Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Elizabeth Tyler

My brother is getting married this weekend, so weddings are on my mind.  So visit White House weddings, where you can read about various White House weddings, like the one of Elizabeth Tyler:
On January 31, 1842, at the White House, a beautiful eighteen-year-old Elizabeth “Lizzie” Tyler, was married to William N. Waller, a young attorney and old neighbor from Williamsburg, Virginia. And once more, circumstances conspired to deprive Washington of a truly grand affair.

When William Henry Harrison died in office only thirty days after his inauguration, John Tyler became the first vice president to ascend to the presidency. The country was not exactly sure what role a “substitute” chief executive should play. John Quincy Adams suggested that he should be called “Mr. Acting President.” When Tyler assumed all presidential prerogatives and demonstrated a clear independent streak as chief executive there was immediate and deep resentment. The Democrat Party saw him as a traitor to their values, a southerner who had helped the Whigs to power. And the Whig party that had promoted
“Tippecanoe and Tyler Too,” putting him in office, was furious when he balked at many of their initiatives. They had won the election and, within thirty days, lost it again. It soon became very clear that the presidency of John Tyler was effectively over before it had begun. A hostile congress threatened to allow no meaningful legislation.

Historians are often harsh on Tyler, ignoring the very critical role he played in defining the transfer of power and achieving statehood for Texas, an event that was quickly realized in the succeeding administration of James K. Polk. But the hostility on Capitol Hill meant a meager budget for running the executive mansion. Congress was intent on punishing the independent president, and the condition of the White House deteriorated rapidly. It would be a shabby setting for the wedding of a president’s daughter.

Once more, Rev. William Hawley of St. John’s Episcopal Church walked across Lafayette Square to officiate at a White House wedding. This time Cabinet members, diplomats, and a long list of distinguished guests and their wives were invited as well. And this time the event was held in the much larger East Room. The occasion would mark the only public appearance for the invalid First Lady, Letitia Tyler, who was helped down the stairs from her private apartments, “receiving in her sweet, gentle, self-possessed manner, all the people who were led up and presented to her.”

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