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John Tyler, the Accidental President
 
 

John Tyler, the Accidental President [Kindle Edition]

Edward P. Crapol
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

The first vice president to become president on the death of the incumbent, John Tyler (1790-1862) was derided by critics as "His Accidency." Yet he proved to be a bold leader who used the malleable executive system to his advantage. In this biography of the tenth President of the United States, Edward P. Crapol challenges previous depictions of Tyler as a die-hard advocate of states' rights, limited government, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

In pursuit of his agenda, Tyler exploited executive prerogatives and manipulated constitutional requirements in ways that violated his professed allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He set precedents that his successors in the White House invoked to create an American empire and expand presidential power.

Crapol also highlights Tyler's enduring faith in America's national destiny and his belief that boundless territorial expansion would preserve the Union as a slaveholding republic. When Tyler, a Virginian, opted for secession and the Confederacy in 1861, he was stigmatized as America's "traitor" president for having betrayed the republic he once led. As Crapol demonstrates, Tyler's story anticipates the modern imperial presidency in all its power and grandeur, as well as its darker side.

Synopsis

The first vice president to become president on the death of the incumbent, John Tyler (1790-1862) was derided by critics as "His Accidency." Yet he proved to be a bold leader who used the malleable executive system to his advantage. In this biography of the tenth President of the United States, Edward P. Crapol challenges previous depictions of Tyler as a die-hard advocate of states' rights, limited government, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. In pursuit of his agenda, Crapol argues, Tyler exploited executive prerogatives and manipulated constitutional requirements in ways that violated his professed allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. He set precedents that his successors in the White House invoked to create an American empire and expand presidential power. Crapol also highlights Tyler's enduring faith in America's national destiny and his belief that boundless territorial expansion would preserve the Union as a slaveholding republic. When Tyler, a Virginian, opted for secession and the Confederacy in 1861, he was stigmatized as America's "traitor" president for having betrayed the republic he once led.

As Crapol demonstrates, Tyler's story is more complex, anticipating the modern imperial presidency in all its power and grandeur, as well as its darker side.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3200 KB
  • Print Length: 344 pages
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press (13 Sep 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B001KBYA5E
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #914,352 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This book is a well written and insightful look at the first Vice-President to assume the Presidency. John Tyler had a notable political career before becoming President, state legislator, Congressman, Governor and Senator and briefly Vice-President. Explores Tylers attitudes towards slavery and his belief in manifest destiny and the links between the two. A fine work on a President who had more of an influence than is generally believed.
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Format:Hardcover
Dismissed by his contemporaries and forgotten by subsequent generations, John Tyler does not immediately stand out as one of America's more notable presidents. Yet as Edward Crapol demonstrates in this book, such treatment unfairly obscures his contribution to American history. His assertion of authority upon taking over the White House after William Henry Harrison's death established a precedent that has since come to be taken for granted, his annexation of Texas and extension of the Monroe Doctrine to the Hawaiian Islands furthered the nation's scope, and his outreach to east Asia paved the way for the Open Door policy with China. Crapol's biography of Tyler seeks to give the tenth president his due, demonstrating that his years in the White House left a far more lasting imprint on the nation than is traditionally believed.

As was the case historically with vice presidents, Tyler was selected as Harrison's running mate for the geographical balance he brought to the Whig ticket. Upon taking office, though, Tyler soon demonstrated his indifference to Whig party goals. As president Tyler was a staunch defender of slavery and a strong supporter of national expansion, seeing the two as key to America's success as a nation. Despite being isolated politically by the Whigs, he nonetheless found supporters of his goals and achieved a number of foreign policy triumphs. Yet he failed to achieve his most cherished goal of winning the presidency in his own right, and he left office with the issues he championed serving increasingly to divide the nation - a divide that ultimately forced Tyler at the end of his life to make a momentous decision to renounce his allegiance to the union he had once led.
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Amazon.com: 3.4 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
53 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A little disappointing--3.5 stars 10 Oct 2006
By S. Heinen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I eagerly awaited the release of this book for several months and purchased a copy as soon as it was available. Maybe my expectations were out of whack, but I was a little disappointed.

It was well-written and had some good analysis of a much (and somewhat unfairly) maligned president, but I was expecting some NEW analysis or NEW scholarship regarding President Tyler. To me, this just seemed like a slightly updated version of Oliver Chitwood's (still) definitive biography of Tyler. I was hoping Crapol would replace Chitwood as THE word on Tyler, but he didn't.

At 283 pages, this is not a definitive biography. It details Tyler's personal and family life only briefly, focusing heavily on his public life. Whereas Chitwood's premise was that Tyler was steadfast in his championing of strict construction of the Constitution and Jeffersonian states' rights principles and no one should have been surprised or disappointed by his actions as president, which Chitwood claimed were wholly consistent with those principles; Crapol's premise is that Tyler frequently compromised those principles when it served his political interests--primarily expansionism through the annexation of Texas and new uses of executive power to get around areas reserved to Congress by a strict reading of the Constitution. While these (clearly correct) conclusions were new, this book just seemed like Chitwood run through a 21st Century filter. Nothing wrong with that--just not what I hoped it would be.

This is by no means a poor book, and I am glad it was written. I think there should be modern bios of all of our presidents available. If you have not read Chitwood and want a brief biography of Tyler, I would recommend this book (it has very little competition). But if you are looking for a definitive biography of John Tyler, I think you still have to go with the unabashedly apologetic Chitwood. I'm now going to try the out-of-print dual biography of John and Julia Tyler by Robert Seager. Maybe it will be the best of the lot?
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fairly disappointing bio of John Tyler 15 Sep 2007
By G. Zilly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I am currently reading a biography of every President in order. For John Tyler the selection is a bit difficult. From what I understand, the most definitive biography available is Oliver Chitwood's dated and overly apologetic "John Tyler: Champion of the Old South". Robert Seager's "And Tyler Too" is also fairly easy to find, although at 600 pages a little longer than I was desiring to read. Ultimately, I decided on Crapol's volume because it was recently written, of manageable length, and the only one available at the library.

Unfortunately, Crapol's book is fairly disappointing. First, it should be noted that this is by no means a "full scale" biography as the author claims in the acknowledgements. Tyler's life prior to the Presidency is given a drive by treatment that was much too brief for my tastes. The bulk of the book is devoted to Tyler's Presidency, but the organization is fairly poor with quite a bit of redundancy between chapters and Crapol frequently wanders far off topic making for an awkward presentation. Crapol also interjects his own analysis frequently and unfortunately to the detriment of the book. Crapol makes many dubious comparisons between Tyler's presidency and modern events that generally border on the absurd and will only serve to quickly date the book. Crapol also seems to think that he has written a more important academic account of Tyler than he actually has.

Ultimately the best I can say about Crapol's book is it serves as a mediocre short biography of John Tyler. It's account of Tyler's Presidency and later life is comprehensive enough, although it suffers greatly from poor editing and analysis. The rest of Tyler's life is treated in barebones fashion. Crapol himself seems to be fairly ambivalent about his subject and you really begin to wonder why he decided to write the book.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Sections, but overall disappointing 18 Oct 2007
By CJ - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I picked this book out of the history pile as I am currently trying to learn more about the US presidents, particularly ones that I knew little about. This Tyler book is not a complete waste of time. It focuses mostly on Tyler's presidency and some post-presidency. There are several interesting passages, particularly on Texas, Hawaii and Tyler's role in the run-up to the civil war. However, like a lot of other books this one could have really used more editing to smooth some passages out and delete some repetitious thoughts. Overall, I definitely learned some things from this book, but we're still waiting for the modern day "definitive" biography.
14 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Accidental President Revealed 23 Nov 2006
By Steven A. Peterson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
John Tyler was referred to derisively as "The Accidental President." Why? He was the Vice-President elected as Old Tippecanoe, William Henry Harrison, became President. Within a shockingly short period, Harrison dies and Tyler became acting President. Since he was the first Vice President to ascend to the presidency, there were no precedents to guide him and the country. One of his major contributions was, simply, to take firm hold of the Presidency and act as if he were President.

This biography does a nice job of introducing us to one of the lesser known presidents of the United States. Edward Crapol, the author, believes that (page 3) ". . .[Tyler] was a stronger and more effective president than generally remembered." If one accept that sentiment by book's end, then Crapol has written an effective work. If one does not accept that conclusion, then this book, obviously, will not be compelling.

Tyler was one of those cross-pressured southern politicians who was, on the one hand, most uncomfortable with slavery as an institution, but, on the other, wed to the ways of the South, which, of course, were based on slavery. Crapol argues that Tyler felt that by expanding the size of the republic, "diffusion" would occur. That is (page 37), "Development over space would thin out and diffuse the slave population and, with fewer blacks in some of the older slave states of the upper south, it might become politically feasible to abolish slavery in states like Virginia." Tyler himself, it should be mentioned, was a slaveholder.

As a result of this "diffusion" argument, Tyler was even more motivated to expand the republic when he became president. He appears to have believed in a national manifest destiny, with the scope of the American state expanding from sea to sea. Among key initiatives that suggested his expansive view of America's destiny: his keenness on advancing American interests around the Pacific Rim (from Hawaii to China); his movement toward annexing the Republic of Texas as one of the American states (as a slave state); his interest in considering California as a potential free state.

Interestingly, some have suggested that Tyler's efforts to exercise power mark him as historically important. The author notes that (page 281) "Arthur Schlesinger, a historian who has traced the development of what he has labeled `the imperial presidency,' credited John Tyler, along with James K. Polk, for the rescue and deliverance of the Jacksonian doctrine of presidential power and independence." In the end, Tyler's desire to serve a second term was thwarted, as the enemies within his party made that impossible.

The last part of his life is somewhat unfortunate. He ended up supporting secession and lived long enough to see the early part of the Civil War.

This book is interesting for making the case that Tyler is a more important figure than often recognized. The author provides good context and enough detail for readers to determine if they concur in that judgment.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting but not well organized 11 Jun 2011
By M. Godon - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Tyler's main claim to fame is that he was the first president who came into the job by the death of the president (in his case, William Henry Harrison), rather than his election for the job. I found the reactions of other politicians to be pretty interesting - John Quincy Adams insisted on calling him the Acting President, and Henry Clay continued to call him the Vice President long after Harrison was dead. (Clay hoped to be president for decades, and he never managed to be elected, but he hoped that he would be able to lead Tyler - unfortunately for him, Tyler did not intend to be led.) Tyler's precedent was followed by later Vice Presidents after the death of the president, but it wasn't until 1967 that the twenty-fifth amendment actually made it into the Constitution.

Crapol devoted a chapter to each of a number of different topics instead of going chronologically. This made the book feel a little like a collection of essays, rather than a biography, with Crapol often describing the same event in multiple chapters, as if the reader hadn't been informed of it fifty pages back. I think an editor who enforced a chronologically-based biography would have helped this book tremendously.
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