A few days ago I finished reading John Tyler, The Accidental President by Edward P. Crapol. I have set myself a goal to read a biography of each American president. The list of the books I have read so far is here.
John Tyler was the 10th American President. He served from 1841 to 1845. He was the first person to become president as a result of the death of the President. When William Henry Harrison died there was controversy about whether Tyler should actually become president or should just be designated as acting. His adversaries referred to him as “His Accidency”.
This biography focuses on what Crapol describes as ” Tyler’s mystical faith in America’s national destiny and closely examines his life-long commitment to territorial expansion as the means to preserve the Union as a slave holding republic.”
Crapol describes Tyler as: having “the stigma of being the nation’s only traitor president, a distinction lie gained from his support for secession and the Confederacy.”
During Tyler’s presidency there was a horrible accident when a cannon exploded during a party on a boat near Washington. Crapol says “To have a secretary of state, a secretary of the navy, a high-ranking naval officer, and two other well-known public men perish in a single misadventure was unprecedented in the nation’s history and remains the case to the present day.”
Tyler was probably proudest of the significant roll he played in bringing Texas into the union. There were many opponents to annexation of Texas and Tyler worked both secretly and openly to make Texas a state. Texas did not actually get admitted to the union until after Tyler was defeated in 1844.
I found Crapol’s biography of John Tyler very interesting but I wished he had talked more about Tyler’s background and his personal life. I would have liked to know a little more about Tyler’s wives and his relationships with them.
In preparation for this post I reviewed John Tyler’s Wikipedia article and I was surprised to learn that Tyler had 15 children! I don’t recall ever reading this in Crapol’s biography.
When I use my Kindle to search John Tyler, The Accidental President for references to Leticia, the name of Tyler’s first wife, I found only 5 references in the whole book. This absence of almost any reference to Tyler’s personal life made me feel like I only got half the story.