John Tyler Son of Virginia

john tyler monument

From the Confederate Veteran Magazine, Volume 4, 1916, pages 4-5.

John Tyler, distinguished Virginian and tenth President of the United States, has received fitting, though long-deferred, honor from the country he served. Fifty-three years after his death the United States government has erected a handsome monument at his last resting place, in the shades of beautiful Hollywood Cemetery, at Richmond, Va., that sacred and consecrated spot where lie the ashes of so many distinguished dead. On a crest overlooking the James River and near the tomb of James Monroe, fifth President of the United States and the fourth Virginian to be so honored, this magnificent shaft blazons to the world that national recognition of one who did a noble part by his country, yet whose convictions led him to leave the Union and cast his lot with his native State when the sections became separated. President Tyler upheld Virginia in her secession, representing her in the Provisional Congress of the Confederacy, and he was also member-elect of the permanent Congress when his death occurred in 1862.

On the 12th of October, 1915, this shaft was unveiled in the presence of a distinguished gathering, representing both Houses of Congress, the Governor of Virginia, the Mayor of Richmond, and many others prominent in the public life of the State and nation. These first took part in the imposing parade which formed on Capitol Square and wound through the principal streets of Richmond, through a multitude of interested spectators, to the hallowed confines of Hollywood, where the unveiling exercises were witnessed by a large gathering. It was a striking scene. On the platform behind Governor Stuart, who presided, were members of the Tyler family, Senators and Representatives in Congress, Church dignitaries, and leading citizens of the city and State, with Mayor Ainslee, of Richmond, as master of ceremonies; and the military was represented by the Richmond Grays, the Richmond Blues, the Richmond Howitzers, and the Signal Corps of the Virginia Volunteers.

The veil was drawn by Mrs. William Munford Ellis, the only surviving daughter of President Tyler, and this was followed by the President’s salute of twenty-one guns by the Howitzers. The audience was moved to applause when the handsome memorial was revealed. Rising from a granite base is the monolithic granite shaft, in front of which is a handsome bust of President Tyler on its own granite pedestal, bearing his name and the dates of his tenure of office, birth, and death. Two sides of the main shaft are carved in bas relief, one showing a life-sized figure of the republic with a shield bearing the seals of the United States and the commonwealth of Virginia, significant of President Tyler’s relations with the national government and his native State. The other is a draped female figure, representing Memory, holding in one hand a laurel wreath and cultivating with the other the young tree of the republic, which during Tyler’s administration began to grow and expand in an exceptional manner.

The appropriation for this monument was secured by the Virginia delegation in Congress, led by Capt. John Lamb, a native of Charles City County, who formerly represented the same district in Congress which sent John Tyler into national life, and in his eulogy at the unveiling Captain Lamb recalled the efforts which had been made by President Tyler to prevent a breach in the Union prior to 1861 and commended the spirit which impelled him to follow Virginia in her secession.

The principal address was by Armistead C. Gordon, of Staunton, Rector of the University of Virginia and a gifted writer, and in his able tribute he brought out those actions of President Tyler which failed to meet with the approval of his fellow Virginians, as well as those others which had general approval. The conclusion of his address follows:

“Time would fail for the rehearsal here of the opinions expressed of President Tyler by men of distinction and renown. Jefferson Davis said of him that he was the most felicitous among the orators he had known; Alexander H. Stephens said that his State papers compared favorably in point of ability with those of any of his predecessors; and Daniel Webster, Henry S. Foote, Henry A. Wise, George Ticknor Curtis, R. M. T. Hunter, and a host of other great men bestowed upon him the expressions of their admiration, respect, and regard. * * *

“And now the Federal government has erected this monument over his mortal body; but the significance of the act does not lie in the cost nor in the beauty of the memorial itself. Its erection is unique in that it is the first monument to be voted by the Federal Congress to any man whose sense of duty impelled him to take sides with the South in the stormy days of secession. Viewed in this light, this memorial shaft to John Tyler is the most impressive and significant of all memorial structures in the United States; for it is the first in which both North and South have freely joined, and it stands to the world as the sign and pledge of a reunited country and a testimony that the passions of the past have perished.

“John Tyler, statesman and patriot, needs no eulogy. The austere epitome of his life and deeds can convey but an inadequate conception of his courage, his ability, his steadfastness, and his patriotic devotion to country. His dust reposes here beneath this monument, and on the page of history his fame itself is monumental. His name has been placed here alongside those of the great leaders of our epic story—of Jefferson and Madison, of Calhoun and Davis—and as long as the record of the republic shall endure he will be remembered and honored as one of its most illustrious sons.”

A sketch of the life of President Tyler will be a revelation to many of the valuable service he rendered his country in one of the stormiest periods of its history—a period which demanded tactful guidance among the shoals of dissension prior to the War between the States. The following, from the Richmond Times-Dispatch, gives a broad outline of his life and career:

“John Tyler was born in Charles City County, Va., March 29, 1790. His father, John Tyler, Sr., was one of the most active and prominent patriots of the American Revolution. He was captain of a militia company, Speaker of the House of Delegates, Judge of the State Admiralty and General Courts, Vice President of the Convention of 1788, Governor, and at the time of his death was Judge of the United States District Court. As a leading member of the legislature he was instrumental in securing the passage of the resolution for calling the Annapolis Convention in 1786, as Judge he was one of the earliest to champion the overruling power of the judiciary, and as Governor he earnestly favored the cause of education. The ‘literary fund’ resulted from his strong representations to the legislature on the subject.

“His son, John Tyler, passed through even a greater stretch of honors. He was a member of the House of Delegates, member of the Executive Council, member of the House of Representatives, Governor of the State, Senator of the United States, Vice President and President of the United States, member of the State conventions of 1829-30 and 1861, President of the Peace Conference, member of the Provisional Congress of the Confederate States, and member-elect at the time of his death of the Confederate States House of Representatives. This is only an imperfect enunciation of his honors.

“In politics he was a consistent States’ rights man and believed that the Union’s only escape from civil war lay in scrupulous regard for the Constitution. Like his father, he was a strong friend of education and as Governor favored a system of public schools. As a member of the United States Congress he opposed the Missouri Compromise and other so-called national measures—protective tariff, national bank, and internal improvement—as certain to lead to ill will among the States and imperil the existence of the Union. He regarded them as sectional, not really national, measures.

“He was especially conspicuous in the role of peacemaker in 1833, when he suggested to Clay the principle of the compromise tariff, and in 1861, when he got up a peace conference of delegates from the States, who met in Washington. On the question of slavery, while he denied the right of Congress to intermeddle with the subject, he looked to its eventual abolition by peaceable means and strongly opposed the slave trade. Thus as Chairman of the Senate Committee for the District of Columbia he drafted a provision for the abolition of the slave trade in the District and as President caused an article to be inserted in the Treaty of Washington (1842) for the maintenance of a squadron by the United States and Great Britain, respectively, for the suppression of the slave trade off the coast of Africa.

“As President he was a strong factor in determining the policies of the country. By his vetoes he prevented the establishment of a moneyed monopoly represented in the United States bank and by his close personal surveillance of the different departments of the government abolished all corruption and reduced the national expenditures one-fourth. He originated the system of finance known as the exchequer, which in its essential features is reproduced in the present banking reserve system, and to him is chiefly due the success of the Treaty of Washington (1842), settling the northeastern boundary, the right of visitation, the suppression of the slave trade, and the annexation of Texas, which measure so greatly extended the confines of the Union and gave to the United States the virtual monopoly of the cotton plant He closed the war with the Seminole Indians, settled the difficulties in Rhode Island, made the first treaty with China, and vindicated the Monroe Doctrine as to the Hawaiian Islands.”

President Tyler was twice married, his first wife being Letitia Christian, of Virginia, and the second Julia Gardiner, of New York, who is buried by his side. There were seven children by each marriage. He died in Richmond January 18, 1862, and the State Assembly directed that a monument be erected at his grave; but the stirring events of war and many demands upon an impoverished treasury prevented the carrying out of this resolution.

The family of President Tyler was represented at the unveiling by two sons, Dr. Lyon G. Tyler, President of William and Mary College, at Williamsburg, and Judge D. Gardiner Tyler, also of that city, and Mrs. Ellis, the only surviving daughter. Great honor was paid to them and other connections of the family who were present.

UNVEILING THE TYLER MONUMENT

O proud old Hollywood! Thine is a sacred name.
Since on thy breast sleep those well known to fame:
For, like a mother gathers to her heart
The sons from whom not even death could part.
Virginia stands to-day with reverent head,
Where rest the ashes of her mighty dead.

Their names renowned add luster to our land;
No other State can boast so grand a band
As this old commonwealth, which proudly sees
Her patriot Presidents on Capitol’s frieze;
Since union’s triumph arch must ever show
Our Washington, Madison, Jefferson, and Monroe.
In honoring Tyler the nation honors one
Whose course was hard and difficult to run.
He stood first among the giants of his day.
That galaxy of Webster, Calhoun, Clay.
Sleep, statesman; your service has recognition won,
The Union’s tenth President, Virginia’s gifted son.

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