Why Americans Should Celebrate President John Tyler

[The following is from “Freedom’s Presidents,” a symposium for Presidents’ Day 2015, published by The Freeman. Reprinted with permission.]

John Tyler was generally in favor of limiting government—both domestically and internationally—much to the chagrin of his own Whig Party. It advocated a revival of the national bank and high tariffs, both of which would fund federal canals and roads. As an unelected president who had taken over after William Henry Harrison had died only a month into his term, Tyler exhibited amazing political courage in vetoing his own party’s platform. In the process, his cabinet resigned. His party expelled him and then unsuccessfully tried to impeach him. Tyler, like many of the best American presidents who stuck by their principles, was not asked back for a second term.

Tyler’s greatest triumph may have been in reversing the terrible policies toward Native Americans perpetrated by his predecessors, Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren (an otherwise admirable president). Tyler settled the longest and bloodiest American Indian war in history by allowing Seminole Indians to stay on their reservation instead of being expelled by armed force west of the Mississippi River—a solution Van Buren had rejected. Tyler then was able to cut the size of the US Army by a third.

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[For an analysis of what makes a U.S. president truly great—and why most historians and pundits are wrong about which ones deserve to be celebrated—see Ivan Eland’s Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty. The Independent Institute is offering this highly acclaimed, award-winning book at a special 35% discount through February 28, 2015.]

Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace and Liberty at the Independent Institute. His Independent books include The Empire Has No Clothes, Recarving Rushmore, and No War for Oil.
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