John Tyler came to be referred to as “His Accidency” because he gained the Presidency after the death of William Henry Harrison. The irony of the nickname came from the fact that it was what members of his own political party used to ridicule him.
Tyler had run on the Whig ticket with Harrison. The Whig Party rose up as opposition to Andrew Jackson and the Jacksonian Democrats. They believed in everything the opposite of Jackson. The believed in the Bank of the United States and high tariffs to protect American businesses. And, most importantly, they believed that Congress, not the President, should be at the forefront of American politics.
Harrison believed firmly in this and stated in his famed inaugural address how he would take a backseat to Congress. But his untimely death thrust Tyler into office. Of course, this was not without controversy. The Constitution was unclear on exactly what happened in the event of a President vacating the office. People weren’t sure if the Vice President became an acting President until an new election could be held or if they actually assumed the office for the remainder of the term. It was decided, in an important precedent that would later be cemented with a Constitutional Amendment, that the Vice President became the President for the rest of the term.
When Tyler took over only some thirty days into Harrison’s term, he quickly showed that he was not going to follow Harrison’s agenda. He stood in the way of the Whigs policies, exercising his veto powers over several acts of Congress. The party became so upset with Tyler, that they expelled him from their party, ruining his chances for re-election.
The main accomplishment of Tyler’s administration came after a new President had been selected: the annexation of Texas. Texas was part of the Mexican Empire. Mexico, eager to settle the land so no one else could make claim to it, invited American settlers to move into their territory. They didn’t expect so many to come and soon American settlers outnumbered Mexicans ten to one. And they began pushing for independence. The Texans declared themselves free and Mexican forces tried to squash the independence movement–such as the famous Battle of the Alamo–but at a key battle the Texans defeated the Mexicans and became their own country called the Republic of Texas. Almost immediately, they appealed to be added to the United States during Martin Van Buren’s Presidency, but the President didn’t support it.
Tyler had supported the annexation of the Republic of Texas and even negotiated a treaty with the Republic for its addition to the United States, but the Senate would not approve it. But as Tyler was about to leave office, public opinion had shifted and Tyler pushed through a joint-resolution from Congress paving the way for admitting the territory in to the United States. It would later officially become a state under James K. Polk’s Presidency.