John Tyler (1790-1862) became the tenth president of the United States while serving as vice president to William Henry Harrison, who died in office.
Tyler was born on March 29, 1790, at his family’s plantation in Virginia. He was elected to the Virginia legislature at age 21. From 1817 to 1821, he was a member of the House of Representatives.
Tyler believed in states’ rights and strictly following the Constitution, instead of giving more power to the federal government. While serving on the U.S. Senate, Tyler started disagreeing with the policies of President Andrew Jackson and later joined the Whig Party, the opposition to Jackson. The Whigs picked Harrison and Tyler to run for president and vice president in 1840. Harrison died after only one month in office from to pneumonia and Tyler became the sitting president.
At first, no one was certain how to handle Harrison’s death and whether Tyler should become the new president, since the Constitution was unclear on that matter. At 51 years old, Tyler was sworn into office on April 6 and dubbed “His Accidency” because he had become the president by chance, and not through an election. It wasn’t until 1967 that the 25th Amendment to the Constitution was signed, stating that the vice president will become president if the current president dies or resigns.
After retiring from office, Tyler returned to his plantation and voted in favor of Virginia seceding from the Union. He was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives but died at the age of 71 on January 18, 1862 before he could take his seat. President Abraham Lincoln and the government did not acknowledge Tyler’s death because he was seen as a traitor to the union.