On this day: On This Day. 1841: Vice-President John Tyler was sworn in as the tenth President, became the first VP to succeed a President (William Henry Harrison) who died after just a month in office.
Harrison’s death triggered a Constitutional crisis. Article II, Section 1, Clause 6 of the Constitution does not exlicitly declare whether the Vice President becomes the President if the President dies, resigns, is removed from office or is otherwise unable to discharge the powers of the presidency. The crisis centered around this question: would Tyler be merely an “Acting President” – until an election could be held – or the President, with all the powers normally granted to that office?
The late President Harrison’s Cabinet, most of whom reportedly were not great supporters of Tyler, informed the Vice-President that he wouldn’t actually exercise the full powers of the presidency and that any decisions he made would be subject to the cabinet’s approval. Tyler rejected this and insisted that he woud only assume the presidency if he had its full powers at his disposal. The crisis was ultimately resolved in Tyler’s favor. The “Tyler Precedent” became the longstanding rule by which other vice presidents would take office upon the death of a president. It was ultimately answered by the 25th Amendment to the Constitution – adopted in February 1967.
On This Day. 1844: Widower President John Tyler, 54, married 21-year old Julia Gardner, who became the youngest First Lady in history. Julia Tyler first requested “Hail to the Chief”. Sarah Polk ritualized it to announce her husband’s unimpressive arrivals.
By the way, the term “First Lady” wasn’t used in Tyler’s day. Terms used: “Lady,” “Mrs. President” “Mrs. Presidentress,” or “Queen of the White House.” The first woman to be called First Lady while serving in that role was Harriet Lane, the niece of President James Buchanan. He was a bachelor. The first presidential spouse to be formally called First Lady was Lucy Hayes, wife of Rutherford Hayes in 1877.
On This Day. 1934: Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Federal Credit Union Act, establishing the first credit unions.
On This Day. 1948: President Truman ordered the Berlin Airlift – a 24/7 delivery of supplies for West Berlin, after it was cut off by the Soviet Union. The U.S. Air Force and Britain’s Royal Air Force flew over 200,000 flights in one year, providing food, fuel and supplies to West Berliners. By the spring of 1949, the airlift was delivering more cargo than had previously been transported into the city by rail. The Soviets, embarrassed, gave up their blockade in May of that year – a major Cold War victory for the West. The lifting of the blockade resulted in the creation of two separate states: East Germany and West Germany.