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Meet Amazing Americans U.S. Presidents John Tyler
 
Tyler receiving news of Harrison's death
Tyler receiving the news of Harrison's death, [April 5, 1841].

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Assuming the Presidency

Young Webster had traveled all night from Washington to tell Vice President Tyler that President Harrison had died the day before from pneumonia. Tyler headed to Washington immediately, only to find the same Whig power-seekers battling over offices and positions.

Harrison was the first president to die in office in the history of the nation, and there was nothing in the Constitution that clearly spoke about this situation. It simply said: "In case of the removal of the president from office, or of his death, resignation, or inability to discharge the powers and duties of the said office, the same shall devolve on [fall to] the Vice President. . . ."

But what "the same" meant was unclear. Did it mean the new president was free to exercise the same authority as if he had been elected to the presidency? In this new situation, what did Tyler do?


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