Thursday, January 18, 2007

January 18, 1862:

John Tyler Dies a Confederate

When the Civil War broke out, there were five former US presidents alive: Van Buren, Tyler, Fillmore, Pierce and Buchanan. Their home states, respectively, were New York, Virginia, New York, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania. Four Yankees, only one Southerner, so it’s no surprise that the only former US president to align himself with his native state and the new Confederacy was Virginian John Tyler, who hadn’t been president in over 15 years.

He was a member of the provisional Confederate Congress, which met in Montgomery and then Richmond, and was elected to the First Confederate Congress in November 1861. It was scheduled to meet in February 1862, but before that could happen, death came to President Tyler. His passing was not officially noted by the government of the United States.

The Confederate States of America, on the other hand, lauded Tyler. The Journal of the Confederate Congress for January 20, 1862, says: "He has secured, we believe, a blissful immortality. For the page of history his fame is destined to occupy, it is proper briefly to recount the many offices he has filled... as Vice-President of the United States, presiding over the deliberations of the Senate with dignity and impartiality, preserving the decorum of a body that then was a model for legislative assemblies; as President of the United States, when the national honor and reputation were acknowledged unimpeached and unimpaired in every land, and the powers of the earth looked up to the new Government as an exemplar of morals and of power worthy of respect and imitation."

Of course, eulogies of this sort do not speak ill of the dead, but all the same that's a remarkable bit of Victorian gushery for a president who completely alienated his own party and saw his entire cabinet, except one, resign at the same time.The entire entry is here.

Not until 1911, according to the Presidential Factbook (Joseph Nathan Kane, 1994), did the US Congress authorize an erection of a monument in his honor. Completed in 1915, it stands in Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond.

No comments: