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Publisher's Summary

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 10th 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.

©2006 The University of North Carolina Press (P)2019 Tantor

What listeners say about John Tyler, the Accidental President

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Excellent as it Could Be

Having listened to nearly 200 Audible books l would give high ranks to this well written documentary that addresses difficult subjects & issues. The narrator was equally talented & fluid. I can’t imagine someone ranking this presentation low unless they were extraordinarily sensitive on the issues discussed, were not familiar with Presidential biographies, or were expecting some sort of Hollywood ride from an 1800s simple world. I salute the author & enjoyed becoming familiar with the issues at hand during this era. Especially about the annexation of Texas, the fact that Britain’s flag once flew over Hawaii, & Britain also attempted to take Texas on the grounds of preventing it from becoming a slave state. Now Polk’s Presidency falls into sync better with me having previously finished his biography. Well Done.

3 people found this helpful

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Terrible book :( Incredibly TEDIOUS.

I'm about 3 hours into it and I'm already so sick of it. It's not a biography at all. The author is basically trying to make points about what Tyler believed and who he really was, and endlessly skips around from Tyler's childhood, to his days in the congress, senate, VA governorship, and his presidency, quoting different people, and painfully (and very boringly) makes the same points over and over and over and over again. There doesn't seem to be any order of things, no logical building up from one thing to the next, just a wandering unorganized mind-numbing mess of a book. Also biased: he's already used the term "anglo-phobia" at least a dozen times. The term "phobia" suggests "fear or dislike without basis", yet from the nine (much better) presidential biographies I've already read, there was plenty of reason for many Americans at the time to dislike or distrust England (they had killed your friends or relatives in two different wars, armed unfriendly Indians with weapons, blockaded your ports, impressed your sailors, etc). Furthermore, the narrator is "perfect" for this author, sounding like a self-righteous know-it-all with an annoying lilt. Ugh... ... one week later, I've finished the book (only because it is the only John Tyler audio book available). While there were some better chapters, I'll stick with one star. He's just a biased, illogical author. At the end he claims JT was "inept", and there just isn't any evidence to suggest that. He actually was an effective politician and got a number of important things done. The author constantly criticized him for "wandering from his Republican principles", but every president (especially Jefferson) has done practical things that didn't completely line up with their previously-stated principles. Finally, the most annoying thing of all, the author seems to take it as a given that America is just an average country, and that when presidents like JT say "America is an example to the world", that's obviously just an dumb, arrogant statement, and he says the civil war proved it once and for all. Really? That we fought an extremely bloody war because half of our country was willing to die to free the slaves?? I would think that would be the BEGINNING, or confirmation of our example of true freedom, not the end of it?! This author is inept.

8 people found this helpful

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An insightful and thought-provoking biography

My perception of John Tyler prior to this book was quite limited and biased towards the prevailing narrative: a failure in the White House and a white-supremacist scion of the old South. The author does a fantastic job of bringing this man to life and helping the reader understand the complexity of his nature. His political philosophies were molded by the the icons that preceded him: Jefferson, Madison and Monroe. All were Southern gentlemen and plantation owners from Virginia. They were our fledgling nation's aristocracy. Tyler shared so much in common with them that he may have been perceived quite differently had he come from their earlier era. Instead he came to power just as the South's "peculiar institution" was about to rip the nation apart. And his tragic flaw was that he could not separate himself from that institution or fully recognize its evil.

Tyler probably does not get enough credit for his political acumen. His decisive leadership in the aftermath of William Henry Harrison's untimely death averted a Constitutional crisis over determining how Presidential succession should work. And the precedent he established by quickly assuming the full duties of US President as opposed to some temporary or "acting" role, guided future Presidents Fillmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman and L. Johnson until the ratification of the 25th Amendment in 1967 finally settled the issue of Presidential Succession into the US Constitution.

Tyler also deserves credit for his leadership in securing the annexation of Texas amid a swirl of domestic and international intrigue. James K. Polk often gets credit for the annexation, even though it was Tyler who worked tirelessly to get the groundwork laid during his administration - despite numerous headwinds in Congress. Had Tyler faltered or delayed action on Texas, its admission to the Union may have come at a higher cost.

1 person found this helpful

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Interesting Character

A relatively unknown President who had significant impact on the geographic shape of the country. Also his term without a vice-president included the situation where a tie-breaking vote in the Senate was almost needed for the annexation of Texas except for one Senator who flipped. How would the course of history have changed?

1 person found this helpful

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Woke

Overall not bad but the author continues to display a chrono-centric demeanor by virtue-signaling his 2006 morales to President Tyler’s antebellum life. Narrator is awesome and sounds like Mo Rocca.

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Better than I Expected

When I read some of the reviews, I was hesitant to begin reading this book, but I'm glad I listened to my impulses and went with it anyway because it was actually surprisingly interesting. Obviously, Tyler's story is not as exciting in comparison to that of Washington, Lincoln, or even his role model, Jefferson. He led a much more quiet life of a southern aristocrat and so his story would seem much more bland than other more notable presidents, but he also was not completely the insignificant president that I thought he was before reading the book. As a matter of fact, his presidency shaped the future of American foreign and domestic policies in several profound ways (annexation of Texas and Hawaii, continuation of the "extend the sphere" doctrine of Madison), most notably the precedent of presidential succession, which would be used multiple times. Tyler was a southern aristocrat during the Antebellum period, so obviously he owned slaves and falsely believed that slavery would continue through the 19th century and continue into the 20th, and as president he defended the institution of slavery. The author does a great job with balancing modern understanding of the evils of slavery and Tyler's own 19th century understanding, and Crapol does not shy away at pointing out Tyler's faults. He gives Tyler fair treatment without making him out to be a hero or a villain, and describes him in the context of his times, not ours.
This book is not a biography in the traditional chronological sense, and takes more of a thematic look into Tyler's life and presidency. Each chapter deals with certain topics (slavery, Texas, Hawaii, Tyler's support of the Confederacy, etc.) rather than a strict chronological account that is used in most biographies, but to me, this actually was one of the strengths of the book, whereas it may not have worked for other more notable presidents. Crapol does a great job at focusing on what were the most important aspects of Tyler's life and how/why he should be remembered in history.

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Confusing as a Biography

Overall I enjoyed the book, however it is not a chronological account of John Tylers presidency or life, rather a series of essays about particular subjects or themes within Tyler’s presidency. It seemed hard to follow as an audiobook.

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insightful and interesting

well done and balanced, full of little known information about this President about whom we hear little in history class. very educational.

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Poorly written, mediocre narration.

Author used the same words and phrases ad nauseam and often repeated the same point twice as if you didn't get it the first time.

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I'd give it lower than one star if I could

I really tried to like this book and was excited to start reading it. Within about 30 minutes I was already annoyed, but Tyler is an interesting character so I tried hard to get into it. The author has an agenda in this book, although I'm not sure what it was - he did not like Tyler, and I'm not sure he likes America. Even when he talked about Tyler's achievements, he put them in a negative light. About four hours into it I just gave up. Did I mention repetitive? ARGH! The jumping around and around was driving me crazy and I was never sure of where we were in his life The narrator was ok. ...