Thursday, March 29, 2012

Happy Birthday, John Tyler

Today is John Tyler's 222 birthday.  He was never meant to be President, and wasn't a very popular one.

William Henry Harrison, who had killed a lot of native Americans in the Battle of Tippecanoe, ran for president on a 'let's all party' platform, and picked his old chum, Tyler, from Virginia as his running mate.  Tyler wasn't real interested in politics, but his name worked well in the slogan, "Tippecanoe and Tyler, too". 

Harrison was so excited about being president that he spoke for two hours in the cold March rain and wind during his inauguration.  He developed a cold, which went to his chest and turned into pneumonia.  Harrison died on April 4th, when he was still trying to fill his cabinet.

Tyler was enjoying his life in Virginia as an aristocrat, drinking fine wine, reading poetry, and making babies (he had eight at this time).  He was against almost everything.  After he became president, he vetoed so many bills, including those of his own party, that everyone wanted to impeach him.

His wife died soon after he took office, and Tyler married Julia Gardiner, who was five years younger than one of Tyler's daughters and produced seven more little Tylers.  Julia is credited with having the band play Hail to the Chief when Tyler walked into the room.

Tyler was called a 'laughing stock' by John Quincy, but he did manage to do some things.  He established the National Weather Bureau, and what would we do without that?  He settled the fuss about where the border was between Maine and Canada, and signed the bill to annex Texas.  He also served as an reminder to all of us that no one is perfect and that presidents have always been unpopular, not just during our lifetime.

When Harrison's term was finished, the weary Tyler returned to Virginia and quit politics for a while. He was elected to the Confederate Congress just before he died in 1862.

He may not have been the most loved or exciting, but Tyler served our country as the tenth president, so he deserves to be remembered on his birthday.  I just hope he's not expecting cake.