by Christopher J. Leahy
Baton Rouge: LSU Press, 2020. Pp. xiv, 492.
Illus., notes, biblio., index. $39.95. ISBN: 0807172545
The Life and Times of “His Accidency”
Prof. Leahy (Keuka) has written an impressive biography of an often overlooked, and very complex, American and his presidency. He gives us Tyler, good and bad, a man of his times and class, a good family man, an aristocratic, slave-holding Southerner, what we would today call a “professional politician”, and a staunch strict constructionist, suspicious of threats from the government or the presidency.
Despite its relative obscurity in the public memory, Tyler’s presidency (1841-1845) was a busy one. He established that on the death of the incumbent the vice-president became the president, not merely the acting president. Tyler presided during a depression, fights over reviving a national bank, the tariffs, slavery and abolition, and more.
Several times Leahy does a particularly good job of guiding the reader through Tyler’s thinking and actions in particularly complex situations, notably in the resolution of the U.S.-Canada border dispute with Britain, “Dorr’s Rebellion” in Rhode Island, the battle over the annexation of Texas, and Tyler’s later adherence to the Confederacy.
An excellent biography, President Without a Party is perhaps best suited for the more serious student of American history, and particularly for those interested in the final decade before the Civil War.
Note: President Without a Party is also available in several e-editions.
StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium