored Treaty of Joint Annexation failed overwhelmingly in the U.S. Senate in 1844, Tyler called for a joint resolution of Congress. This action, which only required a simple majority in each house, succeeded.

Armed with this paper mandate, and with Texans eager to join the Union, Tyler sent agents to Mexico to explain the U.S. position but received a frosty reception. Even so, Tyler signed the necessary legislation on March 1, 1845, and dispatched a diplomatic note to Texas offering annexation to the United States. Tyler left this affair in the hands of his presidential successor, James K. Polk, but remained active in Virginia politics. When sectional issues plunged the nation into Civil War in 1861, Tyler tried unsuccessfully to broker a peaceful solution. He followed his home state into the Confederacy, and even won election to Congress. Taylor died in 1862 before he could take office.