John Tyler, the Accidental President

By Edward P. Crapol

With a New Foreword by the Author

360 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 9 illus., 1 map, notes, bibl., index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-7223-9
    Published: January 2012
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-4385-2
    Published: January 2012
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-8272-6
    Published: January 2012

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The first vice president to become president on the death of the incumbent, John Tyler (1790-1862) was derided by critics as "His Accidency." In this biography of the tenth president, Edward P. Crapol challenges depictions of Tyler as a die-hard advocate of states' rights, limited government, and a strict interpretation of the Constitution. Instead, he argues, Tyler manipulated the Constitution to increase the executive power of the presidency. Crapol also highlights Tyler's faith in America's national destiny and his belief that boundless territorial expansion would preserve the Union as a slaveholding republic. When Tyler sided with the Confederacy in 1861, he was branded as America's "traitor" president for having betrayed the republic he once led.

About the Author

Edward P. Crapol is William E. Pullen Professor of American History, Emeritus, at the College of William and Mary. He is author of James G. Blaine: Architect of Empire and editor of Women and American Foreign Policy: Lobbyists, Critics, and Insiders.
For more information about Edward P. Crapol, visit the Author Page.


"The best study yet of Tyler's presidency and his important legacies. . . . Any study of late Jacksonian America must now include Crapol's brilliant study." —Pacific Historical Review

"This book poignantly portrays the tragic irony of John Tyler's legacy to America. Like Thomas Jefferson, Tyler believed that the expansion of slave territory would insure the survival of republican liberty. But instead it brought secession and Civil War. Siding against the nation he once led, Tyler died in the midst of a war that gave the nation a new birth of freedom by destroying the social order that Tyler had championed."—James M. McPherson, Princeton University

"By concentrating on John Tyler's foreign policy, Edward Crapol mounts a compelling argument that America's only traitor president was a pathbreaking empire builder whom Americans today need to know better."—William E. Leuchtenburg, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Emeritus

"This superbly researched, engaging account proves that 'His Accidency' has been poorly served by historical memory, and that John Tyler, however flawed, was a far more important president than we think. Insistently illuminating and informative, Crapol’s John Tyler represents the 'life-and-times' approach to biography in the best sense of the word, and leaves one pondering the relevance of history to modern foreign affairs and today’s imperial presidency."—Robert E. May, Purdue University Manifest Destiny’s Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America—>