TYLER, John. Autograph letter signed ("J. Tyler"), to his son Robert Tyler (1816-1877), "Sherwood Forest," [Virginia], 7 January 1855. 4 full pages, 4to (9 7/8 x 7 13/16 in.), small stain to margin of page 1, second leaf neatly inlaid, otherwise in very fine condition.
"HISTORY WILL DO ME JUSTICE": TYLER RECALLS AN ERA OF "POLITICAL ROMANCE" HIS DEDICATION TO THE PRINCIPLES OF MR. JEFFERSON" AND HIS MUCH MALIGNED ROLE IN NULLIFICATION
Advising his son on a career in politics, Tyler provides a fascinating commentary on his own at times rocky political career. To his son Robert, who had been his personal secretary in the White House and would later serve as the Confederate Secretary of the Treasury, Tyler confides: "It was necessary for you in the outset to take an active part in politics...looked up to by your numerous friends, you should now assume a position of a higher character. Instead of mingling in all the night scenes and caucuses, you should assume the tripod and entrusting a few faithful and leading friends with your views, leave them to conduct the preliminaries to campaigns, reserving to yourself the leading of the hosts on great occasions. There you escape from the danger of being regarded as a mere manager and take the elevated post of Commander in Chief...[appearing] only on the day of battle." Tyler expresses concern for Robert's health, lamenting his own "premature loss of three precious children."
Tyler notes that Orr [South Carolina Congressman James Lawrence Orr] has asked his opinions on Europe, domestic politics and Know-Nothingism for publication. He tells his son: "I protest agst. publicity to my thoughts...and reiterating my devotion to the principles of Mr. Jefferson conclude by saying 'non nostram componen lites, etc.' He is undoubtedly a true friend...but he is under the eye of [Attorney General Caleb Cushing] and I have no idea of being read as a book by those whose aspirations are high and reaching. If my name is to figure in the newspapers, I prefer that it shall not be by letters proceeding from myself, but rather by historical sketches of the most prominent incidents of my past life." These, Tyler explains, would include "a description of the scenes which surrounded the force bill; my resignation of my seat in the Senate sooner than violate the Constitution by expunging the records. The threats then made that a resignation of my seat would be followed by a repeal of the resolutions of Maryland nominating me for the Vice Presidency." Tyler had cast the only negative vote in the Senate for the Force Bill, directing a question to Jackson amidst the debate: "Will you appease the angry spirit of discord by an oblation of blood?" (Degregorio, The Complete Book of U.S. Presidents, p. 154).
Tyler concludes with a firm statement of principle: "These incidents look almost like a political romance in these days when every thing is surrendered for office. I am sensible of a great reaction in the public mind and I will consent to do nothing even for the Presidency itself which can avert its onward progress. Give me the assurance that history will do me justice and shall endorse me as a benefactor of my race and country and I go to my grave in peace and quiet."