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John Tyler : the accidental president
2006
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Publishers Weekly Reviews

Most historians have dismissed John Tyler as an inept failure. In this remarkable study, Crapol, professor emeritus at the College of William and Mary, argues that Tyler was in fact a terrifically strong president who helped strengthen the executive branch. Tyler was William Henry Harrison's vice president. Before Harrison's death in 1841, presidential succession was murky: did the vice president become president, or was he merely a temporary stand-in until an emergency election could be held? Tyler decisively seized the office, setting a precedent that is followed to this day (and was codified in 1967 in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution). Yet Tyler's story, argues Crapol, is ultimately a "tragedy." Tyler's commitment to territorial expansion, which found its keenest expression in the annexation of Texas, was driven in part by his contorted thinking about slavery. The to-the-Virginia-manor-born president believed the contradictions of slavery would be best resolved not by abolition but by extending it into new territories, thus diffusing the slave population. That Tyler died a traitor to the Union, just about to assume his seat in the Confederate Congress, is the final, sad irony. This balanced, fascinating volume will introduce a new generation of readers to an oft-ignored president. (Oct. 9)

[Page 194]. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Annotations

"The first vice president to become president on the death of the incumbent, John Tyler (1790-1862) was mocked by his adversaries as "His Accidency." Yet Tyler proved to be a bold and determined leader who used the malleable executive system outlined in the Constitution to his advantage. In this biography of the tenth president of the United States, Edward P. Crapol challenges traditional depictions of Tyler as a die-hard supporter of states' rights, an unwavering spokesman for a strict interpretation ofthe Constitution, and a faithful disciple of the republican vision of the founding fathers." "When it served his political ambitions, President Tyler did not hesitate to trample on states' rights, Crapol observes. In pursuit of his domestic and diplomatic agendas, Tyler exploited executive prerogatives and manipulated constitutional requirements in ways that violated his professed allegiance to a strict interpretation of the Constitution. His actions helped establish the tradition of a strong and energetic chief executive, setting 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 Abraham Lincoln rejected this formula for endless expansion in 1861, Tyler, a Virginian, opted for secession and the Confederacy. He was ultimately stigmatized as America's "traitor" president for having betrayed the republic he once led. As Crapol demonstrates, Tyler's story anticipates the modern American presidency in all its power and grandeur, as well as its darker side."--BOOK JACKET. - (Baker & Taylor)

John Tyler, the Accidental President - (The University of North Carolina Press)

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 anticipates the modern imperial presidency in all its power and grandeur, as well as its darker side.

- (The University of North Carolina Press)

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