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Celebrating the Emancipation Proclamation: John Tyler



John Tyler (1845-49) was dubbed “His Accidency” as he was the first unelected president. He had a long life of public service, was pro-slavery, became a delegate to the Provisional Confederate Congress and was ultimately elected to the Confederate Congress but died before it convened.

A state rightest, he opposed nationalization of the Central Bank and was a leader in opposing the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which would set national boundaries for the establishment of slavery for the first time and serve to diminish and divide the states, while unnecessarily expanding federal authority.

Tyler acknowledged the ills of slavery, arguing that allowing it in Missouri would attract existing slaveowners from Southern states, dissipating the population of slaves and reducing each state’s reliance on the practice. Emancipation, in his view, would occur organically at the state level without federal intervention.

In the House of Representatives, 1835, Tyler proposed eliminating the slave trade (but not slavery) in the District of Columbia. “Mr Tyler stated that… (he) had a decided objection to the District of Columbia being made a slave mart, a depot for the slaves brought from the two neighboring states.”

He opposed suggestions that slavery be eliminated in DC because the land had been ceded to the US by two slave states: “To interfere with the subject of slavery, not only without, but against the consent of the people of Maryland and Virginia, would be in flagrant violation of the public faith, an abuse of the trust conferred on Congress by the cession, and hazardous of the peace and security of these two states.”

As the president of the Virginia Colonization Society in 1838, he compared sending free blacks to Africa to the abolitionist movement: “Policy and humanity go hand and hand in this great work… Philanthropy, when separated from policy, is the most dangerous agent in human affairs. It is no way distinguishable from fanaticism. It hears not, sees not, and understands not…. And is there not a spirit of that sort now at work in our own fair land? It is the antagonist of that which we cherish. It invades our hearth, assails our domestic circles, preaches up sedition, and encourages insurrection… in a word, it is the spirit of abolition.”

1847: “So far as slavery is concerned, we of the south must throw ourselves on the constitution and defend our rights under it to the last, and when arguments will no longer suffice, we will appeal to the sword, if necessary.”

To create a legacy – and to increase the potential for more slave states – he orchestrated the annexation of the republic of Texas by joint resolution rather than treaty in 1845, setting the stage for his successor James Polk to invade Mexico, acquiring the geography that would include Nevada.

For the years 2012-2013, Our Story, Inc. will be be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and its legacy in Nevada. This article is part of a series to be published during that time. The first part of the series covers the presidencies leading up to Lincoln in order to review national policy and experience leading to emancipation. Please feel free to circulate and share (credited), comment or submit your own articles.

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