The First Bad President?: John Tyler

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)


Until 1841, the nation seems to have been blessed with either great or good presidents. According to rankings of presidential scholars, three of the first eight presidents were placed in the first quartile (Washington, Jefferson, and Jackson), four in the second (John Adams, Madison, Monroe, and John Quincy Adams). Only one, Marin Van Buren, has received assessments in the third quartile. John Tyler, however, who took the oath of office on April 6, 1841, has been consistently ranked in the fourth. Was Tyler the first bad president? Was he, as one of his contemporaries, concluded, “among the most inept politicians ever to occupy the White House”? 1 Or should Tyler’s performance instead be judged in terms of his status as the first “accidental” president? Without precedents to guide him, and as a president effectively without the support of either party, did Tyler act boldly and imaginatively? Did Tyler sacrifice his presidency so that other accidental presidents could govern better than he could?


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© Philip Abbott 2013

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  • Philip Abbott

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