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John Tyler became President on April 4, 1841, upon the death of William Henry Harrison, earning him the unflattering nickname “His Accidency.” He was the first of eight Vice Presidents who have been elevated to the nation’s highest office due to a presidential death, as per an interpretation of the vague wording of Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the U.S. Constitution. Given the fact that this act of succession had never been tested before Tyler took office, several Whig Party members referred to the new POTUS as “Acting President.” Tyler, however, insisted that his new role as President was full and unqualified, and refused to open any mail that was addressed to the more temporary title.
Some members of Congress disagreed with Tyler, including former President John Quincy Adams, who argued that Tyler’s ascension to the office of President was “in direct violation both of the grammar and context of the Constitution.” On May 31, 1841, Congress held a special session to resolve the issue. A joint resolution was proposed in order to affirm Tyler’s role as President of the United States without any conditions, and both the House and the Senate approved the measure the next day. The vice presidency remained vacant throughout Tyler’s term, until he was succeeded by James K. Polk in 1845. Though the Tyler administration was the first of several to leave the VP office vacant, that changed with ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967, which created a constitutional process for replacing the Vice President and clarified the rules of presidential succession, establishing what’s now known as the “Tyler Precedent.”
Related:Some U.S. states had laws requiring margarine to be dyed pink.
By the Numbers
Words in William Henry Harrison’s inaugural address
Children fathered by John Tyler, the most of any U.S. President
States admitted to the U.S. during Tyler’s presidency (Florida)
Year Tyler was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives
DID YOU KNOW?
The Harrison-Tyler ticket featured the first official campaign slogan[size=32].[/size]
“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” the first official presidential campaign slogan, was used by William Henry Harrison and running mate John Tyler during the 1840 election. Harrison had earned the nickname “Old Tippecanoe” for his victory during the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Whig Party strategists turned the nickname into a catchy rhyme to attract voters, and even commissioned a song based on the slogan. Ohioan jeweler Alexander Coffman Ross wrote the lyrics to the song, titled “Tip and Ty,” which included the line “We’ll beat little Van” — a reference to opponent Martin Van Buren. The incumbent President fought back with a campaign song of his own, set to the tune of “Rock-a-bye Baby” and featuring the lyrics, “Rock-a-bye Baby, Daddy’s a Whig / When he comes home, hard cider he’ll swig.” In the end, Harrison’s campaign won the hearts of voters, as Old Tippecanoe and Tyler, too, were elected.