Biography of John Tyler…suggestions?

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    Dr. McClanahan’s placing of John Tyler as one of the top five presidents (in the Age of Jackson, II lecture) intrigued me to want to know more about Mr. Tyler. A quick Amazon search turned up three candidates for a biography: Crapol’s “John Tyler, Accidental President”; Robert Seager’s “And Tyler Too”; and Oliver Chitwood’s “John Tyler, Champion of the Old South.”

    I’d prefer to read a biography more from the liberty perspective rather than wade through the political correct muck, so I was wondering if anyone had read any of the biographies listed above (or another I might have missed in my search), and if they would recommend any of them. After skimming some of the Amazon reviews it looked like Chitwood’s might be my best option, but I wanted to get some other input before sinking $32 into it.

    Thanks in advance!


    Jessica: Chitwood’s is not bad, neither is Seager’s.

    This link is to an old and incomplete biography written in 1843. It contains some primary material which may be of interest:

    This link to to a three volume work on the Tyler family from the president of William and Mary College, a direct descendent. Again, it contains very good primary material. You can find the other two volumes on Google Books as well:


    Thanks for the suggestions, Dr. McClanahan!


    I agree that Chitwood’s is the best. My only quibble with Dr. McC. is that Tyler is #1 on my list. I agree that THE LIFE AND TIMES OF THE TYLERS repays a reading; it was edited by the president’s son. It also includes the correspondence of “Judge” John Tyler, the president’s father and a close ally of Thomas Jefferson. (Both men were governors of Virginia, so the family distinguishes between them by calling the father “Judge,” while the son is of course “President.”) I used it extensively in VIRGINIA’S AMERICAN REVOLUTION, chapter 5.

    One very odd fact about the Tyler family is that the current owner of the president’s estate is his grandson. That’s right: although John Tyler was born in 1790, his house currently belongs to his grandson.


    Kevin: Tyler is #1 on mine as well, I just didn’t say that in the lecture. Keep ’em asking for more, right?

    I have never been to Sherwood Plantation, though I understand that his grandson not only lives there, he gives tours at times, and even looks like him a bit. I wonder if the two sound alike? That is always one interesting and lost part of the history we enjoy, the sound of it. It would be great to hear what Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et. al. sounded like.


    and Tyler too, by Robert Seager II

    I just unearthed this book in my collection.

    I’ve never read it and have had it for many years.

    The notes say he was one of our most underrated Presidents BUT the author’s preface says Tyler was a fan of states rights and a strict constitutionalist to which the author says that these ideas were not in the best interests of the United States “at the time”

    The author also notes that Tyler opposed the national bank which the author thinks was needed. The author states that he tried to write the book in a tone that was not “hostile or patronizing”

    The author goes on to say he was not a successful president and could have become one if he dropped the states rights and anti bank stuff!
    I will take a read of this book and see how it is..


    Real: Right. Seager’s assessment is off, but the info is not bad. Chitwood’s is better, but read the old stuff. It trumps all the rest.


    Brion I think your point that historians tend to fawn over Presidents who “do something” is important. Start a war, abuse power, issue executive orders and you are a great president. Respect the constitution and you are a loser.
    I am looking ahead in the syllabus and don’t see any thing on the Presidency of Grover Cleveland, I guess he didn’t do anything worth creating a lecture 🙂


    Yes, that is my point. As for Cleveland, I am sure he is mentioned, but I did not lecture for the second half, so I cannot say for sure. I wrote the chapter on him in my Forgotten Conservatives with Clyde Wilson.


    Hi Brion
    I don’t see any of your books over at
    Ill be ordering all three of your books at amazon (through lew rockwell’s blog)

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