According to author James D. Richardson, Mr. Tyler was clearly pro-slavery prior to becoming president. Tyler's presidential documents show that he took a contrary strong position in favor of the suppression of the African slave trade, saying it was immoral. After his presidency he advocated his state’s right to secession from the union and joined the confederacy.
Perhaps his training as a lawyer enabled him to parse? his reasoning positions and compartmentalize them so that the inconsistent position of slave trade being immoral and supporting the confederacy that supported slavery never needed to be resolved into a non-compartmentalized homogenized theory of morality. It is an all too human trait not to resolve conflicts in reasoning when bias passion becomes our guiding star. We tend to overlook things that are in the category of right and wrong and perceive them as gray areas when bias passion becomes our guiding star. It has been quoted that Theodore Roosevelt saw many issues as black or white where others only saw gray but it has also been said that Theodore Roosevelt sometimes fell prey to bias passion when looking upon his Rough Rider comrades and political friends. The best anyone can hope to do is reduce those bias passion items in our reasoning as TR trained himself in doing when seeking justice to present and future generations.
You will find that President Tyler’s administration did some very good work for his country (which has benefits for us today) and that he should not be judged upon his faults alone. I am highlighting his glaring flaw in this book description to show the need for a good citizen's place in our system of government. If we fail as citizens to find forums to test the reasoning of those who wish to govern us, then history proves bias passion has the ability to become the guiding star of our leaders. If we are lucky bias falls on the side of what is right or we may be unlucky and pay a price for ignorance. A thinking public helps steer a ship of state's ability to reason correctly for the public good and a self centered demanding public or apathetic public are sure to find politicians to support their bias passions.
During the Presidential election of 1841:
“Tyler was expected to uphold and conserve the tenets of the State-rights party, and to see that the Constitution was strictly construed in all matters affecting the institution of slavery.”
“Harrison was recognized as an anti-slavery man, while Tyler was notoriously allied in sentiment with the extreme section of the pro-slavery party of the South”.
Here are four clips from his presidential documents where he appears to be against the African slave trade:
(1)" I shall also at the proper season invite your attention to the statutory enactments for the suppression of the slave trade, which may require to be rendered more efficient in their provisions. There is reason to believe that the traffic is on the increase. Whether such increase is to be ascribed to the abolition of slave labor in the British possessions in our vicinity and an attendant diminution in the supply of those articles which enter into the general consumption of the world, thereby augmenting the demand from other quarters, and thus calling for additional labor, it were needless to inquire. The highest considerations of public honor as well as the strongest promptings of humanity require a resort to the most vigorous efforts to suppress the trade".
(2) "This Government has manifested its repugnance to the slave trade in a manner which can not be misunderstood. By its fundamental law it prescribed limits in point of time to its continuance, and against its own citizens who might so far forget the rights of humanity as to engage in that wicked traffic it has long since by its municipal laws denounced the most condign punishment. Many of the States composing this Union had made appeals to the civilized world for its suppression long before the moral sense of other nations had become shocked by the iniquities of the traffic".
(3) "I invite your attention to existing laws for the suppression of the African slave trade, and recommend all such alterations as may give to them greater force and efficacy. That the American flag is grossly abused by the abandoned and profligate of other nations is but too probable. Congress has not long since had this subject under its consideration, and its importance well justifies renewed and anxious attention".
(4) "The early and prominent part which the Government of the United States has taken for the abolition of this unlawful and inhuman traffic is well known. By the tenth article of the treaty of Ghent it is declared that the traffic in slaves is irreconcilable with the principles of humanity and justice, and that both His Majesty and the United States are desirous of continuing their efforts to promote its entire abolition; and it is thereby agreed that both the contracting parties shall use their best endeavors to accomplish so desirable an object. The Government of the United States has by law declared the African slave trade piracy, and at its suggestion other nations have made similar enactments. It has not been wanting in honest and zealous efforts, made in conformity with the wishes of the whole country, to accomplish the entire abolition of the traffic in slaves upon the African coast, but these efforts and those of other countries directed to the same end have proved to a considerable degree unsuccessful".
Two other clips from this book about Tyler offer what cannot be found in Tyler's presidential documents:
(5) "Was president of the Peace Convention held at Washington February 4, 1861. Afterwards, as a delegate to the Virginia State convention, he advocated the passage of an ordinance of secession. In May, 1861, he was unanimously elected a member of the provisional congress of the Confederate States. In the following autumn he was elected to the permanent congress, but died at Richmond January 18, 1862, before taking his seat, and was buried in Hollywood Cemetery, in that city".
This final clip about Tyler taking a position against his party over a banking issue could have been written about Theodore Roosevelt or Socrates and scores of others through history who attempted to do what ought to be done verses what is done to promote self interests.
(6)“He disregarded the behests of his party; and no man can survive this act of disobedience, however justified he may be in the eyes of God or of sensible men. The more ignorant or corrupt his party, the more swift and certain in his ruin”.
Several interesting historical events which were dealt with during Tyler's administration are the annexation of Texas, the Northeast boundary of Maine and Nova Scotia and civil unrest in Rhode Island. You will find other interesting events touched upon in Tyler's presidential documents.