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Collection John Tyler Papers

1840-1845

A chronology of key events in the life of John Tyler (1790-1862) from his election as vice president of the United States as a running mate of William Henry Harrison through his own presidency (1841-1845) which began with Harrison's death on April 4, 1841.

  • 1840

    Elected vice president of the United States as running mate of William Henry Harrison, who took the presidency in an electoral vote landslide (234 votes to Van Buren’s 60). Van Buren, however, carried Virginia, though the Whigs take control of both houses of Congress.

  • 1841, Mar. 4

    Took oath of office as vice president. Returned home to Virginia. Did not attend inaugural festivities. U.S. Senate was in recess until June.

  • 1841, Apr. 4

    President William Henry Harrison died after suffering an acute illness.

  • 1841, Apr. 6

    Arrived in Washington with his son and personal secretary, John Tyler, Jr., and arranged meeting with Harrison cabinet. Rejected the notion of an “acting” presidency and claimed he was due full powers of the office. Sworn in as tenth president of the United States, setting precedent for a vice president to become president in incidences when a president dies in office.  At age 51, Tyler became the youngest person to that date ever to hold the office as president.

  • 1841, Apr. 7

    Harrison memorial conducted by Rev. William Hawley, rector of St. John’s Church, followed by funeral procession through the streets of Washington.

  • 1841, Apr. 9

    Issued informal “inaugural” address setting forth principles for his administration.

    John Tyler, President of the U.S.   Lithograph, Charles Fenderich, 1841. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.  LC-DIG-pga-06694
  • 1841

    Convened Special Session of Congress. Retained Harrison cabinet members. Vetoed re-chartering of the Bank of the United States as submitted by Henry Clay. Raised ire of Whigs and Democrats alike. Vetoed a second Bank bill. Expelled from Whig Party membership and decried by New England Whig leaders as a defender of slavery. Former president Andrew Jackson questioned his mental abilities, while others assumed Henry Clay could guide the country from the Senate. Instead Tyler surprised Whigs with exercise of executive power—the very quality they most criticized regarding the former presidency of arch-rival Andrew Jackson.

  • 1842

    Vetoed tariff bill.  Impeachment resolution introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. Approved new tariff bill. Tyler Doctrine expanded Monroe Doctrine to include protection of Hawaiian Islands.

  • 1842, Aug. 20

    U.S. Senate ratified Treaty of Washington (Webster-Ashburton Treaty), which clarified outstanding issues between Great Britain and the United States.

  • 1842, Sept. 10

    After a long period of invalidism, First Lady Letitia Christian Tyler died in the White House. She was buried at her family plantation of Cedar Grove on September 13. Daughter-in-law Priscilla Cooper Tyler assumed many of the functions as White House hostess, with advice from former First Lady and socialite Dolley Madison.

    D[olley] P[ayne] Madison.  Silhouette, photomechanical print, Campbell Prints, N.Y., c. 1900-1950.  Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.  LC-USZ62-98724
  • 1842, Dec.

    The aristocratic Gardiner family arrived in Washington for winter social season, following an 1841 tour of Europe. They attend Christmas Eve dinner at the Executive Mansion at the invitation of John Tyler, Jr., the president’s son.

  • 1843

    Began courtship of Julia Gardiner.

    Secretary of State Daniel Webster resigned and was replaced by Virginian Abel P. Upshur, who began negotiations for Texas annexation treaty.

    Journalist Alexander Abell published The Life of John Tyler.

  • 1843, June

    Toured northeastern states.

  • 1844, Feb. 28

    Participated with other dignitaries, cabinet members, and guests from Washington society--including Dolley Madison, Julia Gardiner, and Julia’s father David Gardiner-- in a celebration cruise showcasing the USS Princeton, the U.S. Navy’s new steam warship commanded by Robert Stockton, on the Potomac River.  Secretary of State Abel P. Upshur, Secretary of the Navy Thomas Gilmer, David Gardiner, and others were killed and others wounded when the USS Princeton’s powerful “Peacemaker” cannon misfired and exploded during a ceremonial demonstration of its fire power.

  • 1844

    Appointed John C. Calhoun to replace Abel P. Upshur as secretary of state. Calhoun continued the administration’s negotiations for the annexation of Texas.

  • 1844, April

    Treaty with Republic of Texas signed by Calhoun and representatives for Texas April 12 and was submitted to the U.S. Senate for ratification. Senate deliberations were highly controversial in an election year.

  • 1844, May 27

    Tyler’s short-lived Democratic-Republican Party held presidential convention in Baltimore, with Tyler focused on the admission of Texas into the Union. The Democratic Party, meanwhile, nominated dark-horse candidate James K. Polk, slaveholder from Tennessee and former Speaker of the House, who supported expansion.

  • 1844, June 8

    U.S. Senate voted to defeat the Texas treaty, with almost unanimous Whig Party opposition.

    Texas coming in. Lithograph, James H. Baillie, H. Bucholzer, 1844.  Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZ62-10802
  • 1844, June 10

    Sent the Texas Treaty for consideration to the U.S. House of Representatives.

  • 1844, June 26

    Married second wife Julia Gardiner (1820-1889), aged twenty-four, in a small private ceremony at the Episcopal Church of the Ascension in New York City. The newlyweds took a ferry tour of New York Harbor and were saluted by U.S. Navy warships. They honeymooned at the new Tyler plantation, Sherwood Forest, near his ancestral home of Greenway, in Charles City County, Va.  First president to have a wife die while in office, and then became the first president to marry in office.  Public opinion had a field day over Tyler’s choice of mates, but the marriage proved a happy one. The new first lady set about overseeing Executive Mansion repairs and ruled social and ceremonial affairs in high style.

  • 1844, July 3

    Treaty of Wanghia, first trade treaty between the United States and China, negotiated under Tyler’s administration by Caleb Cushing. Ratification signed by President Tyler January 17, 1845.

    View of Green Island, Macau, 1844.  George West, artist, U.S. delegation to China, 1844. Caleb Cushing Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress.
  • 1844, Aug. 20

    Assured of James K. Polk’s support for the annexation of Texas, Tyler announced he would drop out of the presidential race. He became the first incumbent president not to seek re-election.

  • 1844, Nov.

    Democrat James K. Polk elected president of the United States, defeating Whig Henry Clay in a close race.  The Tylers exulted in the Clay loss and viewed the Polk victory as a voter mandate for Texas annexation.

  • 1844, Dec. 4

    Delivered his last message to Congress and entreated the members to pass a joint resolution admitting Texas as a state. Julia Gardiner Tyler meanwhile lobbied extensively for annexation through social circles in Washington.

    Julia Gardiner Tyler. Photoprint by C. M. Bell of painting by Francisco Anelli, c. 1870. Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.  LC-USZ62-92839
  • 1845, Jan. 25

    U.S. House of Representatives approved resolution admitting Texas as a state, by a vote of 120 to 98.

  • 1845, Feb.

    James K. Polk arrived in Washington and lobbied recalcitrant senators to back annexation. The Senate passed the resolution and the House approved the Senate version.

  • 1845, Mar. 1

    Signed the joint resolution three days before leaving office, annexing Texas to the United States as a slaveholding state.  Gave to his wife the pen used to sign the resolution.

  • 1845, Mar. 3-4

    Departed the Executive Mansion as Congress overrode his last presidential veto, of a bill authorizing construction of two vessels for the Revenue Cutter Service. Controversial career as the “accidental president” ended. Left office at age 54, the youngest ex-president to that date in history. Retired to his Sherwood Forest plantation in Virginia.

    John Tyler, Sherwood Forest,  Residence in Virginia.  Exterior photograph, Samuel H. Gottscho, 1961.    Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.  LC-G613-77596
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