May 23, 2010

it's not like we ever liked you anyway

despite his success annexing texas, john tyler lost reelection to james k. polk. he went home to his estate in virginia, sherwood forest, where he and his wife julia hung out, having kids and entrenching their views.

although he had never been a popular president, the south didn't have too many political luminaries to look up to, so he became a respected elder statesman of virginia. maybe this long-sought, long-coveted popularity explains his post-presidential actions. or maybe he had been waiting for the opportunity his whole life. either way, john tyler became a leading secessionist.

he was asked to be the president of a peace conference between the north and south, a last ditch attempt to avoid civil war. attended by 12 border states, 6 of each north and south, the conference went on for a while, without accomplishing much, and then at the end john tyler gave a speech stepping down as president of the conference and went home to vote for secession. there is a legend, although it is no more than that, that tyler had only attended the conference to stall the advent of war while the south built up its arsenal.

tyler was sooned elected to the confederate senate. his granddaughter letitita, who had actually been born in the white house, could be seen raising the confederate flag at confederate rallies. whatever his relationship with the american people had been, he left it behind. and the north was furious.

he was called the traitor president. when he died, in 1862 (before he ever took up that senate seat), the event was met by silence from washington, the only former president whose death was ignored.

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